Choose the best trees for shade to create a cool garden oasis, enrich the environment, and help future-proof your property against climate change.
It’s important to include areas of shade and full sun in your backyard. Not only does the right balance make for a more pleasant place to relax, but it allows for a greater diversity of plants and creates a better habitat for wildlife.
With changing climates, fast-growing trees also play an important role in providing shade for homes quickly, helping to reduce overheating. Yet, conversely they can minimize the impact of adverse weather conditions such as flooding. You can also underplant these trees with the best shade plants to bring interest and color to all parts of the garden
‘It’s not just what’s above ground with a tree that’s important – it’s what’s happening below ground,’ says Rebecca Bradley, founding principal at Florida-based Cādence (opens in new tab) landscape architecture practice.
‘Trees are not just providing shade for the heat, they’re also absorbing water – helping get water back down into the ground and not running off into our waterways.’
However, planting trees for shade is not a quick solution. ‘Growing the best trees for shade is a long-term goal – I often call them trees for posterity,’ says Blythe Yost, CEO of online landscape design practice Tilly (opens in new tab).
‘It will take many years for shade trees to reach their full potential, but it is important for us to include them in our garden for the shade they provide today and the potential shade they will offer to others in years to come.’
The best trees for shade
‘In the garden – especially in yards where space is at a premium – trees that serve more than one function are terrific choices, especially when it comes to garden shade ideas,’ says Kip McConnell, director of Southern Living Plant Collection (opens in new tab).
'A well-chosen shade tree can also serve an important role in dividing gardens, creating outdoor rooms. For this purpose, look for varieties with dense foliage and vertical growth habits to get both shade and screening.’
The good news is that the best trees for shade are also some of the best trees for privacy, allowing you to screen your garden to create a peaceful, secluded environment.
‘Seek out varieties that not only cast shade, but also provide spring flowers or bright fall colors,' adds McConnell. 'This maximizes the tree’s visual impact in your space and provides multi-season interest.'
However, when choosing the best trees for backyard shade, Bradley stresses the importance of choosing species that will thrive in your local environment.
‘Trees that are grown in the nursery may not actually be the right choice for your area, so plant native trees and try to create a design that helps build eco systems,' she says. 'Ask yourself, what is it that nature needs?’
Check the USDA plant hardiness zone map (opens in new tab) to see whether a tree is likely to thrive in your area.
1. Oak trees
The mighty oak is one of the best trees for shade, and treasured by gardeners around the world.
‘Hands down, my favorite tree for shade is an oak,’ says Yost. ‘Although this is an extremely broad genus, there are shade-providing varieties that grow in most regions.
'As an East Coast and Midwest landscape architect, my personal favorite is the white oak – Quercus alba – due to its graceful habit, delicately lobed leaves, and uniformly shaggy bark.’ It's a versatile tree suitable for zones 3-9.
Meanwhile, the live oak tree – Quercus virginiana – is a beloved tree in southern and central states, thriving in zones 7-10.
‘The live oak can grow in a lot of different scenarios. It's large with a huge root structure, so needs space to grow, but it’s a wonderful shade tree for your garden space,' says Bradley. 'It's also a really hardy tree that and can weather big storms.'
The downside of most oak trees is that they are slow growing and will take many years to become established.
However, a faster-growing alternative is the northern red oak – Quercus rubra – which is suitable for zones 3-8.
‘It grows at a rate of 2ft per year and develops a dense round crown that provides great shade,’ says Codey Stout, head operations manager at Tree Triage (opens in new tab). 'It can tolerate drought, pollution, and compacted soil.
‘It also offers beautiful colors in the fall, from russet to bright red, and produces acorns that birds and animals love.’
A versatile tree that can grow in zones 4-9, the tuliptree – Liriodendron tulipifera– is named for its delightful tulip-shaped flowers, which bloom in the spring.
John Rogan, professor of geography at Clark University (opens in new tab), favors the tuliptree as a shade provider due to its fast growth rate. ‘It can grow 2ft per year, reaching up to 90ft when established, with a canopy width as broad as 30-40ft.
'It also lives for a long time, has a very attractive leaf shape, and the single-stem trunks produce straight and tall mature trees.'
In his work, Rogan has led studies into the impact trees have on land surface temperature, and believes they hold the key to reducing our home cooling costs in summer by as much as 20 per cent.
‘Shade trees are best planted on the west side of a house, where they can shade the property during the heat of the early afternoon,’ he says.
3. American mahogany
American mahogany – Swietenia mahagoni – is native to South Florida, where it is a popular shade tree, as well as islands in the Caribbean. It will grow successfully in zones 10 and 11, so follow the philosophy of right tree, right place.
‘Swietenia mahagoni is such a great shade tree for a tropical climate,’ says Bradley. ‘It is not invasive, and it is faster growing than many trees.’
This sturdy hardwood tree copes well with stormy weather and possesses fragrant clusters of flowers in the spring and summer. Its ultimate mature height is around 100ft.
4. Weeping willow
Few trees are as evocative of lazy summer days than the weeping willow – Salix babylonica – which provides a protective branch canopy that’s perfect for picnicking beneath.
They are also fast growing, at a rate of 3-4ft per year, offering a quick route to shade and privacy. The trees thrive in zones 6-8.
Sadly, weeping willows are not suitable for smaller yards, as their roots can cause damage to underground pipework. But if you have a large garden and can position them 50ft away from utilities, then they will make a charming addition.
They are also short lived compared to many slower-growing trees, lasting for only a few decades. The experts at Bower & Branch (opens in new tab) suggest planting a row of weeping willows in front of a row of slower-growing, but longer lived trees such as oak.
‘When the oaks are big enough to do the job, the willows can be removed when they become old and no longer appealing in your landscape.’
Weeping willows love water, so if you have a natural pond, then position a tree next to it to complete the romantic scene.
5. Sugar maple
The sugar maple – Acer saccharum – is a popular tree for providing shade due to its dense canopy, and it is also one of the best trees for autumn color.
‘A slower-growing Acer species with a growth rate of around a foot per year, the sugar maple tree can reach heights near 100ft at maturity, and has a large canopy,’ says Tammy Sons, owner of Tennessee Nursery (opens in new tab). ‘I just love its vibrant fall foliage of golden hues.’
Sugar maples are hardy in zones 3-8 and grow best in well-drained, acidic to slightly alkaline soil.
6. Red maple
Another standout fall tree, the red maple – or Acer rubrum – is a moderately fast-growing species with a growth rate of 1-2ft per year.
‘Its canopy reaches 30-45ft wide and it has a mature height near 60ft,’ says Sons. ‘The red maple tree also offers one of fall's favorite colors of foliage in deep red hues.’
‘For something different, try Acer rubrum 'Red Sunset' or 'Brandywine' – they are red maples but they don't have red foliage,’ adds Gian Moore, partner at Mellowpine (opens in new tab).
The red maple grows in zones 3-9 and is tolerant of most soil types.
7. Dawn redwood
The dawn redwood – Metasequoia glyptostroboides – is one of the best trees for shade in a hurry, growing in height by more than 2ft each year.
It’s also a tree with a fascinating history, as prior to the mid 20th century it was considered extinct, and revealed through fossils to have existed alongside dinosaurs.
Luckily, the dawn redwood was rediscovered growing in China, and now, though not commonplace, grows in many countries around the world.
You can grow the dawn redwood in zones 5-8, and the great news is that it’s low-maintenance, requiring no pruning and with minimal susceptibility to problems or disease.
‘There are some interesting cultivars available of this deciduous conifer, such as 'Goldrush' which has yellow-green foliage,’ says Moore.
8. Gumbo limbo
A South Florida native, the gumbo limbo – Bersera simaruba – is a fast-growing shade tree that will thrive in zones 10 and 11.
‘It has a beautiful peeling trunk, so it’s often called the ‘tourist tree’ due to its sunburnt appearance, revealing a lighter color underneath the peel on the trunk,’ says Bradley.
‘It is an amazingly resilient tree that stands up to our hurricanes, so we often use it as a shade tree in our landscapes.
‘It also roots very easily. I planted a seedling in my front yard and within 8-9 years it was a fully established shade tree.’
9. Eastern redbud
‘For a fast-growing shade tree, it's hard to beat the redbud – Cercis canadensis – with its beautiful pink flowers,’ says Lindsey Hyland, founder of Urban Organic Yield (opens in new tab). ‘I love to watch them bloom in spring and early summer, and their fall colors are stunning.’
The Eastern redbud grows to a height of 20–30ft, with a gloriously wide canopy spreading to 25–35ft when mature.
It grows in zones 4-9, and is seen widely throughout eastern states. Redbuds are tolerant of most soil types.
10. Green ash
The green, or red, ash – Fraxinus pennsylvanica – is a fantastically versatile shade tree, growing in zones 2-9 at a fast rate of more than 2ft per year, and providing a generous canopy to shelter beneath.
In the fall the leaves of green ash tree turn a glorious bright yellow, and it produces red-purple flowers in the spring.
‘The ash is a good deciduous shade tree that grows well in a variety of climates,’ says Hyland.
Though it can cope with most soil conditions, the green ash tree is increasingly susceptible to attack by the emerald ash borer, so check reports in your area.
11. American sweetgum
Providing stunning fall color, in shades of yellow through purple, the American sweetgum – Liquidambar styraciflua – is also a fantastic shade-giving tree with a good canopy size.
‘Aside from its very attractive foliage in the fall, it’s moderately fast growing, at a rate of 1-2ft a year,’ says Rogan. ‘It lives for a long time and can grow as tall as 70ft.’
The American sweetgum will thrive in zones 5-9, but it does not like pollution and needs plenty of root space.
There are a number of different pine tree species that will create shade in your garden.
‘Pines provide terrific shade but take up lots of room, so you need to give them plenty of space. Alternatively, plant them closer than they prefer to other trees that need more space than they do – like oaks or maples,’ says Hyland.
Fast-growing pine trees are best for quick shade in large yards – try the loblolly pine (zones 6-9) or the eastern white pine (zones 3-8).
13. London planetree
A hybrid of the Oriental planetree and the American sycamore, the London planetree – Platanus x acerifolia – is valued for its beautiful sycamore-like leaves and winter catkins.
Historically it was revered for its ability to withstand the pollution of England’s capital, which makes it a fantastic shade tree for urban settings in zones 5-9.
‘The London planetree is a very hardy tree featuring attractive bark with a broad canopy that grows up to a width of 60ft,’ says Rogan.
‘It can grow at a rate of 1-2ft per year, with a mature height of up to 100ft, and can live for a very long time – even hundreds of years.'
14. Catalpa tree
Catalpa speciosa is a stunning native tree that has heart-shaped leaves and a generous canopy. In the summer, it produces white, orchid-like flowers.
‘The catalpa reaches heights of near 50 ft at maturity and is hardy in zones 3-8,’ says Sons. ‘This tree is so unique because the catalpa worms it produces in the summer months are highly sought after for fish bait. For this reason, it's often called "The Fisherman's Tree".'
What is the cleanest shade tree?
Some of the cleanest shade trees are maples. Though they shed their leaves in the fall, after turning stunning shades of red and gold, they do not drop flowers, seeds or fruits. This makes them easy to clean up after.
What is the fastest-growing shade tree?
The fastest-growing shade trees grow at a rate of around 2ft per year. This group includes the northern red oak, tuliptree, and dawn redwood.
However, speed isn't everything when it comes to providing shade. 'Usually you want a shade tree to be a strong tree – and those trees don’t always grow fast,' says Bradley.
'That’s why we need to protect established trees. When they are removed from our environment, and we lose our tree canopy, it can never immediately be replaced.'
Of the 11 listed here, the one that grows the fastest is the weeping willow — it adds about 10 feet to its height each year, topping out at 40 feet. Next in line are the nuttall oak at 4 feet per year, the dawn redwood at 3.5 feet per year, and the tulip poplar at 3 feet per year.What tree grows fast and provides shade in India? ›
Pongamia pinnata (Karanj): A medium tall (10-15 m) tree with bright green, glossy leaves. The tree, when laden with lilac coloured flowers, looks beautiful in summers. This is a fast growing tree suitable for roadside avenues & public places for shade and ornamental purpose.What is the best tree to plant in the backyard for shade? ›
Live oak is the recommended species for Southern regions. In colder regions, northern red oak thrives the best. Burr oak, pin oak, sawtooth oak, scarlet oak, and swamp white oak are just some of the popular species with colorful fall foliage.What shade trees live the longest? ›
Bristlecone Pines (Pinus Longaeva), Yew trees, and Ginkgo Biloba trees appear to be the longest lived on record. They are commonly found in climates that are subject to change drastically.What's the fast growing flowering tree? ›
Wisteria is one of the fast growing flowering trees, and predictably will flower the first season of planting. Wisteria vines are often used as a privacy screen blocker.Which is the fastest growing plant? ›
The tiny aquatic plant Wolffia, also known as duckweed, is the fastest-growing plant known.What is the easiest tree to maintain? ›
- Japanese Maple. Japanese Maple trees are famous for their bright fall foliage. ...
- Serviceberry. Serviceberry trees are deciduous members of the Rosaceae family. ...
- Crape Myrtle. ...
- 1. Japanese Maple. These are an excellent choice because they are both beautiful and functional. ...
- Green Giant Arborvitae. Chances are you've seen this tree out and about before as it is very popular in residential and commercial properties. ...
- Crape Myrtle. ...
- Redbud. ...
- Yaupon Holly.
In fact, planting a peepal, mango, neem or banana tree is preferred from a Vastu point of view. These trees are not only known for their fragrance but for the positive vibes they give out.How do I pick a shade tree? ›
Once you have that down, learning the soil type, wind severity, and exposure (to sun or shade), you can pick a suitable tree. Besides site conditions, things to remember when picking a tree include fall color, fruiting, flower color, size, disease and insect susceptibility, durability, and maturity.
|Hazelnut||Comfrey, flowers and herbs such as coriander.|
|Macadamia||Clover, chives, nasturtium, comfrey, marigold and other flowers.|
|Oak||Chantarella mushrooms, blueberries.|
1. Australian Buloke – 5,060 IBF. An ironwood tree that is native to Australia, this wood comes from a species of tree occurring across most of Eastern and Southern Australia. Known as the hardest wood in the world, this particular type has a Janka hardness of 5,060 lbf.What trees survive in the shade? ›
- Portuguese Laurel. ...
- Flowering dogwood. ...
- American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) ...
- 4. Japanese Maple (acer) ...
- Allegheny serviceberry. ...
- Irish Yew (Taxus baccata fastigiata) ...
- Eastern redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) ...
- Katsura Tree (cercidiphyllum japonicum)
Some trees can live for centuries or even millennia but the secrets behind their long life spans have eluded scientists. However, new research has found that the ginkgo tree, which can live more than 1,000 years, doesn't really show any expected effects of aging — they appear to be primed for immortality.What is the prettiest type of tree? ›
- Baobab trees in Madagascar. ...
- Japanese Maple in Portland, Oregon. ...
- Methuselah. ...
- General Sherman Sequoia tree. ...
- Angel Oak tree. ...
- The Trees of Dead Vlei. ...
- Dragon blood tree. ...
- Pando Tree.
A high-quality tree has:
A straight trunk with well-spaced branches. An exposed trunk free of wounds or damage. Roots growing straight out from the trunk.
Leyland cypress (Cupressus × leylandii) is a bright green conifer widely used for privacy screens because it's such a fast grower. This upwardly mobile tree can grow 3 to 4 feet per year when it's young, eventually topping out at 60 to 70 feet with a 15- to 25-foot spread.What is the most Colourful tree? ›
The Rainbow Eucalyptus Is the Most Colorful Tree on Earth.Which tree has most beautiful leaves? ›
Red maple is one of the best named of all trees, featuring something red in each of the seasons—buds in winter, flowers in spring, leafstalks in summer, and brilliant foliage in autumn.What is the coolest tree? ›
- Baobab trees. These magical trees are found naturally in dry climates, including Madagascar, Africa, and Australia. ...
- El Arbol de la Sabina. ...
- Chapel Tree. ...
- Socotra Island trees (Dragonblood trees) ...
- Japanese purple Wisteria. ...
- Rainbow Eucalyptus. ...
- Boojum Tree. ...
- Slope Point Trees.
Eucalyptus Trees (Eucalyptus globulus) – This delightful, fast-growing evergreen tree is highly popular for its fast growth, year-round shade, and commanding presence when it reaches maturity.What is the number one fastest growing tree? ›
The Empress Splendor (botanical name Paulownia fortunei and P. elongata) is the one of the fastest-growing trees in the world. A hardwood, it can grow 10-20 feet in its first year and reaches maturity within 10 years.What are the 3 types of trees? ›
Popular classifications. Trees have been grouped in various ways, some of which more or less parallel their scientific classification: softwoods are conifers, and hardwoods are dicotyledons. Hardwoods are also known as broadleaf trees. The designations softwood, hardwood, and broadleaf, however, are often imprecise.Which tree has the strongest roots? ›
Shepherd's tree (Boscia albitrunca), native to the Kalahari Desert, has the deepest documented roots: more than 70 meters, or 230 feet, deep. Their depth was discovered accidentally by drillers of groundwater wells.What are the easiest and fastest plants to grow? ›
- Burgeoning by Leafs and Bounds. ...
- Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum) ...
- Asparagus Fern (Asparagus spp.) ...
- Burn Plant (Aloe vera) ...
- Grape Ivy (Cissus alata) ...
- Philodendron (Philodendron spp.) ...
- Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Petunias, poppies and sunflowers have been recognised as some of the fastest growing flowers, taking only a fraction of the time to germinate and bloom compared to some of the more challenging plants.What makes plants grow fastest? ›
So What Makes Plants Grow Faster & Bigger? Water, air, light, soil nutrients, and the correct temperature coupled with affection and care are the most basic factors to make a plant grow faster and bigger.What is a shade tree called? ›
Some of the most popular shade trees in temperate countries are oaks, plane trees, willows, birches, beeches, maples, ashes, lindens, and elms. In subtropical countries like Australia and India, figs are popular choices as shade trees.What is the most popular type of tree? ›
The most common tree in the United States is the highly adaptable Red Maple.Which tree is low maintenance? ›
Redbud. Redbuds are very popular due their spring flowers. They're heat and drought resistant and disease and insect resistant, which make them an ideal low-maintenance pick.
Have you ever heard of Moringa before? This miracle tree is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, beating kale, spinach, and even spirulina for health benefits. Moringa is packed with vitamins A, C and E, and is high in calcium, which promotes bone health and prevents heart disease.What kind of tree doesn't need water to survive? ›
Evergreen trees—like cedars, oaks, and pines—are typically deep-rooted and can tolerate little to no water. Cypress trees are also part of the evergreen family, and these are often used as windbreakers to block noise and wind from damaging houses and yards.What is the best tree to plant to help the environment? ›
Broadleaved species – such as oak, beech and maple – are best because they have a larger surface area of leaves which generates more photosynthesis, whereas conifers absorb more heat.What tree needs the most water? ›
- Red maple (zones 3-9)
- Weeping willow (zones 6-8)
- Ash (zones 3-9)
- Oriental arborvitae (zones 6-11)
- Black gum (zones 4-9)
- White cedar (zones 4-8)
- River birch (zones 3-9)
- Bald cypress (zones 5-9)
Thuja Green Giant is the number one choice in Fast-Growing privacy trees. At a rapid growth rate of 3 to 5 feet per year, that is no surprise. For tropical climates, zone 9 and zone 10, Leyland Cypress, Italian Cypress, and Wax Myrtle are the best choices for Fast-Growing privacy.Which plant holds the record for growing the fastest? ›
LA JOLLA—Wolffia, also known as duckweed, is the fastest-growing plant known, but the genetics underlying this strange little plant's success have long been a mystery to scientists.What is the fastest growing tree for windbreak? ›
- Norway spruce (zones 3-7): A strong, fast-growing evergreen that tolerates various soils.
- Green giant arborvitae (zones 5-7): A fast-growing evergreen with a classic pyramid shape.
- Eastern white pine (zone 3-6): A conifer that grows up to three feet per year.
Pine Trees. Pines are probably the most notable of evergreen tree types. While most of them have long, needle-like foliage and are cone-bearing, not all pine trees are the same.What is a good screening tree? ›
Photinia red robin, Privet, Holly, Evergreen Oak and Laurel all make superb Evergreen screening trees. A more formal alternative is Pleached trees. They take up little room, where space is at a premium and form a good barrier in summer and winter.What grows fast and tall for privacy? ›
What are the fastest-growing trees for privacy? Hybrid poplar tops the list. It can grow upwards of five feet per year. The Leyland cypress, green giant arborvitae, and silver maple are all close seconds because they add about two feet to their height each year.
Bamboo. There are specific varieties of bamboo to grow for hedging as they form compact dense growth and can be clipped. Most are very fast-growing and give the fastest screen.What trees do best in partial shade? ›
For medium or moderate shade areas, try the following trees:
- European beech.
- Japanese maple.
- Sugar maple.
- Black alder.
- Staghorn sumac.
One of the fastest-growing evergreen trees is Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii), which grows as much as 3 feet per year when young, reaching 20 to 30 feet tall in 10 years. Drought-tolerant once established, Leyland cypress grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.Which plant grow faster in rainy season? ›
Here's a list of vegetables that you can grow in the rainy season: Cucumber. Tomato. Radish.What's the fastest growing flower? ›
Petunias, poppies and sunflowers have been recognised as some of the fastest growing flowers, taking only a fraction of the time to germinate and bloom compared to some of the more challenging plants.What trees are best for wind breaks? ›
Our favorite trees for taller windbreaks are coniferous evergreens, such as pines, cedars, junipers, and cypresses, especially varieties that do not have wide-spreading limbs that could break off in strong winds.What tree can withstand the most wind? ›
Research conducted by University of Florida scientists showed that sand live oaks are the most resistant to wind damage. Other good choices include the Southern magnolia, live oak, crapemyrtle, bald cypress, and sabal palm. These trees are less likely to lose limbs or blow over during hurricanes.