- Best Trees that Grow in Shade Locations:
- Native Trees to the United States
- Small Shade Trees to Plant
- Some other trees or shrubs that tolerate shaded areas are:
- You don’t have to allow tall oaks and pines to dominate the small yard. Brighten it up with smaller, short shade trees! Keep in mind most of these trees do require a small portion of sunlight to grow and thrive. Some may perform better than others with more sunlight so be sure to pick a partial shade planting site.
- Best Trees that Grow in Shade Locations:
- Fall Tips For Planting Trees and Shrubs
- When’s the Best Time to Plant Trees?
- When to Plant Trees in Cold Climates
- When to Plant Trees in Warm Climates
- Types of Trees and When to Plant Them
- Solved! The Best Time to Plant a Tree
If you have big oak trees or tall pine trees in your landscape, you can still have smaller trees with pretty flowers and showy foliage underneath. In nature, the tall canopy trees may rule the forest, but the sub-canopy trees create the mood.
Perfect Plants offers several kinds of partial shade tolerant trees for the home landscape. Unless your back yard is 100% shade all day and all year, there are many kinds of trees and shrubs to choose from.
Here we present several trees that will thrive in partial shade to mostly shade.
Best Trees that Grow in Shade Locations:
The Ann Magnolia has early spring flowering blooms
The deciduous saucer magnolias from Asia (Magnolia X soulangiana), such as ‘Ann’ and ‘Alexandrina’ are shade loving trees beneath tall pines or live oaks. Alexandrina flowering magnolia gets up to 25 feet tall; Ann magnolia stays smaller, to 15 feet tall. Both have fragrant purple or pink flowers with white interiors and are hardy in USDA zones 4 or 5 through 9. These small trees have excellent fall color and green foliage.
Jane magnolia (Magnolia ‘Jane’) is a compact shrubby little hybrid tree that stays under 10 feet tall. ‘Jane’ has fragrant reddish-purple tulip-shaped flowers, and deciduous leaves. She is hardy in USDA zones 6-9 and makes the perfect street tree to turn heads.
Little Gems are perfect to line a fence!
The larger native American evergreen magnolia, M. grandiflora, tolerates shady conditions. ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty‘ and ‘Little Gem’ are a couple cultivars that are especially attractive in shady locations. Bracken’s Brown Beauty flowering magnolia gets 30-40 feet tall and Little Gem Magnolia stays under 25 feet in height and are fast growing trees. Both have large and fragrant showy white flowers. Both are hardy in USDA zones 5-9. Southern magnolias have evergreen leaves that will keep their color all year long. It is uncommon to find a broadleaf evergreen that grows in shade which is what makes the magnolias so special.
Sweet bay magnolia (M. virginiana) grows in shaded locations in zones 6-9. It gets as much as 60 feet tall and does best in moist soils.
Native Trees to the United States
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a common understory tree in Eastern North American forests. It gets 20-30 feet tall, sometimes with multiple trunks if not pruned. Redbud blooms in very early spring with rose-purple flowers held close to its branches. The Eastern Redbud prefers medium, well-drained soil and partial sun to partial shade. ‘Forest Pansy’ is a popular cultivar sporting heart shaped leaves that are purplish at first, later turning to dark green leaves. In the fall, these small privacy trees produce orange red fruit.
Pink or white? You choose!
Several species of dogwoods (genus Cornus) make fine specimens for the shady landscape. Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is one of nature’s finest understory tree species. Perfect Plants has a pink flowered version as well as the typical white flowered dogwood. They get 20-25 feet tall and can be grown in growing zones 5-9. Other shade tolerant dogwoods include the Chinese Tartarian dogwood (C. alba), pagoda dogwood (C. alternifolia), silky dogwood (C. amomum), Cornelian cherry (C. mas), and red-osier dogwood (C. stolonifera). All of the dogwoods stay under 20 feet tall in height and are well adapted to partial shade. This tree flowers in spring and loves small spaces.
Look at this Limelight Hydrangea tree beauty!
Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) is typically a deciduous shrub, but Perfect Plants has created a “hydrangea tree” by pruning it to a single-stem standard that gets 8-10 feet tall. Limelight hydrangea has flowers that start out a pale limey green, eventually turning to creamy white blooms. You can grow the Limelight panicle hydrangea tree in semi shady areas in plant hardiness zones 3-8. This flowering shade tree
Small Shade Trees to Plant
Red Maples are a favorite of ours here at the nursery. Simply majestic!
The Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are popular deciduous trees for partial shade. They are hardy in planting zones 4-8. Several graceful cultivars with colorful leaves are available. Most of these small trees for shaded areas stay under 20 feet in height. Native American maples that thrive in part shade include mountain maple (A. spicatum) and striped maple (A. pensylvanicum). These ornamental trees for shade sure make a lovely statement piece in your yard!
Several species of Holly (genus Ilex) get to tree size and are shade tolerant plants. American holly (I. opaca), Dahoon holly (I. cassine), and needlepoint holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Needlepoint’) are all good choices for shady spots in plant zones 7-9.
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) thrives in the shade and produces delicious fruits. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8, the deciduous pawpaw is an excellent choice for the semi-shady edible landscape.
Crape myrtles are another excellent choice of small trees to plant for shady areas. They will produce bright colorful blooms during the spring and early summer months. Some flowering tree varieties do prefer some sunlight so do your research and choose your planting site wisely. There are dwarf varieties too for small spaces. Some dwarf trees are under 10 feet tall. These fast growing shade trees have a fast growth rate of up to 1-3 feet per year.
American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) and eastern hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) are common North American understory trees that are well suited to the backyard landscape. Both are small deciduous trees that stay under 30 feet tall.
Canadian (or Eastern) hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is an evergreen shade tree that makes a good privacy screen. In nature, the Canadian hemlock can grow tall enough to be part of the canopy, but cultivated specimens normally stay smaller.
Another evergreen tree, the weeping willow, is a shade tolerant tree that can be grown as an understory tree.
For a shade tolerant palm tree, consider the windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei). Windmill palms are hardy in zones 8-11, and usually get around 10-15 feet tall but can get up to 25 feet. They are tolerant of light shade.
Some other trees or shrubs that tolerate shaded areas are:
- European beech (Fagus sylvatica)
- Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
- Silverbells (Halesia carolina)
- Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
- Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonica)
- Viburnums (Viburnum spp.)
- Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidita)
- Black alder (Alnus glutinosa)
- White birch (Betula papyrifera)
Shade gardens are a fun way to get creative in your yard and landscape and most of these plants are easy to grow! Smaller shade perennials can even be planted underneath these trees in full shade such as hostas. They will act as a groundcover and cannot tolerate full sun. Shade loving plants are few and far between.
Let us know in the comments if you have questions or other recommendations for shade trees! We would love to hear from you.
Tags: full shade, partial shade, shade trees, small trees
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Fall Tips For Planting Trees and Shrubs
For those folks who live in growing zones 6, 7 and 8, October, November and early December is a good time to plant your trees or shrubs because roots become active during winter months in storing nutrient reserves for the next season. Also water requirements are generally much less during winter months. However in sandy soil situations which do not hold moisture as well as other soil types, the addition of a water-retentive product will help reduce short term drought stress.
First you need to select a tree or shrub that fits the site you desire to plant in. Read the information available on the tree or shrub. For example: you wouldn’t plant a birch tree in an area that is usually dry, (birches prefer a moist soil.) How tall and wide will the tree be at maturity? It is very sad to see a beautiful tree cut down only because it has become too big for the site. Are there overhead wires above? This is a common problem, which is easy to avoid by choosing trees that don’t grow tall. Does the tree or shrub need a protected site? You shouldn’t plant a dogwood or rhododendron in a windy open area. If you choose the proper tree for the conditions it will live in you won’t have to struggle to keep it alive and healthy.
Experts used to advise you dig the hole deeper and wider than the root ball. The advice now is to only dig the hole as deep as the root ball but at least two times wider. This keeps the tree or shrub from sinking as the soil settles while
allowing the feeder roots to grow out into the looser and generally more fertile top-soil.
Soil amendments (direct to the planting hole) are also discouraged since most tree roots have a natural spreading tendency and need to acclimate to indigenous soils as quickly as possible. Or, if you dig this nice wonderful ‘bowl’ newly growing roots tend to stay right there, circling around and around, not venturing out into the soil that isn’t so great. And if your soil is hard clay you will need to dig up a larger area than two times larger than the root ball.
It is very helpful to get a wheelbarrow, garden cart or even a tarp to hold the soil you are going to dig up. After you have dug the hole use your shovel or a fork to loosed the soil around the hole. This helps open up the compacted soil for the roots to grow into.
Place your tree or shrub into the hole. Add some soil to support the tree while you check all the way around to make sure it is standing up straight and is facing the direction you desire. The top of the root ball, (where the trunk widens and roots flare out), should be at or above the soil level. If the root ball is too low you can possibly add soil to the bottom of the hole with your shovel, moving the root ball from side to side to get soil underneath. If it is too high you will need to remove the tree and dig deeper. Now is the time to fix anything not proper, not after the hole is refilled with soil.
If the root ball has burlap or a wire cage remove at least the top half being careful not to cause the ball to fall apart. Burlap under the ball will rot. Fill the hole in with soil halfway. Make any further adjustments. Water the soil to fill in any air pockets and help settle the soil. Fill in the remainder of the hole.
Water the soil thoroughly with a slow stream of water. You need a hose for this job or several buckets of water to adequately settle the soil.
Mulch the area around the tree with a few inches of mulch. Keep the mulch from touching the trunk. Moist mulch can encourage rot, pests or disease. Water your newly planted tree or shrub if rainfall does not provide adequate moisture up until the ground freezes.
If soils are severely compacted (from new home construction, for example) now is a good time to add our Shrubs Alive. Apply some six inches from the outer perimeter of the planting hole. This will aid in recreating the desired soil texture necessary for your trees future growth.
Once your tree is properly positioned, it may need support. Tree Supports help keep young trees from being rocked by strong winds, which damage developing roots. Tree Supports provide integrated support to hold young trees stable but allow for enough “give” for normal sway. Our patented Tree Support is especially designed to accommodate this.
Small trunks will need protection from rodent damage and sunscald. On-Gard! offer protection to tender young bark from animals as well as from sunscald (caused by Winter sun reflected off of snow).
Tree Guards are easy to apply and should be removed in Summer months.
If you choose the right tree or shrub for your site and plant it properly you can plan on enjoying it for many years to come.
By Diane Franklin
Trees are big-ticket landscape items that not only cost a lot, but add a lot of value to your home, too — by some estimates a mature tree adds nearly $10,000 in value to your property.
So it’s important to plant trees when they’re most likely to survive.
When’s the Best Time to Plant Trees?
Here’s the short answer: Plant trees when they have enough time to establish roots before they’re exposed to stressors like high heat, low temperatures, or not enough water.
Nicholas Staddon of Monrovia, a plant seller, says late summer/early fall is the best time to plant in most parts of the U.S. — zones 4 to 8.
“During the winter months in many parts of the U.S., roots are still active,” Staddon says. “The tree starts to acclimatize itself to your soil. So in the spring, it bursts forth with leaves and flowers.”
Of course, trees have different needs, and areas have different climates. So, we’re breaking down best planting times according to climates and types of trees.
When to Plant Trees in Cold Climates
The window of opportunity to plant trees in colder climates — zones 1 to 3 — is relatively short. You can’t dig until the ground has warmed, and you’ve got only a few months to plant before the ground freezes again.
Early spring, just as the ground thaws, is the best time plant. Fall can be too late, because trees won’t be able to survive the freezing temperatures that can damage roots and stop moisture from reaching the tree.
When to Plant Trees in Warm Climates
Fall’s the best time to plant in the deep South — zones 9 and 10.
- After the first frosts, trees become dormant and require less food through young roots.
- Tree carbohydrates can go directly toward root growth, rather than canopy growth.
- Mild winters give trees enough growing time to establish root systems that will survive in hot summers.
Make sure you keep young trees well-watered through dry winters.
Types of Trees and When to Plant Them
Bare root trees: These trees are dug from the ground when they are dormant, stored in some moist medium, then shipped bare of soil. Because these roots are naked, plant these trees in spring when they won’t suffer winter injuries. But more important, plant these trees when you get them; the trick is to order correctly so they’ll arrive when they have the best chance to survive.
Container trees: These trees have been grown in pots or burlap wrapping, and have roots covered in soil. They’re not as delicate as bare root trees, so timing is not quite as important. Plant whenever your tree will have a couple of months to establish roots before extreme temperatures — hot or cold — will stress it.
Deciduous trees: Deciduous trees make the decision easy, because they tell you when they’re going dormant by dropping their leaves. Plant in fall, and keep them well-watered even through winter.
Evergreens: Plant these early fall or late spring — just about any time that doesn’t see extreme heat.
Conifers: These cone-bearing trees are particularly susceptible to cold weather because their needles lose moisture all winter even though the tree is sleeping. If you live in a climate where frozen soil prevents water from getting to conifer roots, plant in spring.
Transplants: Transplant trees in spring after the ground has warmed and before the tree sets buds, or in fall after leaves have fallen and before the ground freezes. Younger trees will endure transplanting better than mature trees, which don’t like the shock.
Related: Best Trees To Grow Curb Appeal
Solved! The Best Time to Plant a Tree
Q: I’d like to plant some new trees to boost our home’s curb appeal. Will they survive if I plant in the fall, or should I wait till spring?
A: You often see landscaping companies busily putting in trees during spring and fall, which may lead you to believe that both seasons are perfect for your own project. Good times, maybe. Perfect times? Not exactly. Despite the fact that both seasons boast mild weather that won’t scorch or freeze delicate young roots, there are several reasons why spring is often the best time to plant a tree.
RELATED: 8 Things to Know Before You Set Foot in a Plant Store
Spring is a popular time to get out in the yard. After a long winter, many homeowners have a bit of cabin fever and actually look forward to flexing their green thumb. This bodes well for the effort required to tend a newly planted tree, caring for and watering it several times per week. By the time fall rolls around, many folks see yard work as more of a chore and less of a fun activity.
Nurseries stock up in spring. Garden centers are hip to the fact that homeowners are eager to get out and start planting. So you’ll likely have a more abundant selection when you shop for trees in early spring.
RELATED: 10 of the Best Trees for Any Backyard
Trees may not take root in the fall. There’s always the risk that an early frost will hit before a young tree can take root. When the ground freezes, sufficient water cannot reach the roots, so new trees could dry out and die—a scenario that takes fall out of the running from being hands-down the best time to plant a tree. Planting trees during spring allows a greater chance of the taking root.
Spring isn’t foolproof, however! If you plant in spring and weather conditions become too hot too quickly, your tree’s chances of drying out and dying increase. You see, in the summer, new trees pull double duty: They’re both strengthening their root systems and growing leaves. (Conversely, when you plant during the fall, trees can put all their energy into strengthening their roots.) If they don’t develop enough in time for a heatwave, the young roots likely won’t prepared to pull in the moisture needed to survive summers that are scorchers.
If you regularly experience harsh summers, plan to plant early enough in spring, as soon as the ground is workable, to give your tree enough opportunity to establish roots before serious heat sets in. Watering sufficiently during summer dry spells will also help offset the risk of your tree drying out or dropping leaves.
RELATED: How To: Plant a Tree
Don’t discount personal reasons for planting trees in fall. Maybe you’re about to list your home for sale and hope to amp curb appeal now. Or perhaps you have a nosy neighbor and are eager for a green privacy screen. So keep in mind that your tree won’t necessarily be doomed if you plant in autumn. Your best bet is to choose specific trees that can fare well against the elements, especially if your climate zone is prone to rough winters. Evergreens, for example, are fairly adaptable and don’t go dormant in the same way deciduous trees do. Plant them in early fall, when the weather begins to cool.
Consider how your tree is sold if you choose to plant in the fall. Trees either come home with you in containers, wrapped at the roots in a burlap bag (sometimes called “ball and burlap” or “B&Bs”) or have bare, soil-free roots. For fall planting, opt for those in containers or burlap bags. Bare root trees are more delicate and may not survive the shock of winter conditions. In any case, make sure you water the tree sufficiently up until the time the ground begins to freeze.
RELATED: 10 Things to Do Now for a Better Garden Next Year
Remember, a new tree is a fairly significant investment—you want to set it up for success right from the start.