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21 Fascinating Shade Trees for The Landscape

Calling all "Hort Heads", aka Plant Nerds. This blog post is for you!  Truth is, you don't need to be a pseudo horticulturalist, amateur landscape designer or even a gardener, to appreciate the list below. If the Emerald Ash Borer outbreak has taught us anything, it is the importance of diversifying the landscape.  By incorporating a mix of plants, not only are we preempting another epidemic, but also creating a more brilliant mosaic of shapes and colors. Adding one or more of the trees below to a landscape design can drastically change the look of your home, create a focal point, or act as a specimen plant. If you are looking for a conversation starting tree, start your search with the trees below.  We are classifying them as shade trees, but you will notice a few a dwarf ornamental and flowering trees thrown in, just for fun.


Tri-Color Beech - We love this stunning pinkish red ornamental tree. While technically an ornamental tree, the Tri-Color Beech is a wonderful tree to enjoy at night with landscape uplighting. Plant in view from your patio to enjoy as the sun sets. It large size provides shade while it's beauty enhances the landscape.


Dura Heat Birch - This birch features all the lovely characteritics of the River Birch with increased resistance to pests and disease.  As declared in the name, it is more tolerant of heat and drought. Densely pyramidal form with glossy green leaves that fade to clear butter yellow in fall. Beloved by hort fans for it's curly white bark.


Espresso Kentucky Coffeetree - This coffee tree gets large, up to 50 feet tall. It is known for its unique compound leaves which offers a tropical feel. The foliage is bright green and this is a clean, seedless variety.


Samaritan Dogwood - Widely considered one of the best new varieties of Kousa Dogwood, the Samaritan
has scorch resistant wavy leaves that feature white margins. Creamy white flowers appear in spring, followed by fruit that resembles mini-strawberries. The fruit is edible and is said to taste like papaya! White margins on leaves turn shades of pink and red in the fall.  This Dogwood is Aaron’s favorite variety and typically grows to a height of 20 – 25 ft with a similar width.


Emerald Flair Elm - This elm is resistant to Dutch Elm disease and features unmatched summer foliage. It has a very tall canopy starting at about 6 feet tall and features interesting curled bark. Great choice for Elm lovers.


White Fringetree - This selection is more of a shrub than tree, but it's unique characteristics and hard to find size led to its inclusion in the list. At 15' by 15', the fringetree is a great find for smaller landscapes or tight spots. It features showy, small white flowers each spring. We consider it a small native tree. Makes a great ornamental feature.


Purple Robe Black Locust - This locust is a real gem for those homeowners with poor soil. It can handle harsh conditions well. It's also pretty and features pink blooms in the spring. At a mature height of 35 feet tall and 20 feet wide, this is a great choice for a suburban landscape shade tree.


Streetkeeper Honeylocust - Named for it's ideal use, this is the skinny tree you have been looking for. Ideal for parkway plantings, this tree only reaches 20 feet wide at maturity. Deep green foliage and tolerant of urban conditions. This tree is great for fast shade in newer developments or to fill in for a recently removed tree. Seedless and thornless.


Katsura - Heart shaped leaves emerge reddish-pink and mature to a soft green. In the fall the leaves turn amazing shades of yellow, pink, purple and red. The leaves produce a very unique scent in autumn that is said to resemble brown sugar or cotton candy. This fast growing shade tree is native to Japan and does best in areas with moist soil. Typically grows to 40 – 60 ft tall and 30 – 40 ft wide.


Twist Baby Locust - While not a shade tree per se, this cultivar of black locust deserves a spot in any horticulturists yard. This dwarf tree is know for it's interesting twisted branches. The contorted form makes an excellent small patio specimen and conversation piece. Prune back annually to encourage contorted growth.


Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac - This tree is the answer to one of the most described trees at our garden center. Customers call, year after year, describing this unusual summer blooming tree. By June when most of us are already missing the smell of our lilac bushes, these trees are just getting into full swing with their flowers! Flowers appear lime green before opening to pearly white with all the fragrance of your favorite lilac bush.  Additional Varieties we carry include include Summer Charm and Golden Eclipse. It remains a great shade tree throughout the year. It is relatively small, at 25' by 20', making it a great choice for smaller landscapes.


Redpointe Maple - An alternative maple to the Autumn Blaze, this red maple has been designed to be low maintenance and offers improved fall color.  Resistant to leaf chlorosis, disease and pests this tree also grows in a naturally graceful shape that requires no pruning. Fast growing.


Persian Ironwood - Check off everything on your list for the perfect shade tree with a Persian Ironwood. Diversity in the lansdcape? Check. This tree also features 1) shiny green foliage, 2) unique shape and 3) interesting gray bark, and 4). fall color in spades. Check. Check. Check. Check. 



"Maacnificent Maackia" - The most vigorous Maackia we have seen, with upright branching that forms a beautiful, symmetrical vase shape. Spike-like racemes of white flowers decorate the tree in early summer. The green foliage shows silvery pubescence in spring.


Purple Catalpa - This large growing shade tree (50+ feet tall) is a classic but the dark crimson purple leaves make it a stand out. Gradually changing color to dark green, it also blooms white in the spring. Not suitable for small landscapes.


Happidaze Sweetgum - The Happidaze sweetgum is a completely seedless variety of sweetgum. Fairly disease free and fast growing. The wow factor in this tree is the fall color. Watch it turn from yellow, to orange,to red and purple in 3 weeks.


Tuliptree - The Tuliptree is one of the tallest shade trees hardy in our area, topping out at around 90 feet tall. It is named for its beautiful, yellow tulip shaped flowers and is well regarded by horticulturalists for being low maintenance and a fast grower.


Hardy Rubber Tree - The hardy rubber tree is famous for it's drought tolerance.  While other shade trees brown or drop leaves, the rubber tree will stay green throughout sever drought. This is one tough tree! Perfect for smaller, urban conditions.


Wildfire Black Gum Tupelo - This native tree is a good alternative to the Autumn Blaze Maple for bright fall color. Very shiny interesting foliage.


Yellowwood - American Yellowwood is a great alternative to Ash trees. With a similar leaf and shape, one with an untrained eye could easily mistake the two. Fragrant white flowers adorn the branches in early summer, with brilliant shades yellow in the fall, this native is a staff favorite.  Typically grows to 30 – 45 ft tall and 30 – 40 ft wide.


At our garden center, we offer a large variety of shade, ornamental and evergreen trees. Feel free to stop in anytime for assistance picking out the right tree for the right spot in your landscape.

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