Choosing a Shade Tree

Written by April Reinhardt (last updated October 11, 2021)


Grown specifically to provide shade, shade trees are usually large trees with spreading canopies. Gardeners plant shade trees to enhance privacy, as well as to reduce energy costs for cooling their homes. Some of the most popular shade trees are ashes, oaks, maples, and elms.

There are four factors to consider when thinking about choosing a shade tree; size, site, shape, and zone. Thoroughly research the size the tree will be when it is fully mature. Then, determine if your site will be able to afford adequate space for the tree, and whether the root system of the tree may damage the foundation of your home. Will the shape of the tree fit in with your landscape design? And, more importantly, will the tree thrive in the zone in which you live? Follow these guidelines when choosing a shade tree to enhance your home and property:

  • Choose a location. Most home owners choose the south or west side of the house to plant shade trees. Make sure that the location you choose has plenty of room for the tree's roots to grow.
  • Depending upon your taste and how you want your landscape to look, choose a shade tree variety based on your preferences of texture, color, and seasonal features. Do you want fine leaves, such as on willow trees? Or do you prefer bold, broad leaves, such as on maple trees?
  • While fast-growing shade trees deliver shade more quickly, shade trees that grow more slowly may last quite a bit longer. Determine how soon you want shade versus how long you want the tree to last.
  • While flower- and fruit-bearing trees provide beauty, with color-changing foliage with each season, they also require more maintenance. Will you mind raking berries from your lawn? Some ornamental shade trees also grow sprouts from their root crown, requiring weekly pruning during the growing season. If you prefer a low-maintenance shade tree, choose one accordingly.
  • Consider buying an older shade tree, and then transplant it to your yard. Some gardeners prefer a four- or five-year-old tree that has been grown in a container. Check with your local nursery to see what they have to offer by way of older shade trees, ready to plant in your yard.

Perform research before you commit to one variety of shade tree. Learn about root systems, canopy width and height, growing zones, hardiness, resistance to pests and disease, and wood strength. Armed with your knowledge, and considering the reasons why you need a shade tree, visit your local nursery, tree farms, and online catalogs to make an informed decision. Always remember never to plant a shade tree that may grow to overhang your chimney, as flying embers can ignite tree branches, causing a deadly fire.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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2016-08-08 07:19:39


Any reference to elm trees should include a note about buying trees bred to resist Dutch Elm Disease(DED):
Actually, the news is looking good: While DED destroyed 98% of all European and USA trees in the late 20th century there are now resistant varieties appearing on the market - and of course the Asian species are resistant anyway, even if maybe they not so iconically beautiful


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