How to Select Shade Trees

The single biggest point to consider when deciding on how to select a shade tree is the amount of room you have available for the tree to grow in.

The next point to consider is rate of growth. The other important points are - height, spread, soil type, moisture requirements, mature form, growth rate, sun requirements, fall color, Foliage Color then Deciduas or evergreen and finally growth zones for winter hardiness. Each point is discussed briefly below.

Here are all the normal criteria to consider when considering How to select shade trees.

  • Mature Height - how tall will it get. This is seldom a large concern unless you are planting the tree below power lines. If you are then why not select a tree that will not have to be toped later in maturity thus ruining it shape. Select a medium tree that will not reach the level of the power lines when full grown.
  • Mature Spread - how wide will the tree spread. The single largest concern. We have all seen trees planted to close to a house or structure, the tree ether contacts the structure causing damage or the tree leans out and away in an un natural fashion. Sad sight indeed as the right tree could have avoided the problem.
  • Soil Type - does the tree require soil that is the same as yours or different. If your soil has a high clay content often you will need to amend the soil or select a tree that will accept what is considered a poor soil (clay). If your soil is not the best do not worry as there are many trees that are great and will grow in your yard.

  • Moisture - Is the desired tree a tender or tropical variety that needs more moisture and wind protection and you live in Arizona? In such cases you can create a micro climate and successfully grow even tender types of trees such as Japanese Maples but it will be much more work. You tree will not be a "plant it and forget it tree".

  • Mature Form - Trees are ether a triangle shape or inverted triangle. Example - Pines are usually a triangle shape with the narrow point at the top and the wider section at the bottom like a Christmas tree. Some pines when mature will form an inverted triangle shape. Most deciduous trees will attain a rounded shape when older but will often have a triangle shape when young.

  • Growth Rate - will you be retired or.. gasp - dead? by the time the tree gets large enough to actually provide shade? One thing is sad but true for the most part - we plant trees for the next generation to enjoy. If you see a beautiful tree stop and consider the person who planted it and give a nod and a kind thought as you now enjoy their deed so many years later.
  • Sun Exposure - will the tree like the light level where you want to plant it? This is not too large a concern unless you have a forest and wish to plant a tree that will be stunted in the undershadow of your forest. Why not plant something that will in fact need the protection the larger trees are providing such as a tender variety of Japanese maple?
  • Fall Color - This is not a worry unless you are looking specifically for fall color. If other trees in your area show great fall color then let these trees be your guide on what could grow in your yard.
  • Foliage Color - most trees are green so this is not too big an issue. There are however literally hundreds of variations of green and leaf shapes and sizes available so make your tree selection an enjoyable journey of discovery.
  • Deciduous or evergreen? Evergreens are usually slow growing but are often considered desirable as they can be disease and pest free and most importantly quite drought tolerant. Deciduous trees can be long lived and pest free also but you will usually have to settle for a lower grade of tree if you desire fast growth. Research is the key. It is best to do your research and find out what grows well in your city and state then look to these varieties when you plant your trees. Your digital camera is your friend here. Drive around and photograph mature and healthy trees in your area that you like. Then visit a real plant nursery and speak to an expert. Show them your photos and they will advise about your best choice for your yard and your soil type etc. Remember a tree is an investment in your property, treat it as such and make a wise choice. You will be rewarded many times over with not only added value but the satisfaction of seeing your tree grow to maturity and provide the shade you seek. I have owned five homes in my life time. Each time I visit an area of the country where I once lived I visit each house to see how the trees I planted so many years ago are doing. It is a very satisfying experience to look at those large trees and remember the day they where planted.
  • Zones - Will the tree survive the winters where you live? This is where zones play a role. Trees will be rated for a range of hardiness zones. Find your growth zone in our zone map on the menu at left.

In future additions to this article we will expand into each subject and include list of trees suitable for each criteria. For now this How to select shade trees article will help when considering your choices on selecting your shade trees.

Robert Barnes


Shade Trees A to C

Shade Tree NameScientific Name:Zone:Sun:
American Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis, 'American''3 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
American Hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana'3 - 9'Full Sun - Full Shade
American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis'4 - 9'Full Sun
Aristocrat Flowering PearPyrus 'Aristocrat''5 - 9'Full Sun
Austrian Pine Pinus nigra'3 - 8'Full Sun
Autumn Blaze Red Maple Acer fremanii, 'Autumn Blaze''4 - 8'Full Sun
Autumn Blooming Cherry Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis''4 - 8'Full Sun to partial shade
Autumn Flame Red Maple Acer rubrum 'Autumn Flame''4 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Autumn Gold Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold''3 - 8'Full Sun
Autumn Olive Elaeagnus umbellata'3 - 9'Full Sun
Autumn Purple Ash Fraxinus americana, 'Autumn Purple''3 - 9'Full Sun
Bald Cypress Taxodium distichum'4 - 10'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Black Cherry Prunus serotina'3 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Black Cottonwood Populus trichocarpa'5 - 8'Full Sun to partial shade
Black Gum Nyssa sylvatica'5 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Black Hills SprucePicea glauca'2 - 6'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Black LocustRobinia pseudoacacia'4 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Black WalnutJuglans nigra'4 - 9'Full Sun
Black WillowSalix nigra'4 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Bradford Flowering PearPyrus calleryana, 'Bradford''5 - 9'Full Sun
Bur OakQuercus macrocarpa'3 - 8'Full Sun
Canadian HemlockTsuga canadensis'3 - 7'Full Sun - Full Shade
Chanticleer Flowering PearPyrus calleryana, 'Chanticleer''5 - 8'Full Sun
Chestnut OakQuercus prinus'4 - 9'Full Sun
Chickasaw Plum Prunus angustifolia '5 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Chinese Chestnut Castanea mollissima'4 - 8'Full Sun
Chinkapin Oak Quercus muehlenbergii '3 - 7'Full Sun
Cimmaron Ash Fraxinus pennsylvanica, 'Cimmzam' '3 - 9'Full Sun
Cleveland Flowering Pear Pyrus calleryana, 'Cleveland Select' '5 - 8'Full Sun
Colorado Blue Spruce Picea pungens '3 - 7'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Concolor Fir Abies concolor '4 - 7'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Corkscrew Willow Salix matsudana, 'Tortuosa' '4 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Crape Myrtle - PeppermintLagerstroemia indica 'Nana''6 - 10'Full Sun
Crape Myrtle - PinkLagerstroemia indica 'Rosea''6 - 10'Full Sun
Crape Myrtle - PurpleLagerstroemia indica 'Purpurea''6 - 10'Full Sun
Crape Myrtle - RedLagerstroemia indica 'Rubra''6 - 10'Full Sun
Crape Myrtle - WhiteLagerstroemia indica 'Alba''6 - 10'Full Sun
Crimson King MapleAcer platanoides 'Crimson King''4 - 8'Full Sun to Part Sun
Crusader HawthornCrataegus crusgalli 'Crusader''3 - 7'Full Sun to partial shade

Shade Trees D to N

Shade Tree NameScientific Name:Zone:Sun:
Dawn RedwoodMetasequoia glyptostroboides'4 - 8'Full Sun
Douglas FirPseudotsuga menziessi glauca'3 - 6'Full Sun
Dura Heat River Birch - BNMTFBetula nigra, 'BNMTF' Dura Heat''4 - 9'Full Sun
Dwarf Red BuckeyeAesculus pavia'4 - 9'Full Sun - Full Shade
Eastern Red CedarJuniperus virginiana'3 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Eastern RedbudCercis canadensis'4 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Eastern White PinePinus strobus'3 - 7'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Eastern WhitebudCercis canadensis alba'4 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Forest Pansy RedbudCercis canadensis, 'Forest Pansy''5 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Fraser FirAbies fraseri'4 - 7'Full Sun - Partial Sun
GinkgoGinkgo biloba'4 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Globe ArborvitaeThuja occidentalis, 'Globe''3 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Gobbler Sawtooth OakQuercus acutissima'5 - 8'Full Sun
Green AshFraxinus pennsylvanica'3 - 9'Full Sun
Green Giant ArborvitaeThuja plicata 'Green Giant''4 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Green Mountain Sugar MapleAcer saccharum 'Green Mountain''3 - 8'Full Sun to partial shade
HackberryCeltis occidentalis'3 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Hardy PecanCarya illinoensis'5 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
HazelnutCorylus americana'4 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Heritage BirchBetula nigra, 'Heritage''4 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Horsechestnut Buckeye Aesculus hippocastanum'4 - 7'Full Sun
Hybrid Poplar Populus androscoggin'3 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Imperial Honeylocust Gleditsia trianthos inermis 'Impcole''3 - 9'Full Sun
Japanese Red Maple Acer palmatum atropurpureum'5 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Kentucky Coffee Tree Gymnocladus dioica'3 - 8'Full Sun
Kousa Dogwood Cornus kousa chinensis'5 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Kwanzan Flowering Cherry Prunus serrulata, 'Kwanzan''5 - 8'Full Sun
Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud Cercis canadensis 'Covey''5 - 9'Full Sun to partial shade
Legacy Sugar Maple Acer saccharum 'Legacy''5 - 8'Full Sun to partial shade
Little Leaf Linden Tilia cordata'3 - 8'Full Sun to partial shade
Loblolly Pine Pinus taeda'6 - 9'Full Sun
Lombardy Poplar Populus nigra 'Italica''3 - 9'Full Sun
London Sycamore Platanus x acerifolia 'Bloodgood''5 - 8'Full Sun
Magnolia x Ann Magnolia x Anne'3 - 7'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Magnolia x Jane Magnolia x Jane'3 - 7'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Mayhaw Crataegus aestivalis'6 - 11'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Mimosa Tree Albizia julibrissin'6 - 9'Full Sun
Mugho Pine Pinus mugo mughus'3 - 7'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Native American Plum Prunus americana'4 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
New Bradford Pear Pyrus calleryana 'Holmford''5 - 8'Full Sun
Northern Catalpa Catalpa speciosa'4 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Northern Red Oak Quercus borealis'3 - 8'Full Sun
Norway Spruce Picea abies'2 - 7'Full Sun
Nuttall Oak Quercus nuttallii'5 - 9'Full Sun

Shade Trees O to R

Shade Tree NameScientific Name:Zone:Sun:
October Glory Red Maple Acer rubrum 'October Glory''5 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Ohio BuckeyeAesculus glabra'4 - 7'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Okame CherryPrunus x 'Okame''6 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Oklahoma RedbudCercis reniformis, 'Oklahoma''6 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Osage OrangeMaclura pomifera'4 - 9'Full Sun
Paper BirchBetula papyrifera'3 - 6'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Paw PawAsimina triloba'5 - 8'Full Sun - Full Shade
PersimmonDiospyros virginiana'4 - 9'Full Sun
Pin OakQuercus palustris'4 - 8'Full Sun
Pink Flowering DogwoodCornus florida f. ruba'5 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Ponderosa PinePinus ponderosa'3 - 7'Full Sun
Post OakQuercus stellata'5 - 9'Full Sun
Prairie Cascade WillowSalix pentaphyllum 'Prairie Cascade''3 - 10'Full Sun
Pyramidalis Arborvitae"Thuja occidentalis, 'Pyramidalis'"'3 - 8'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Quaking AspenPopulus tremuloides'2 - 6'Full Sun
Red Flowering DogwoodCornus florida 'Cherokee Chief''5 - 8'Full Sun - Full Shade
Red MapleAcer rubrum'4 - 10'Full Sun - Full Shade
Red MulberryMorus rubra'5 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Red Sunset Red MapleAcer rubrum 'Red Sunset''4 - 8'Full Sun
Redspire PearPyrus calleryana 'Redspire''5 - 9'Full Sun
Redstone DogwoodCornus Mas 'Redstone''4 - 8'Full Sun to partial shade
River BirchBetula nigra'3 - 9'Full Sun - Partial Sun
Royal White RedbudCercis canadensis 'Royal White''5 - 9'Full Sun to partial shade
Russian OliveElaeagnus augustifolia'2 - 7'Full Sun

Shade Trees S to Y


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