Shade Trees … the very words conjure up visions of carefree summer days, family gatherings in the shade of a majestic tree, napping in hammocks and all the things that go to give home-life its true meaning. What is the alternative – sweating children, sad little umbrellas over crowded tables while you slave over a hot barbecue in the sweltering heat? All winter long we all dream of being able to use our gardens ‘once the warm weather comes’ but if you don’t have the cooling shade that only trees can bring you won’t be using your garden in summer either!
Comfort: First and foremost for everyone is the luxury of sitting under those cool green leaves, enjoying the pleasures of eating outdoors, entertaining friends and family and seeing your children happily playing. Trees give a special quality to shade because the light passing through the green leaves has all the harsh red light filtered out of it, meaning the light is restful to the eyes and calming to the soul.
Cooling: Every leaf on a tree is a miniature air-conditioner that cools by evaporating water from its surface, so the air around it is cooler – just the way a damp towel feels cool as it dries. So the air around a shade tree is cooler and moister than it would be without that tree and that is something that no umbrella or cloth tent can ever do – in fact it is usually hotter beneath an umbrella because heat rising from below is reflected back by the fabric.
Financial: This cooling effect extends beyond just the shade beneath the tree to your entire property. Tree-shade on your house, especially later in the afternoon when the sun is still hot, cools the house and save money too. Studies have shown that just three trees around your house reduce energy use for cooling by up to 50% and peak electricity use by almost 25%. That means that in these times of rising energy costs and conservation, planting shade trees will not only raise your property values but reduce your energy bills too. Property values? Well yes, surveys show that realtors agree that trees on a property increase its value and studies suggest that trees and an attractive garden add as much as 15% to the value of your property. It is often suggested that in a new home you should budget 10% of its value on improving the garden, to gain that benefit.
Community: Imagine if everyone planted some shade trees. The result would be an overall 100F cooling effect on streets with trees against those without. Our cities and suburbs become more pleasant places to live in and everyone saves money. Just planting a tree on your property is going to give your neighbors the idea of doing it too and before you know it you will be living on a tree-lined street and your whole neighborhood just got better.
Protect Your Children: Children need to play outdoors but too much sun can be harmful and ultra-violet light can cause skin-cancer in later life. Kids hate being covered in messy sunblock but a tree will filter 50% or more of the harmful rays from the sun, making it safe for your children to play outside for hours. They won’t get so hot and come running indoors to cool-off either.
Clean the Air: Shade Trees act as natural filters and remove many different kinds of pollutants from the air. If you live in an urban area this is especially important to protect yourself and your family from the sulfur, ozone, nitrates, ammonia and other nasty chemicals that fill our city streets. These chemicals are trapped in the leaves and neutralized, eventually being safely returned to the soil when the leaves fall. As well, they release beneficial oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, keeping the air clean and healthy.
Revive Your Soul: You may be coming home from a busy, stressful day. Your children are tired from school. You just feel low and stressed. Coming up the driveway and seeing a beautiful tree, or looking out your windows onto all that green will revive you and calm you at the same time. Investigations into this effect have always shown how much better people feel when they are around trees. Children can concentrate on their homework better and you will feel more relaxed and happy to be home. It has even been shown that neighborhoods with trees have less crime and violence.
Wildlife: Let’s not forget that birds need trees for shelter and food and that if you have trees you will attract and protect many kinds of birds, that in turn will entertain you and even eat the pests on your other plants. Everyone wins when you plant a tree.
Shade Tree Locations
Shade Trees come in many different forms. Some have leaves all year round, like the Eucalyptus Tree, while others are bare in winter. Evergreen trees have the benefit of providing shade all year, so they are a good choice in warmer areas, while deciduous trees let in the precious winter sunlight if you live in a cooler region. Many deciduous trees will have beautiful fall color too, crimson or purple, butter shades or golden explosions. If you are looking for fall color, consider American Red Maple, Autumn Purple Ash, Sugar Maple or Gingko Tree. These trees add glory to a special season.
You want to choose a tree that will grow well in your location, so find out your hardiness zone and choose a tree that fits. If you are really looking for low maintenance and good growth, choose a tree that is hardier one zone above and below your own, so if you are in zone 6, choose a tree hardy to zone 5. That way even in the most extreme weather conditions you will have no problems. Of course in colder areas that may limit your choices too much, so as long as a tree is designated as good for your zone, in practice you should never have any problems with it.
Size of Shade Trees
Size is a major consideration. All too often we see trees that have grown too large for the small area they are in. This can be bad for nearby buildings and it is bad for the trees too, as they end up being cut down before they are even mature. So choosing what size tree to plant is an important first step and you should consider the mature sizes given for each tree and how fast they grow. Look at the spread as well as the height and step outside to see how big the tree is going to be. Most of the larger trees will have a spread of around 25 feet when mature. So they should be at least 12 feet from a house or even more. To avoid any problems with your neighbors, they should be about the same distance from your property line too, especially if you are near to neighboring houses.
Height of Shade Trees
Height is an important consideration too. The final height of the tree should be considered, especially if there are power-lines passing over your property. There may be by-laws or regulations preventing you from planting larger trees under power-lines, but in any case, the power authority will come and cut back your beautiful trees if they start to interfere with the lines, as of course they have to, but the result may not be pretty. It’s much better to position your shade tree away from lines, or choose something small enough to grow under them. In some states 18 feet is the maximum size for trees under power lines, so choose accordingly.
Generally speaking you should try to plant the largest tree that will fit your space, so that the shade is greater, especially to get those cooling effects and power savings. If you have a larger property you can pretty much choose anything, but if you have a smaller lot, there are plenty of smaller trees to choose from that will give shade without becoming a problem. If you are looking for a shorter tree, consider the Bloodgood Japanese Maple, the Mimosa Tree or the Golden Raintree which are all small enough for a smaller property but big enough to cast a good area of shade into your garden.
Flowering Shade Trees
Some Shade Trees have the added bonus of producing glorious flowers and bringing colour as well as shade to your garden. All trees of course flower; it’s just that many trees have small flowers, often without petals, that just go unnoticed. Others however have large flowers that no one could miss – the Jane Magnolia Tree for example is a tree that has very large flowers and makes a spectacular addition to any garden. Another great choice for spring flowers is the Newport Flowering Plum, or for a larger tree you can choose the Tulip Poplar.
In warmer areas the Mimosa Tree also make a great display and bring color in the summer when it is rarer to have flowers on trees. If flowers on your Shade Tree are a top priority, check out our selection of Flowering Trees, because many of them grow large enough to also work well as shade trees, especially in smaller gardens.
Fast Growing Shade Trees
If you really need a shade tree as soon as possible, that can be done too. For the fastest tree of all, plant a Willow Hybrid, that grows ten feet in a single year. In literally no time at all you will have a large shade tree in your yard. Other fast-growing choices include the Hybrid Poplar and the Quaking Aspen which will both grow 6 feet or more a year.
On a larger lot, a great long-term plan is to use some of these super-fast growing trees and also some slower ones, that will mature over the years and eventually can be used to replace the quick growers. Sugar Maple is a great choice for this, as this tree will grow happily in the shade of larger trees for many years until eventually growing big enough to take over the job as a long-term shade tree.
Leaf and Bark Coloring
Most shade trees have green leaves, but some have spectacular colored leaves that really add some punch to your landscaping. Red leaves are especially striking and for a large tree the tough Crimson King Maple takes some beating. If you need something smaller, the Bloodgood Japanese Maple and the Red Dragon Japanese Maple are especially beautiful. Bark color is worth considering too. Although most trees have brown or grey bark, some, like the Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree or the American Sycamore have striking bark in many colors.
Best Types of Soil to Use
Next consider your soil. Most shade trees will grow well in most kinds of soils, but if you have an extreme kind of soil, either very sandy or full of clay, or very acidic or alkaline you should check that your possible choices will be fine with your soil. For acid soils, Japanese Maple, Sawtooth Oak and the Tulip Tree are great choices. For extremely alkaline soils Thornless Honeylocust and the Zelkova Tree will thrive. On a clay soil the Gingko Tree will be happy and so will American Red Maple and American Elm.
Drought-Tolerant Shade Trees
If you live in an area that is subject to drought or if your soil is sandy and dries out very quickly, then you want a drought-tolerant Shade Tree. Of course all trees need water when they are young, but some will be very drought-tolerant once they are well established.
For warmer climates the Eucalyptus Tree is very suitable for dry areas and in cooler regions Thornless Honeylocust, Sawtooth Oak and Norway Maple are good choices. At the other extreme you may need a tree that will do well in wet locations and in that case the Willow Hybrid, Lombardy Poplar or the Weeping Willow are the best choices. Autumn Purple Ash will also do well in damper locations.
Planting Native Species
A lot is said these days about the benefits of planting native species. If you live in an area where the soil has not been changed much by construction, road-building and urban development, then native species are a great choice. Trees like American Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Autumn Purple Ash and American Elm are all wonderful trees of the original native forests that covered our land.
Native trees can however be harder to grow in urban areas and tougher specimens like the Gingko Tree and Norway Maple, or in warmer area the Mimosa Tree will survive where many other trees will fail. A good compromise is to grow a hybrid native tree like the Autumn Blaze Maple. Its parents are both natives, but this tree is tougher and faster growing and will do better in harsh conditions than either parent could.
How To Plant Shade Trees
So you have selected some suitable trees and now it is time to plant them. There are some general rules that apply to every Shade Tree that will make sure your new tree gets a good start in its life with you. Tree roots may grow deep, but they also grow wide, so your hole should always be wider than it is deep. Dig the hole two or three times the width of the pot. Break up the soil in the bottom of the hole a little, but it should be a couple of inches shallower than the pot depth when you are done. Mix some organic material like compost or peat moss into the soil you dug out. Even if your soil is pretty poor, adding organic material will really help it a lot. Once upon a time we used to bring in top-soil to plant trees but we now know that is not necessary or even a good idea and amending the natural soil is the best way to go.
Make sure you water the pot really well the night before planting. Remove the pot and if the roots are tightly wound around the root-ball, take a sharp knife and cut an inch or two deep from top to bottom in two or three places around it. This will prevent the roots from strangling your tree as they grow larger.
Place your tree in the centre of the hole and put back most of the soil. Firm the soil down around the roots of your tree and fill the hole with water. Once the water has drained away put back the rest of the soil. You should have just a little soil over the top of the root-ball and your tree should be a couple of inches above the general ground level. This is especially important if you have heavy, clay soil. Every new tree will need to be watered once a week during the first growing season. Give your tree lots of water each time. In later years while your tree is still young, watch that it doesn’t dry out during extended periods of hot and dry weather.
Create an Appealing Garden with Our Shade Trees!
Planting a suitable Shade Tree, or several on a larger property, is the best way to create an appealing garden that you will enjoy being in. Shade trees will make outdoors a great and comfortable place to be and beautify your property more than just about anything you can do. It is the first step in creating a place of real beauty that you and your family will love to be in.
Whatever species you choose you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful, natural addition to your home that’s guaranteed to make your summer days more pleasant than ever. There’s no better place to relax than under the leafy canopy of your very own shade tree.