Best Shade Trees

Sarah Logie — May 02, 2022

No matter how large or small an outdoor space, adding natural shade with trees provides both reprieve from the sun’s rays, as well as a way to incorporate character and beauty. There are many shade tree options available, and choosing the best one will depend on your location, soil type and size preferences.

From the mighty American Elm to the petite Windmill Palm, the possibilities may seem endless, but we’ve narrowed down the best fast-growing shade trees that you can plant and begin enjoying right away!

Autumn Blaze® Red Maple

The eye-catching Autumn Blaze® Red Maple will provide your yard with not only shade, but also plenty of gorgeous fall color. Growing 3 to 5 feet each year, this maple will eventually tower at 40 to 50 feet tall, making it a majestic addition to any space. These beauties will showcase their incredible, bright red hues all fall, even the first year they’re planted.

The Autumn Blaze® Red Maple thrives in nearly any environment, adapting easily to a wide range of soil conditions and temperatures and making it an obvious choice for landscapes of all kinds!

Autumn Blaze® Red Maple Tree

American Red Maple

Known as one of the most populous trees in the United States, the American Red Maple shines vibrantly red nearly all year long, from the flowers in the spring, to the twigs of new growth, and then the final act of incredible autumn leaves. Reaching mature heights of 40 to 60 feet, this tree is both adaptable and tolerant. You’ll enjoy spending time under its canopy of dense foliage that creates large patches of shade and ample protection from the sun.

The American Red Maple will do well planted in nearly any soil and not be weighed down by pollution or drought.

American Red Maple Tree

Weeping Willow

Classic and elegant, the Weeping Willow will add a dramatic flair to any landscape. This fast-growing shade tree shoots up quickly, averaging 6 to 8 feet per year, before reaching its towering full height. The graceful willow branches arch outward, creating the soft, picturesque canopy that they’re known for.

Despite being found frequently near rivers and lakes, Weeping Willows can grow nearly anywhere, and planting them will help prevent soil erosion.

Weeping Willow

Red Japanese Maple

Year-round color makes the Red Japanese Maple Tree stand head and shoulders above the rest. With a mature height of just 15 to 20 feet, this tree will fit into spaces both large and small, offering stunning foliage throughout spring, summer, and fall. It doesn’t shy away in the winter either, providing a vivid backdrop in tones of red and black against even the snowiest days.

With its non-disruptive roots and trouble-free upkeep, the Red Japanese Maple is a low-maintenance shade tree that offers an ornamental accent anywhere it’s placed.

Red Japanese Maple Tree

Bloodgood Japanese Maple

Plant the show-stopping Bloodgood Japanese Maple landscape tree anywhere you’re seeking richness and drama. This maple will flourish even in the tightest spaces, as long as there’s well-drained soil and partial sunlight. Choose to either let it grow to its mature height of 15 feet or opt to prune this fast-growing shade tree to your desired size.

Once established, the Bloodgood Japanese Maple will do well in most zones, requiring minimal maintenance and adding exquisite scenery to any space.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple

Superior Hybrid Poplar

One of the top quick-growing shade trees available right now is the Superior Hybrid Poplar. A cross between the Cottonwood and Lombardy Poplars, these trees grow as quickly as 8 feet per year, before reaching a mature height of 40 to 50 feet. Their oval shape and bright green foliage is not just visually appealing, but also provides ample obstruction on hot, sunny days.

Superior Hybrid Poplars are quite literally superior since they don’t need much attention to thrive. Accepting of nearly any type of soil, simply plant them in a well-drained area with full sun, then sit back and enjoy!

Superior Hybrid Poplar Tree

Tulip Poplar

If you’re seeking a landscape tree that will provide beauty as well as shade, look no further than the Tulip Poplar. Resistant to insects, deer and disease, this tree will grow to a mature height of 70 incredible feet, making it one of the best shade trees for nearly any zone. While the incomparable yellow blooms take some extra time to establish (around 10 to 15 years), they’ll absolutely be worth the wait.

When planted in well-drained soil with full to partial sun, the Tulip Poplar will provide decades of beauty and enjoyment in any yard!

Tulip Poplar

Gingko Tree

Known for its signature, fan-shaped leaves, the Ginkgo is a decorative, low-maintenance shade tree that provides vivid, fluorescent yellow colors throughout the fall. Tolerant of drought and cold hardy, these ornamental trees will grow to their full height of 40 to 70 feet moderately in nearly all zones. Known for living as long as 3,000 years, the Gingko isn’t bothered by smog and air pollution, making it ideal for adding visual interest along streets.

Adaptable to most types of well-drained soil, the Gingko and its unique shape will stand out in gardens of all styles.

Ginkgo Tree

Heritage® River Birch

Adaptable and resilient, the Heritage River Birch is a fast-growing shade tree that will add plenty of character to any landscape. With its vast limbs and colorful peeling bark, this variety will quickly reach its mature height of 40 to 50 feet. Enjoy not only the ample shade it provides but also the dramatic yellow colors displayed each autumn.

Plant the Heritage River Birch in nearly any wet or dry site, knowing it can easily withstand ice and wind, and watch as it rapidly turns into a brilliant landscape show.

Heritage® River Birch

American Elm

The regal and nostalgic American Elm Tree will grow nearly anywhere across the country, from the Northern Plains to the deep south. A low-maintenance shade tree, it will quickly reach a mature height of 40 to 60 feet with an abundant canopy of branches. The small clusters of spring flowers give way to rich green summer leaves, which transform to golden foliage in the fall.

When planted in any type of soil, the American Elm and its signature tall trunk will help create shaded outdoor memories for generations.

Heritage® River Birch

Lacebark Chinese Elm

The Lacebark Chinese Elm is easy to grow and easy to enjoy, adding incredible ornamental value to the landscape. Tolerant of many growing conditions, from polluted cities to open countrysides, requiring little care, and exhibiting resistance to many common Elm diseases, you can simply plant it up and watch it flourish! In the spring and summer, it’ll produce a bounty of thick, glossy green leaves on a rounded canopy, and in the fall, the leaves turns a deep yellow, sometimes purplish pink shade for serious color interest.

Plant the Lacebark Chinese Elm in any type of soil and watch it grow to heights of 30-40 feet. When you’re looking for a highly manageable but equally beautiful shade tree, this is a fantastic option! Lacebark Chinese Elm Tree

Shumard Oak

Last, but certainly not least, is the Shumard Oak. This attractive shade tree is tolerant to a wide variety of growing conditions, withstanding winds and harsh weather, including drought, and grows at a medium rate, so unlike other Oaks, you won’t have to wait awhile to enjoy its shade and beauty. Growing to about 40-60 feet tall and wide, the Shumard Oak produces quintessential fall colors of red and orange, making it a sure standout in the landscape.

From urban landscapes and soggy spaces to dry, open fields and clay or compacted soils, the Shumard Oak is far from fussy. Place it just about anywhere and reap its many rewards!

Shumard Oak Tree

As you can see, there are endless possibilities when it comes to choosing shade trees for your landscape. Whether you’re looking for stunning fall color, a tall, stately centerpiece, low maintenance requirements or adaptability, shade trees are exploding with benefits and able to meet all kinds of needs. Shop our full collection of shade trees to find your next addition!

And be sure to check out our article so you can Enhance Fall Color on Your Shade Trees! Plus, view a few of our space-saving shade trees, which are great for smaller landscapes.

    Sarah Logie

    As Content Strategist at FastGrowingTrees.com, Sarah is smitten with words and a fanatic for flowers, particularly cut florals and house plants. With a love for curating compelling content, she also enjoys furthering her plant knowledge along the way! A few of her favorite flowers include hibiscus, hydrangeas, peonies and dahlias.

    Sarah’s fondness for plants was cultivated through many childhood trips to Longwood Gardens in southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as through her first job out of college at a floral event design company. In her free time, catch her snapping photos of anything and everything, day-dreaming about interior decor, and enjoying the outdoors any chance she gets.

    Questions? Contact Sarah at information@fastgrowingtrees.com.

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