Red Oaks – Mulching and Planting Underneath?

Q: Our yard has a couple of beautiful red oaks. An arborist recommended mulching around the tree. I am curious if it would hurt the tree to plant under hostas or azaleas under it.

A: Mulching is a great idea. It keeps the soil cool and encourages a lot of feeder roots close to the surface, plus preventing weeds. I foresee no problem planting a few hosta and azaleas under the tree. Use a trowel or small shovel to excavate a spot one foot in diameter for the hosta and two feet in diameter for the azaleas. Mix the excavated soil with purchased planting soil and use it to fill around each plant. Water thoroughly once or twice in the absence of rain and your plants should thrive in that environment.