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Best Shade Trees

February 8, 2022 Jill Raver
Filed in: Shade Trees

There are numerous benefits to having shade trees on your property. Have you ever been in the middle of a field with no trees on a hot summer day? Have you ever gone for a stroll in the park and taken shelter underneath a tree to get out of the wind, sun, or rain? If so, you likely understand the benefits shade trees can provide. Shade trees are an amazing natural shelter, but they serve as a natural wind and rain break as well. Additionally, if properly placed in your yard, shade trees can help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. In fact, some experts estimate that shade trees can take as much as 25 percent off of utility bills each year. Lastly, the aesthetics of mature shade trees may boost your property value by as much as 20 percent. There’s a lot to love about shade trees.

Once you know the benefits of these magnificent trees, how do you choose the best shade trees for your landscaping project? If you are looking to transform your yard or add value to your home, here are some of our favorite fast-growing, low-maintenance shade tree varieties.

Best Shade Trees

autumn blaze maple

Autumn Blaze Maple

Grow Zones: 3 to 8
Fall Color: Orange to crimson red
Mature Height: 40-60 feet tall
Mature Width: 20-30 feet
Soil Types: Adaptable, well-drained
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Water Requirements: Drought tolerant

These beautiful maples are prized for their fiery fall leaves and fast growth rate. As a hybrid of crossing Red and Silver Maples, the Autumn Blaze Maple has proven to be quite superb. The Autumn Blaze gets its fast growth rate and adaptability from the Silver Maple, and its beauty, color, and attractiveness from the Red Maple. Under ideal conditions, the Autumn Blaze can grow an impressive 3 to 5 feet per year. It’s one of the best shade trees for backyards.

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october glory maple

October Glory Maple

Grow Zones: 4 to 9
Fall Color: Vibrant red
Mature Height: 40-60 feet tall
Mature Width: 20-30 feet
Soil Types: Adaptable
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Water Requirements: Drought tolerant

The October Glory Maple is an extremely hardy and popular shade tree option. It’s fast-growing, pest and disease-resistant, and looks amazing in every season. In the spring and summer, you will be delighted to see deep green leaves and tiny red flower blooms. In the fall, this gorgeous tree will brighten any yard with its stunning red color display.

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northern red oak

Northern Red Oak

Grow Zones: 3 to 8
Fall Color: Red
Mature Height: 40-60 feet tall
Mature Width: 30-40 feet
Soil Types: Adaptable
Light Requirements: Full sun
Water Requirements: Drought tolerant

This fast-growing shade tree is a native tree and is considered a national treasure. Additionally, it’s one of the easiest shade trees to grow. Under ideal conditions, this tree can grow to a massive 75 feet tall. The Northern Red Oak is easily recognized and identified by its massive size, waxy-lobed leaves, the acorns it produces, and its phenomenal, red fall foliage. Red oak trees are everywhere and for good reason. Their dense foliage provides welcome shade on hot summer days, as well as food for squirrels, birds, and wildlife. You won’t be disappointed planting this tree, it’s one of the best shade trees found in nature.

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river birch

River Birch

Grow Zones: 4 to 9
Fall Color: Yellow
Mature Height: 40-60 feet tall
Mature Width: 30-40 feet
Soil Types: Adaptable, but prefers acidic soil
Light Requirements: Full sun
Water Requirements: Drought tolerant

If you’re looking for an ornamental tree that can double as an effective shade tree, the River Birch has you covered. What makes the River Birch Tree stand out from the rest? Unlike any other tree, the River Birch actually exfoliates its bark in the fall to reveal an array of colors, from salmon to cinnamon. You may have never seen anything like it. While this tree sheds its bark, the leaves are busy turning a gorgeous yellow fall color. One thing is for certain, this extremely hardy tree is sure to be a focal point wherever it grows.

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weeping willow

Weeping Willow

Grow Zones: 4 to 9
Fall Color: Yellow
Mature Height: 40-60 feet tall
Soil Types: Adaptable, but must be moist
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Water Requirements: Drought tolerant but it loves water

The beautiful and mysterious Weeping Willow is a real sight to behold, no matter the time of year. This tree has weeping branches that are petite and narrow but very dense, which provides exceptional shade for your yard or deck. It’s an extremely fast-growing shade tree. Under ideal conditions, it can grow up to 8 feet per year. If you have standing water problems in your yard, a Weeping Willow is a perfect tree to plant. While they are pretty drought resistant overall, they definitely prefer and even thrive in wet soil conditions.

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Shade Tree Maintenance & Season Care Tips

  • Water your trees deeply 2 to 3 times per week for the first 3 months after planting. This helps the tree's roots get properly established. After this, you will need to water deeply on occasion, for the first three years. After the first three years, only occasional watering is necessary, such as during extended periods of heat and drought. One exception is the Weeping Willow, which will do best if it is grown in soil that stays moist most of the time.
  • Examining the leaves on your trees regularly can help you address problems before they become chronic issues. The condition of the leaves can tell you a lot about the health of your tree. In particular, the leaves can point to whether there are problems with over- watering or under-watering.
  • Applying a quality, slow-release fertilizer in early spring will give your tree a seasonal boost.
  • Applying 2-3 inches of quality mulch around the base of your tree can also be very beneficial to the health of your shade trees. One word of caution: Avoid having the mulch rest on the trunk, as that can create pest problems. Applying mulch will not only help your tree retain moisture but will also help keep weeds at bay. This also means there will be less of a need to use lawn equipment around your tree, and that means there is less of a risk of tree damage, especially while it’s trying to get established.
  • Shade trees don't generally require pruning, but, if needed, prune when they are dormant in winter or early spring to remove any dead, dying, or crowded branches, or to maintain their shape. Trees that are still getting established usually need more attention than older, well-established trees.
  • All of the shade trees listed here for your consideration have minimal problems with pests or diseases. However, if you do experience fungal problems or common pest problems such as scale or aphids, we advise treating your trees with horticultural oil, neem oil, or insecticidal soap.

 

For more options, be sure to check out our full catalog of shade trees and privacy trees online! To see what other top sellers we are currently growing, be sure to check out our full online plant nursery!

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