Updated: Jul 25
While the weather may still be cool, the summer sun will be beating down on us soon enough. Now that we’re good and sick of the winter weather, we may be looking forward to feeling the hot sun on our faces - but our shade-loving flowers are quaking in their roots! With that in mind, we’ve put together our top 5 favorite shade trees to give your garden the respite from the sun that it needs. When the summer heat finally arrives, you’ll be thankful too!
We dare say we love these gorgeous shade trees as much as our neighbors in the North do! In the spring and summer, Red Maples look stately and beautiful with bright green leaves. In the fall, these beauties put on a jaw-dropping show as their leaves turn fire-engine red. These maples thrive fine-textured soils on the acidic side. While they’re somewhat drought tolerant, they prefer wetter soil conditions.
The Japanese zelkova is related to the elm tree, with the very important distinction of being Dutch Elm-resistant. These trees grow thick, impressive trunks and a lush canopy of green foliage. Due to their tolerance to urban pollution, they do well in urban zones. Zelkovas prefer damper soil conditions with good drainage and a little bit of acidity.
If you’re looking for shade, an oak tree will definitely deliver. It’s hard to believe that these towering giants start off as tiny little acorns, but we’re glad they do. These trees reach a majestic size as they mature, so it’s very important to leave ample room around a newly planted oak tree. Over time, they’ll grow to provide lots of cool shade and boughs strong enough to support a classic tire swing. When first transplanted, oaks drink up tons of water. As their root systems establish, so for the first year, you’ll want to keep a close eye on their soil and make sure they get some water every day.
The pretty white flowers of the locust tree are gorgeous additions to your spring landscape. While they look delicate in bloom, be careful - most locust cultivars are covered in sharp thorns. Locust trees are a great front-yard tree for city dwellers, as they’re known for their tolerance to urban pollution and the salt spray from winter roads. Their elegant canopies make great shade cover— just avoid climbing them. Locust trees are fairly adaptable to different soil types, but they are much more particular about getting enough sun. Plant them in a location with lots of sun exposure.
The London Plane Tree’s distinct mottled bark is only one of its interesting aesthetic qualities. This towering tree - which can grow up to 75-100 feet! - is a hybrid between the sycamore and Asian Plane Tree. Their large leaves have a similar shape to maple leaves, and are also alike in their explosion of fall color. As a bonus, the London Plane tree’s shady canopy bursts into clusters of small flowers in the spring which mature into balls of unique-looking fruit. They thrive in sunny locations with sandy-to-loamy soil.
The best part of planting new trees on your property is how much they completely transform the layout of your landscape. By planting these shady ladies in your yard, you’re creating a cool oasis out of the sun, adding dimension to the design of your outdoor space, and providing a home and even food supply for native wildlife. Plant one of these trees this year, and you’ll have it made in the shade.