- What Does “Full Sun Really Mean”
- Location, Location, Location
- Go Native
- When in Rome…
- What Is Full Sun And Tips For Full Sun Landscaping
- What is Full Sun?
- Sun Patterns in the Garden
- 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:
- 12 Fast-Growing Shade Trees
- Colorado State University
- Best Plants That Don’t Need Sun
- 1. Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae)
- 2. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
- 3. Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
- 4. Dracaena (Dracaena)
- 5. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
- 6. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- 7. Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum)
- 8. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
- 9. Peace Lily (Sathiphyullum)
- 10. Peackock Plant (Calathea makoyana)
- 11. Pepperomia (Pepperomia)
- 12. Philodendron (Philodendron)
- 13. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
- 14. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
- 15. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- 16. Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum)
- 17. Staghorn Fern (Platycerium)
- 18. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcasi)
- Outdoor Plants that Don’t Need Sun
- Indoor Plants That Don’t Need Sun
- Fast-Growing Shade Trees
What Does “Full Sun Really Mean”
Measuring the sun exposure of your garden before you start is crucial. You cannot grow a meadow in a forest clearing or power line easement, for instance, as the tall surrounding trees will block the sun for much of the day.
There is some fuzziness of the definitions for the various sun exposures terms that you may read or find on plant labels. “Full sun” definitely means at least six hours per day, but some plants such as vegetables really need eight to ten hours per day.
“Partial sun” or “partial shade” means that the plant needs 3-6 hours of direct sun per day. The terms sometimes are used interchangeably. However, being shaded in the morning is not the same as being shaded from the scorching afternoon sun.
“Partial sun” usually implies that the plant needs more sun and is more heat tolerant. “Partial shade” implies that the plant should be protected from the sun during the afternoon.
“Shade” does not mean pitch black, of course. More plants tolerate dappled shade than can live in really deep shade.
Regardless of a plant’s label, how much sun it needs or will tolerate varies with the strength of the sun and on how much you water.
If you methodically plot out the sun exposure in different parts of your garden, you may be in for some surprises. What is baking hot at noon may really be dappled shade the rest of the day. What is dappled sun in April may be full shade in July, when the shrubs need light to produce next year’s flowers. So create a chart once the trees have leafed out and make hourly observations.
In the plant world, when does “full sun” not really mean full sun?
When you live in a place that gets really, really hot for a really long time.
When we go to the garden store, and our attention is captured by an interesting-looking species that’s new to us, we’ll often look for that little plastic pick that’s inserted into the pot, or if it’s a seed packet we’re intrigued by, we’ll flip it over to learn more.
We’re looking for the variety’s biography to tell us how tall and wide the plant grows, how much water it needs, and how much sun it should have.
And therein lies the kicker for those of us in the southern parts of the country.
Many species whose labels claim the plant can take a lot of sun would just burn up in, say, most of Texas, or the desert Southwest, or other hot and sunny parts of the United States.
In summer, these areas are treated to more than 12 hours of punishing sun — and high temperatures — per day.
It’s a hardy plant indeed that can take that kind of exposure and still look fabulous.
So what does “full sun” actually mean for us in the South and Southwest? How do we enjoy a beautiful garden without the risk of losing everything in the grueling heat of July and August?
Those of us in zones 8a and higher have to be careful with how much sun we give our plants — although some areas with a lot of humidity might have better luck.
We consulted experts in several states. Across the board, their advice fell into two main categories. Let’s look at what they had to say.
Location, Location, Location
Every one of our experts said that choosing the site for your plants is of critical importance.
“‘Full sun’ means 6-8 hours of sun,” says Ron Bowen, Coordinator of the Master Gardeners at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. “And plants generally prefer morning sun.”
For species that might not be able to handle hours and hours of brutal sun exposure, Bowen recommends that you situate them in such a way that they receive morning sun and afternoon shade.
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension agent Angela O’Callaghan, who holds a doctorate in horticulture, agrees with Bowen.
Her advice to gardeners in Clark County (home of Las Vegas) is to pay attention to directional sun exposure. “If you are growing something for flowers or, by extension, for fruit, these plants will need eight hours of sun, but put them somewhere where’ll they’ll get bright light from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” she says. “West-facing might not be the best idea for these types.”
Bowen adds that some commercial growers have started to add heat tolerance information on their labels. “These labels have only been out for a couple years, mostly in the south,” he says, adding that it’s smart to check these guides for additional information as to what kind of climatic conditions a particular plant can tolerate.
“Hopefully more growers will adopt the heat tolerance labeling soon,” Bowen adds.
Another common theme we heard from our experts was the importance of being smart about which species and varieties you choose for your garden.
“You can grow almost anything if you’re willing to spend inordinate amounts of time and resources,” says O’Callaghan “But does that really make sense?”
If It’s Not Meant to Be, It’s Not Meant to Be
Infatuated by azaleas’ legendary beauty and perhaps remembering the captivating fragrance of a childhood visit to Grandma’s house, my neighbors across the street insisted on planting azaleas.
In Austin’s notoriously alkaline dirt.
They trucked in acidic soil, added thick layers of mulch, watered obsessively, and even misted. They took loving care of the nearby trees that they hoped would provide the required shade and coolness for the dazzling shrubs.
In short, they did everything they knew how to to give the azaleas a fine and loving home.
And yet, before summer was a memory, the once-lovely azalea bushes were in the compost heap, replaced by considerably more boring but highly Austin-tolerant sage bushes.
The moral? Mother Nature worked it all out so that Plant A grows where it makes sense for Plant A to grow, and so on. It probably just doesn’t make sense for humans to try to interfere with her carefully laid out plans.
Trying to force Plant B to grow in Plant A’s territory will just waste resources and likely lead to endless frustration!
Check out the thought-provoking book “The Humane Gardener” to understand another reason to follow Mother Nature’s blueprint.
You’ve heard of Laredo, Texas? It’s hot there. This town near the Mexican border can hit triple digits by late April.
Martha Ramirez, an extension agent for Webb County, of which Laredo is the county seat, emphasizes the importance of selecting local varieties. “We encourage our residents to consult our lists of native and adapted plants,” she says. “We’ve worked hard to identify plants that are either from here or are proven to do well in our growing conditions.”
Both O’Callaghan and Bowen agree. “Check your local university extension office. They usually have good publications for your area,” says Bowen. He says to study up and become an informed plant shopper.
O’Callaghan also cautions against trusting information you get at garden centers, especially at chain outfits or big box stores. “You can’t believe everything you hear,” she says. The employees at these places work hard but are often learning on the job and don’t have as much information as you can find if you check good online sources, she adds.
O’Callaghan also agrees that plant seekers should do their research before walking into a nursery. “You need to know your garden,” she says. “Know how your bare spots are situated and know ahead of time what type of plants can tolerate the conditions your garden offers.”
Source additions to your garden from locally owned and operated garden stores, or if you go to big box or chain stores, have a list of native and adapted plants in hand so you’ll know what will and won’t work in your environment.
When shopping, you might also take into consideration where particular in-stock specimens were grown before making their way to your local shop. Plants propagated in upstate New York or Minnesota might not do so well in Phoenix, for example.
When in Rome…
Now that you’re perhaps a bit more informed about choosing and placing sun-loving plants for your southern garden, maybe it’s time to do some more research for specific species and varieties that will take the heat.
Make a list, check it twice. Head to the garden store with your newfound knowledge and maybe, just maybe, come July, you’ll have attractive, flourishing greenery rather than brown sticks.
It’s just a matter of picking the right plant and putting it in the right place. And knowing your climate, of course.
As Las Vegas’s O’Callaghan says, “Our full sun… it ain’t the same as Maine’s!”
Southern gardeners, we’d love to hear your experience with “full sun.” How many plants have you inadvertently fried? Do you trust plant labels’ sun-exposure recommendations?
Photo credit: .
About Gretchen Heber
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.
What Is Full Sun And Tips For Full Sun Landscaping
Most gardeners know that the amount of sunlight plants receive influences their growth. This makes the study of sun patterns in the garden an important part of your garden planning, especially when it comes to full sun landscaping.
What is Full Sun?
Yes, this may seem an obvious question to some, but in fact, it is not. Many people think this means having sun all day; others feel that full sun is direct sunlight part of the day. For example, your garden might receive three to four hours of direct sun in the morning with a break in sunlight around lunchtime and then full sun for the remainder of the day.
By definition full sun is considered to be at least six or more hours of direct sun each day within a given area. That said, the sun’s strength varies with the time of day as well as the season. For instance, the sun is strongest during the summer months in the United States and more intense in the early afternoon. It’s also stronger here in the south (where I am located) versus areas further north.
Sun Patterns in the Garden
Growing full sun plants successfully means understanding how sun patterns in the garden work in your particular area. Plants normally grown in full sun in southern climates generally benefit from some partial shade during the hottest part of the day to avoid scorching, as these areas are naturally warmer than northernmost locations.
For most plants, sunlight is necessary in order to produce enough energy for photosynthesis, or food for the plant. However, different plants have different needs, so make sure that the plants you choose for full sun landscaping are also suitable for areas having partial shade should your climate dictate this.
In addition to sun patterns, you need to pay attention to microclimates in the garden. Even with full sun landscaping, the various patterns between sun and shade can create areas having slightly different temperatures and soil moisture, which can affect plant growth.
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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12 Fast-Growing Shade Trees
If there were a Guinness Book of World Records for trees, the quaking aspen would be in it – several times. First, it has the widest natural range of any tree in North America, spanning 47 degrees of latitude (equal to half the distance from the equator to the North Pole), 110 degrees of longitude (nine time zones) and elevations from sea level to timberline. It is also the largest living organism, growing in clones that reproduce primarily by sending up sprouts from their roots. And as far as the oldest … a clone in Minnesota has been estimated to be thousands of years old!
It is not a tree for all places. But planted in the right location, the quaking aspen is a delight of color, movement and sound.
2. Northern Catalpa
This is a tree that demands your attention. White, showy flowers. Giant heart-shaped leaves. Dangling bean-like seed pods. Twisting trunk and branches. How could you not stop to take it in? And with all of these unique features, the northern catalpa is popular with kids as well.
While not ideal for every location, this unique and hardy tree is a fast grower that finds a home in parks and yards throughout the country.
10 Drought-Tolerant Trees That Will Throw Shade
The hackberry, while often forgotten by casual consumers, is commonly heralded by tree experts as “one tough tree.” Found on a wide range of soils east of the Rockies from southern Canada to Florida, these trees thrive in a broad span of temperatures and on sites that vary from 14 to 60″ of annual rainfall. They can even stand up to strong winds and tolerate air pollution.
All of this hardiness adds up to a good landscape choice, particularly if you’re looking for an energy-conserving shade tree that doesn’t require watering.
4. Red Sunset Maple
Acer rubrum ‘Franksred’
Known as one of the best red maple cultivars, this tree delivers on color. Winter buds, clusters of small winter/spring flowers, leaf stems, twigs and winged summer fruits all carry a red hue. And of course, the fall show is breathtaking, with red and orange leaves blending to give a sunset effect.
The lovely red coloring, a good branch structure and a faster growth rate make the red sunset maple a welcome enhancement to any yard or public space.
5. Silver Maple
Silver is definitely the right word to describe this maple. With even a light wind, the tree produces a lovely shimmery effect thanks to the silvery undersides of its leaves. The bark, too, is silver in color, particularly when the tree is young. But believe it or not, the lovely silvery nature of this tree is not its biggest draw.
Fast growth has become the name of the game in the world of landscaping, and the silver maple is a champ in this department. If you have the space to accommodate its large size and wide-spreading root system, you’ll be rewarded with quick shade.
6. Northern Red Oak
The northern red oak has been called “one of the handsomest, cleanest, and stateliest trees in North America” by naturalist Joseph S. Illick, and it is widely considered a national treasure. It is especially valued for its adaptability and usefulness, including its hardiness in urban settings. This medium to large tree is also known for its brilliant fall color, great value to wildlife and status as the state tree of New Jersey.
Whether you’re selecting a tree to plant in your front yard or out on the farm, it’s a fast-growing species worth keeping in mind.
7. Pin Oak
“The pin oak pleases me for reasons I cannot wholly explain,” wrote nature writer Hal Borland in A Countryman’s Woods.
But homeowners and city foresters are pleased with this tree for very specific reasons: strong wood; dense shade; tolerance of many soil conditions, heat, soil compaction and air pollution; free from most major pests; pleasing to the eye in all seasons; and easy to plant. Needless to say, this faster-growing oak is a common sight in yards, along streets and throughout parks.
8. Sawtooth Oak
The sawtooth oak is an attractive and durable shade tree that adapts to a wide range of soil and climate conditions. The leaves add to the visual interest—opening a brilliant yellow to golden yellow color in the spring, turning dark lustrous green in summer and yellow to golden brown in the fall. Its wide-spreading habit also provides great shade.
Add in the fact that it grows at a fairly fast rate, and you have a truly valuable landscape tree for almost any yard.
5 Stunning Flowering Trees
9. American Sweetgum
The American sweetgum—with its star-shaped leaves, neatly compact crown, interesting fruit and twigs with unique corky growths called wings—is an attractive shade tree. It has become a prized specimen in parks, campuses and large yards across the country.
If you’ve got the space and are looking to add some fall color, this tree is a sure bet. The glossy green leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red and purple in the autumn.
One can argue about whether the “tulips” are the outline of its leaves or its cup-shaped flowers. But both undoubtedly contributed to the fanciful name given to this tree by early settlers. And the tuliptree is still beloved for its beauty today, serving as the state tree of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. It is the tallest of the eastern hardwoods—and a rapid grower when conditions are right.
If you’re looking for a stunning tree that grows quickly and doesn’t suffer from many pest problems, your search is over.
11. Weeping Willow
This graceful giant is known for its open crown of wispy, ground-sweeping branches and long, slender leaves. Often seen as one of the first indications of spring, the weeping willow’s yellow twigs and green foliage appear early in the season—sometimes as early as February.
The tree is easy to grow and quick to take root, reaching heights between 30′ and 40′ and nearly the same in width. It lends itself well to planting singly or in small groves near the edge of ponds, lakes and rivers.
Small Trees Can Provide Shade Too
12. Hybrid Poplar
Populus deltoides x Populus nigra
Hybrid poplars are the thoroughbreds of the tree world. Their claim to fame is speed, with vertical growth of 5–8′ per year not being uncommon. This cottonless hybrid can be harvested for firewood in five to seven years, making it a sustainable source. It also works well for visual screens and hillside or sand dune stabilization. While nice for quick shade, the hybrid poplar should only be planted in landscape where occasional limb breakage is not a problem.
Colorado State University
Most plants in Colorado thrive in our sunshine – 6 or more hours per day: grasses, most trees and flowers. Many plants will tolerate less sunlight, 2-3 hours of direct light, but will not flourish as well as if they had full sun. They will grow more slowly, perhaps be “stunted” and have sparser foliage than full-sun conditions.
Take a good look at the sun that hits the ground around the property. Looking at each area separately to determine if it gets any direct sunlight at any part of the day, especially in spring and summer. Also consider how much moisture or precipitation each area gets.
If an area gets no direct light, that is “deep shade,” as you would find on the north side of a building, or under an evergreen. There are a few plants that will grow in deep shade, and those will do better if they have extra water. With low light and no water, you will often find bare ground.
If light gets to the ground between branches and leaves, that is “filtered shade.” Many full-shade shrubs, like Mahonia – Oregon Grape Holly, and wax flower will do better if they get a bit of this gentle light.
If the area gets some light, that is “part shade.” Trees well suited for part-shade are Gambel oak and junipers.
Because of our intense sunlight, some plants that prefer full sun can survive in Colorado if they get 3-4 hours of direct sunlight, like viburnums, and burning bushes, but will not bloom well or be as bushy as if they had full sun. If they are given more light and water, the same shrubs will be bushier, taller, and bloom better.
In challenging settings, native shrubs and trees will fare better than those from other areas. For example, Gambel oak will grow better in the foothills than boxwood shrubs, tolerating our alkaline soil, desiccating wind and sub-zero temperatures.
Trees that do well in moist shade are serviceberry and redbud. Shrubs for dry shade areas include buckthorn, privet and Japanese barberry; moist shade shrubs include redtwig dogwood, gray dogwood, viburnums and daphne.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extenson fact sheet(s).
- Native Shrubs
- Native Trees
For more information, see the following Planttalk Colorado™ script(s).
- Maple Trees
- Oak Trees
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It’s great to let the sun shine in every once in a while, but some (or all!) parts of our home might not have the opportunity to welcome in the sun’s rays. We can mostly remedy a lack of natural light with lamps and other lights, but many houseplants need direct sunlight to survive. A simple solution is to furnish your sun-deprived rooms with plants that don’t need sun.
Low-light houseplants are great for spots in a room that need touches of green, but might not have enough direct sunlight for most plants to survive. All of the plants below can thrive with indirect light and the majority of them can thrive with artificial light.
Take a look at our list of 18 plants that don’t need sun, so you can pick the best greenery for your home.
Best Plants That Don’t Need Sun
1. Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae)
Bromeliads are tropical plants that usually come with vibrant pops of color. Their unique look and tropical feel make them a top houseplant choice. Bromeliads look best on shelves, on tabletops or even on the floor, depending on the species.
Most bromeliad species prefer bright indirect sunlight as opposed to direct light. Indirect light means that the sun is not directly hitting the plant. An example of direct light would be if your plant were outside directly under the sun, or if you placed your plant next to an open window with the sun shining directly on it. Extended exposure to full sun can damage a bromeliad’s leaves. It’s best to keep it near, but not directly in front of, a window. Bromeliads can also thrive on fluorescent lighting if natural light is not available.
2. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
Chinese evergreen plants are easy to grow and are among the many indoor plants that don’t need sunlight. Many people say it’s a great plant to start with if you’re new to caring for houseplants. Older Chinese evergreen produce flowers that look similar to calla lilies and look best on the floor next to furniture and filling in open spaces in the home. Younger Chinese evergreen are compact enough for desk, tabletop and shelf decor. These plants also made it to NASA’s list of air-filtering houseplants, so Chinese evergreen plants are both easy to care for and healthy choices for your home!
The Chinese evergreen’s specific sun needs depend on the colors of its leaves. Generally, if you have a plant with darker leaves, your specific plant prefers low light. Varieties with lighter-colored leaves like pink or orange prefer medium light. Like many other plants on this list, Chinese evergreen should not be placed in direct sunlight to avoid scorched leaves.
3. Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
The cast iron plant is also commonly referred to as the iron plant because of its hardy nature. It can survive a wide variety of conditions that make it a top choice for black thumbs and busy plant owners. Its rich green leaves are perfect for accenting any corners of the room that need a natural touch.
Cast irons are low-light plants that can survive almost anywhere in your home. They are slow to grow, but also really hard to kill. The only requirement is to keep them away from direct sunlight in order to keep their leaves from getting scorched or turning brown. If you want to give your cast iron plant some extra care, wipe down its leaves once a week with a damp cloth to keep the dust off. Clean leaves allow it to more easily take in the sun and all of its nutrients.
4. Dracaena (Dracaena)
The dracaena is a common houseplant that’s easy to care for in your home. This plant comes in many varieties and looks great on shelves, tabletops and as floor decor. The larger varieties, like the dracaena massangeana, have a tree-like look and work especially well as floor decor.
Dracaenas grow best in bright, indirect light, but can survive in low and medium light if needed. Dracaena’s are also among the top air-purifying plants that can filter out the toxins in your home. Take a look at our dracaena care guide to learn more in-depth information about caring for your dracaena.
5. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
Dumb canes are beautiful plants that are commonly found adorning both homes and office spaces. They are called dumb canes because all parts of the plant are poisonous. Therefore, this plant should be kept away from pets and children. It can cause swelling and other problems if consumed and can cause itching if its sap touches the skin. When handled properly with minimal contact, this plant’s danger is minimized.
Dumb canes can thrive between low and high filtered light depending on the species. Filtered light refers to sunlight that shines through something else like a sheer curtain or a window. Most species can survive on low filtered light, but may not continue to grow depending on the variety. Double-check what species your dumb cane is to see what type of light it prefers.
6. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
English ivy are beautiful climbing plants that can turn any drab wall into a fresh work of art. Ivy is also great on trellises, fences and other places that allow its vines to grow. However, keep in mind that the vines do take a couple years to grow if you’re growing from seed.
English ivy prefer bright indirect light, but can tolerate low light. The more light this ivy gets, the more beautiful color will show through its leaves. However, direct light can lead to its demise. Many other ivy varieties like the pothos listed below also work well in indirect light and shady spots.
7. Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum)
Maidenhair ferns are elegant plants that elevate any room, but are also very easy to kill! That being said, the beautiful leaves and overall look of this plant are more than worth the extra work. Many fern varieties, like the Boston fern and bird’s nest fern, thrive well in indirect sunlight.
Maidenhair ferns like indirect, bright light and are easily affected by direct sunlight. They also prefer high humidity and do not like dry soil, so they must be moist, but not overly-watered to avoid root rot. These plants also prefer distilled water over hard water (a.k.a. water that usually comes from the sink).
8. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
Parlor palms are lush plants that are great for your dining room or living room. Owning a parlor palm in the Victorian era was an indication of a family’s affluence. Although not as exclusive in today’s world, the parlor palm still brings a sophisticated feel to any room it occupies.
Parlor palms can grow in low light, but grow the best in medium light. They also prefer shadier areas instead of bright areas, so you don’t have to worry about keeping them too close to a window. Parlor palms can even thrive with artificial light if needed.
9. Peace Lily (Sathiphyullum)
Contrary to popular belief, a peace lily is not a true lily at all. The white “petal” is actually a leaf bract that grows around the yellow flower. Take a closer look the next time you see one! Standard peace lilies can grow between 24 to 40 inches, so they are mostly used as floor decor.
Peace lilies enjoy low to medium light and can also thrive on fluorescent light. The more light the peace lilies receive, the more likely they are to produce white flowers. They can thrive in areas with less light, but are much less likely to flower. The peace lily is also one of the best plants to purify the air. Take a look at our peace lily care guide to learn more in-depth information about caring for your peace lily.
10. Peackock Plant (Calathea makoyana)
The peacock plant is known by many names: cathedral windows, rattlesnake plant or zebra plant. These names originate from its beautiful foliage that some say resembles the beauty of a peacock’s feathers. Peacock plants are known for being very showy and for being particular with their care. They prefer humid temperatures, distilled or rain water and moist (but not damp) soil.
Peacock plants prefer low to medium light and can experience sad leaves with an excess of direct light. Pale markings on the leaves are a sign of too much sun for this plant. When shopping around for a peacock plant, its best to pick a healthier species and to avoid smaller plants with brown leaves. You’ll have more success raising a healthy peacock plant if you start with a healthy one.
11. Pepperomia (Pepperomia)
Pepperomia are smaller plants that can make a nice green splash on your desk or table. There are more than 1000 varieties of peperomias found mainly in South and Central America. These plants prefer dry soil and can withstand a few days of missed watering thanks to their thick leaves. The leaves come in colors like gray, red, cream and green.
These plants prefer bright, indirect light and can still flourish under fluorescent lights. Peperomias can also prosper in partially shaded areas if necessary. Avoid direct light to deter burnt leaves.
12. Philodendron (Philodendron)
Philodendrons are most known for their lively foliage and distinct look.The heartleaf philodendron specifically is a hardy plant that can withstand most conditions with minimal care, including low light. Philodendrons come in climbing and non-climbing varieties and can grow as tall as three feet and as wide as six feet with proper care.
All species of philodendrons prefer bright, indirect light and can also thrive in partial shade. Be wary if your philodendron begins to have long and skinny stems with long gaps between the leaves. This is a sign that your philodendron is not getting enough light and should be moved to a brighter area. Take a look at our philodendron care guide to learn more in-depth information about caring for your philodendron.
13. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Pothos plants are great beginning plants for anyone who is just starting their plant care journey. These plants can grow beautiful, long vines that are great for accenting walls and creating a tropical feel in any room. Due to this, they’re best grown as hanging plants or potted on a desk.
Pothos plants prefer medium indoor light, but can live in low light. Too much direct light can turn their leaves yellow, while a lack of light will make their beautiful leaves turn pale. Take a look at our pothos care guide to learn more in-depth information about caring for your pothos.
14. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
When night falls, the prayer plant’s leaves become folded like hands prepared to pray. This plant is commonly known for its pink veins and oval leaves. Prayer plants look beautiful in hanging baskets thanks to their unique leaves.
Prayer plants prefer bright, indirect light, but can tolerate low light. However, if it does not get enough light during the day, the leaves will close in the evening and will not reopen. This plant’s leaves will also begin to fade if it does not get enough light. It prefers high humidity and moist soil.
15. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
Snake plants are also known as mother in law’s tongue. It’s suggested that this nickname comes from the leave’s sharp point. Its striped color earned its name as a “snake” plant because it slightly resembles a snake’s skin. They are visibly tall plants and hardy enough to withstand the most forgetful plant parent. Snake plants can hold up their sturdy look even with a few weeks of neglect.
Snake plants can tolerate a wide range of light conditions, but prefer indirect light. They easily rot, so it’s important to let their soil dry between waterings. Take a look at our snake plant care guide to learn more in-depth information about caring for your snake plant.
16. Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider plants have long and skinny foliage that arch out from its roots. Its leave resemble the legs of a spider. Spider plants are also sometimes referred to as spider ivy and ribbon plant. These plants can produce small white flowers when cared for correctly sprout spiderettes, or baby spider plants that can be repotted to grow more spider plants.
Spider plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight and can thrive without much natural light. These plants can thrive in areas with a mix of fluorescent and natural light. Spider plants can sometimes have browning leaves. This is a result of exposure to fluoride in water. Watering with distilled or rain water can help deter browning and keep your plant nice and green.
17. Staghorn Fern (Platycerium)
Staghorn ferns are extravagant plants that are a tad picky when it comes to its living conditions. Other nicknames for the staghorn fern include antelope ears and elkhorn fern. The staghorn fern is perfect if you want a low-light plant with a unique aesthetic.
These plants prefer bright, indirect or filtered light and do not like direct sun. This plant cannot survive with artificial light, so its best to place it wherever you get the most natural sunlight without placing it directly in the way of the sun’s rays. Just like several high-maintenance plants on this list, it prefers moist, but not overly damp soil.
18. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcasi)
The ZZ plant is one of the hardiest plants around and is nearly impossible to kill. Its lush foliage and tough nature make it one of the best plants for anyone in desperate need of some green. It also has waxy looking leaves that give it a nice shine. It’s a great plant to have if you want to decorate an empty spot in your home or need another friend to add to your houseplant collection.
The ZZ plant thrives the most in bright, indirect light, but can live in very low light. It can also tolerate areas with no natural light and minimal amounts of fluorescent lights. It does not like direct light and will begin to have yellow, curling leaves if it takes in too much light.
If you’re still unsure if your plant can survive, you can always test out different spots in your home to see how it reacts. If the leaves starts to have dark, brown or dried-out leaves, then your plant is getting too much sun and should be moved to a shadier area. If the leaves are small and pale while the plant seems to have stunted growth, its not getting enough sun and should be moved to a brighter area if possible. If you feel that your plant might need extra help, take a look at our guide to reviving a dying plant so you can quickly nurse your plant back to good health.
Now that you know about some plants that don’t need sun and tips for caring for each of them, you should take a look at our guide to the best houseplants for every room to get an idea of how you can add the right touches of green to your home. If you’re having trouble deciding, you can use our fun houseplant flowchart to figure out what plant best fits your lifestyle.
I’ve been lucky enough to observe plants growing in a variety of environments. As a gardener, seeing the difference between the growth rate of a garden in bright sun as opposed to full shade was hugely helpful. It made me realize the importance of sunlight exposure and how the sun could also cause problems like dried-out topsoil, premature bolting, and sunscald.
Years ago, I used to garden in a heavily shaded area. I had limited success, despite doing nearly everything right, simply because there wasn’t enough sunlight for certain plants to thrive. I was always disappointed because my tomatoes never grew tall or big enough, and I took my healthy greens for granted.
In my current garden, everything is fully exposed to the sun. It’s been incredible to watch how peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes grow in full sun as opposed to in dappled shade. But, I’ve also had trouble growing greens before the hot sun made them bolt.
Having gardens on opposite ends of the sunlight scale has made it clear that a shaded space isn’t a reason to avoid gardening. There are plenty of vegetables and plants that don’t need sun. Instead of struggling to make things grow where they don’t want to, embrace the plants that enjoy a bit of shade.
While my garden enjoys a lot of sun, indoors is a different story. It’s hard to find a spot that offers enough light for many houseplants, especially during the dark winters. I’ve learned to carefully select plants that don’t need sun to be happy, and now my indoor plants are thriving.
Below, you’ll find a list of outdoor and indoor plants suitable for areas with limited sun exposure.
Outdoor Plants that Don’t Need Sun
Wondering what you can plant in that well-shaded area in your garden? Here are a few ideas for your vegetable patch or shaded landscape.
Vegetables for Shade
If you’re looking for vegetable options to grow in the shade, the key is to manage your expectations. It’s possible to grow a variety of produce types in the shade, but things will inevitably grow a lot slower than in full sun.
Chard is a multi-faceted plant. It loves the sun but doesn’t mind living in a shaded spot. Choose colorful ribbed varieties for a fun rainbow effect in your veggie patch.
In the summer, lettuce does way better in the shade than it does in full sun. While you can purchase shade cloth to protect lettuces and other greens from being exposed to too much sun, a better strategy is to keep them in an appropriately shaded area.
Arugula seems to bolt as soon as it sprouts if you plant it in direct sun. Instead, opt for a partially shaded garden plot when planting this spicy-tasting salad green. I’ve had luck growing arugula in extremely shaded areas.
Like chard, kale grows incredibly quickly in full sun, but it doesn’t mind a bit of shade, either. I love kale because it doesn’t bolt if exposed to full sun but it’s still possible to grow it in a shaded garden.
Plants for Shade
Most of my garden is in full sun, but I also have a towering maple tree on my property that shades a rocky section of my front yard where I mainly (try to) grow ornamental plants. If you’ve got a super shady area where you’d like to grow perennials, shrubs, and other ornamental plants, here are a few options:
5. Lady Fern
Ferns, in general, are an exceptional choice for shaded gardens. In their native habitats, they typically thrive in humid areas under forest canopies. I love the tropical look of a fern plant.
Lady ferns are particularly pretty with their delicate, bright green, lacy fronds. They grow up to 5 feet tall in elegant clumps.
6. Ostrich Fern
Another beautiful fern for your shady patch, ostrich ferns are also edible. Some varieties can grow up to 6 feet tall, and they’re well-suited to humid, cold climates.
Astilbe is a pretty perennial bush-like flowering plant that grows in groups. They grow up to 24-inches tall and add a little texture to a shady spot.
Hostas may grow slower in the shade, but they will undoubtedly grow, giving you some color in what may be a drab spot. There’s an amazingly wide variety of hosta species available that are suitable for different climates and growing environments. They’re an excellent plant choice if you’re looking to create a tropical-looking atmosphere.
9. Creeping Myrtle
Perennial in zones 4 to 9, creeping myrtle is also known as common periwinkle and vinca. It grows close to the ground, never reaching more than 6-inches tall. It grows in partial to full shade and tolerates any number of soil types.
Impatiens are one of the only flowering plants that grow exceptionally well and blooms in heavily shaded areas. There are several varieties of this type of annual flowering plant. Impatiens should be planted in healthy soil in areas that don’t get waterlogged.
11. Coral Bells
Also known as heuchera, these are plants I often see growing in people’s front yards around my neighborhood. The plant reminds me of squash plants because of the big broad leaves. They don’t get very tall (up to 12-inches maximum), and foliage color varies depending on the species.
12. Toad Lily
I find it funny that so many shade-loving plants have such ugly-sounding names. Something-wort is a common name for many shade-loving plants. The toad lily, however, has a name that sounds both pretty and woodsy, in my opinion. The perennial plant is incredibly low-maintenance and has some seriously attractive foliage. Perennial in zones 5-9 and perhaps 4 with some protection.
Indoor Plants That Don’t Need Sun
I love indoor plants, but I don’t love high-maintenance varieties. While I can somehow keep my outdoor garden plants alive and happy, I always seem to kill houseplants unintentionally. I used to forget to water them, but now I use water globes to help me out. More often, I realized that they simply aren’t getting enough light. I’ve stopped investing big bucks in fancy sun-loving houseplants and instead, have gotten cozy with several kinds of plants that don’t need sun.
13. Spider Plant
Spider plants look a lot like the uber-popular air plant, with their spidery, slender striped foliage. I expect they’d survive just about anything, including full shade. I’m sure my mother’s spider plant is about as old as I am. Spider plants help clean indoor air, and they also produce little ‘baby’ (or pup) plants that can be translated to separate pots. Know a friend with a spider plant in their living room or kitchen? Ask them for a pup.
14. Creeping Fig
The perfect option for hanging ceiling pots, creeping fig plants have brilliant, attractive foliage. They don’t mind low light conditions, but careful not to overwater. You’re better off waiting until the plant is wilting a little than watering before the soil has dried out.
15. Snake Plant
Snake plants are my absolute favorite houseplant. They look exotic and have a great texture. I had a snake plant in my bathroom for the longest time. It loved the humidity and didn’t mind the frequent bouts of darkness. I managed to murder it accidentally when cleaning. I left it outside and forgot to bring it back in.
While multiple species of ivy are happy to live in low-light conditions, devil’s ivy is a top choice for spots without much light. The trailing plant looks terrific in a hanging pot of any kind. The bright dual-colored leaves make an attractive accent anywhere in the house, and the plant increases air quality, too.
You’ll find multiple species of this plant available at local nurseries. Dracaena will survive quite well in a shady indoor location. In fact, it’s best to keep in away from direct sunlight. Just be sure to water regularly and prune as needed.
18. Parlor Palm
Add a tropical element to your sun-deprived living room with this type of palm that grows well even in pretty dark areas of your home. I should know, I had a parlor palm, and it managed to stay green even in my often dark basement. I killed it because I forgot to water it and kept the thermostat a little too low.
There are different varieties of this type of houseplant, but the vine variety is my favorite. Philodendron plants are an attractive addition to shelving, credenzas, and mantles. You’ll need to water frequently, though, so think about investing in a self-watering pot to keep your plant alive in its low-light home.
I first spotted a thriving bamboo plant at a friend’s house. After we enjoyed a delicious shrimp curry dinner, we sat and chatted in the cozy living room, and I noticed the gigantic vertically growing bamboo plant in the corner. When I asked about it, she told me it had grown without much help, and I made a note to myself to buy some bamboo the next time I saw it for sale.
A few weeks later, I snatched up a tiny plant at the grocery store, and two years later, the plant has grown into a large coffee table centerpiece. All it needs is indirect light (but it could survive in an even darker corner) and periodic refills of water to replace any that has evaporated.
What do you plan on putting in your shadiest areas? Let us know in the comments below.
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Planting shade trees will help keep your home and yard cooler in the summer heat, saving you both money and energy, while adding wildlife habitat to the neighborhood.
The free solar energy that hits the Earth each day can keep us warm, light our homes, grow our food, and generate clean renewable electricity, so we often invite it into our lives. But when the weather heats up in the summer, the sun can actually cause us to use more energy, because we then need to run air conditioners to cool us back down.
Keeping the sun off of our homes and windows during the summer can end up saving us both money and energy, because we can avoid some of the heating effects and keep our homes cooler to begin with, so less energy is required to keep them comfortable. And one of the best ways to do that is by planting shade trees in the right location around our home, where they can block the sun from streaming in our windows and heating our walls and roofs during certain times of the day.
“A tree planted on the west side of a house can reduce net carbon emissions from summertime electricity use by 30 percent over a 100-year period.” – Geoffrey Donovan, research forester
Trees that can serve to cast shade come in all shapes and sizes, and for many different climates and planting zones, so there are plenty of options to choose from. However, because most of us are very impatient, one of the most common requirements that people have in choosing varieties is that they be fast growing shade trees.
Here are 7 of the most popular fast growing varieties of trees that can add shade to your property:
1. Hybrid Poplar: One of the most recommended fast growing shade trees is the hybrid poplar, which can grow up to 8 feet per year, and mature at about 40′ to 50′ high. There are various types of hybrid poplars, but the Arbor Day Foundation recommends the Populus deltoides x Populus nigra variety, which is a “cottonless hybrid” and a little less messy in the yard than some other varieties.
2. Nuttall Oak: This fast growing shade tree, also called red oak or pin oak, is said to be the fastest growing variety of oak, and can provide not only a leafy canopy, but a steady supply of acorns each year, which are devoured by squirrels, deer, and turkeys.
3. Northern Catalpa: The large showy flowers of the catalpa, also known as the cigar tree or the catawba, are an added attraction to having this fast growing shade tree in your yard (and great for bees), but the real magic comes from its thick canopy of large leaves.
4. Red Maple: Along with casting shade, the red maple also adds a burst of color in the fall, with the leaves turning a vibrant red before dropping. The growth rate of the red maple is about 3 to 5 feet per year, topping out at about 40′ high, and can rapidly create privacy and shade for your home or yard.
5. Weeping Willow: This iconic shade tree also happens to be a fast grower, with growth rates of anywhere from 3 feet to 8 feet per year. While weeping willows will grow especially well near water, there are a variety of hybrids available that can be better suited to drier conditions.
6. Paper Birch: The paper birch, aside from being a fast growing shade tree, also features a white bark that can add to the look of any yard, especially in winter when the leaves have dropped. Birches can also be tapped for their sap, which can be made into birch syrup (although you’d need quite a few trees to make it worth your while).
7. American Sycamore: This fast growing tree, sometimes referred to as the American planetree, also has a whitish mottled bark, and can grow to be quite large. While sycamores are often found near rivers and ponds, they can also be grown in an urban yard, and may grow as much as 6 feet per year and reach heights of 70 feet or more.
Not all of these shade trees will be well suited to your yard, as the length of the growing season, the frost dates, the temperatures, the annual rainfall, and the type of soil in your yard will all vary by location. The best way to find the fast growing shade trees that are best for your specific region is by asking a local expert, such as at a nursery or through a local Cooperative Extension, as they can steer you toward proven varieties and away from nuisance, invasive, or exotic varieties of trees.
This updated article was originally published in 2014.
Fast-Growing Shade Trees
Trees in a Hurry
It’s an arboreal conundrum. Most of us want trees that fill out fast, but the same qualities that make a tree gain height quickly often render it a pest or weakling. Consider the fast-growing silver maple, with its greedy surface roots and weak wood. Then there’s the princess tree, touted in newspaper and online ads, that grows up to 15 feet a year but spreads to such an extent that in some states it’s known as the worst sort of weed.
Conventional wisdom says that slow-maturing trees live longer and are stronger. So can you grow a tree that’ll shoot up without toppling onto your house?
Yes—with some careful vetting you can find fast growing trees for privacy, shade, and decoration. First, refine your notion of fast growing to a growth rate of 1½ to 2 feet per year. Or, as Warren Roberts, longtime superintendent of the UC Davis Arboretum, puts it: “A fast-growing tree is one you can sit in the shade of, five to six years after planting.” Keep in mind that most trees grow fastest when young and when planted in soil that supplies optimum moisture and nutrients. Choose well, and you can enjoy your tree in both the short and long term.
We canvassed tree experts to find good choices for shade, for screening, or for outstanding ornamental qualities that’ll grow in various areas of the country (check your Plant Hardiness Growing Zone). Read on for a dozen fast-growing trees with staying power.
Photo by Danita Delimont/Alamy
These deciduous trees grow to at least 50 feet high and develop a broad crown under which you can walk, dine, or rest.
Northern red oak
A broad-crowned classic that prefers moist, well-drained, acid soil. (Avoid in California and Oregon, where it falls prey to sudden oak death disease.) In California’s foothills and interior valleys, choose valley oak (Q. lobata) Zones 6–11. This fast-growing shade tree likes full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Both grow 60–75 feet high and at least as wide.
Photo by Thomas Pope/Missouri Botanical Garden
(Acer x freemanii)
A hybrid maple with brilliant red-orange fall color. Grows 75–80 feet high by 45–50 feet wide; prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil with neutral pH. The variety ‘Autumn Blaze’ is very fast-growing. It reaches 50–60 feet high, with a broad oval crown 40–50 feet wide.
‘Green Vase’ Zelkova
Photo by Rob Cardillo
‘Green Vase’ zelkova
(Zelkova serrata ‘Green Vase’)
Vase-shaped with upright arching branches and rich, dark green leaves that turn bronzy maroon in fall. Grows 60–70 feet high by 40–50 feet wide; prefers full sun to partial shade but adapts to a variety of soils. These fast-growing shade trees tolerate wind, pollution, and drought, making it a viable street tree.
Photo by Horticultural Photography
Features a straight trunk and oval crown. Striking, broad, lobed leaves often conceal springtime chartreuse tulip-shaped flowers; leaves turn yellow in fall. Grows 75–90 feet high by 40–50 feet wide; prefers full sun and deep, moist, slightly acid soil.
Photo by Blick Winkel/Alamy
Use these to block second-story views into your yard or blunt northern winds. Plant these fast-growing screen trees in rows, groups, or alone, depending on their spread.
Huge pyramidal tree with feathery deciduous green needles that turn russet-orange in fall. Striking, deep-fluted bark. Grows 70–100 feet high by 25 feet wide; thrives in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soil and full sun.
European Black Alder
Photo by Martin Hughes-Jones/Alamy
European black alder
This oval-shaped deciduous tree is useful as an informal screen in a wet area or for edging a pond. Grows 40–60 feet high by 20–40 feet wide; thrives in full sun or part shade in wet soil where other trees might fail.
Eastern White Pine
Photo by Karen Bussolini
Eastern white pine
Evergreen; soft blue- green needles. Pyramidal when young. Grows 50–80 feet high by 20–40 feet wide; thrives in moist, rich, well-drained acid soil and full sun. Intolerant of windy sites. The narrower ‘Fastigiata’ grows 50 feet high by 20 feet wide.
‘Green Giant’ Arborvitae
Photo by Karen Bussolini
‘Green Giant’ arborvitae
(Thuja ‘Green Giant’)
Evergreen with a uniform pyramidal shape; grows 3 feet or more a year. Use this fast-growing screen tree as hedging or as a single specimen that needs no shearing. Grows 50–60 feet high by 12–20 feet wide; adaptable but prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun.
Photo by Mark Turner
These are the showboats of the landscape, whether for their flowers, striking bark, or impressive structure. All offer multiseason appeal.
Clouds of pink flowers open in early spring before leaves appear. Orange-red fall color; shiny, reddish-brown bark. Small, dark, summer fruit attracts birds. Grows 20–30 feet high and wide; likes full sun and moist, well-drained acid to neutral soil.
Heritage River Birch
Photo by Karen Bussolini
Heritage river birch
(Betula nigra ‘Cully’)
This multi-stemmed tree develops an irregular crown. Deciduous leathery green leaves turn yellow in fall; salmon-white to brownish peeling bark. Grows 40–60 feet high and wide; prefers moist, acid soil and partial shade.
Sweet Bay Magnolia
Photo by William Munoz, (Inset) David Sieren/Getty Images
Sweet bay magnolia
Lustrous dark green leaves with silvery undersides are deciduous in the North, evergreen in the South. Lemon-scented creamy white flowers in spring/early summer. Grows 10–20 feet high and wide in the North, to 60 feet high in the South, where it is happiest. Needs moist, acid soil in sun to partial shade.
‘Natchez’ Crepe Myrtle
Photo by Brian Klutch
‘Natchez’ crepe myrtle
Multistemmed tree with prolific recurring white flowers in late June to September; distinctive exfoliating cinnamon-brown bark year-round. Grows 20–30 feet high by 15–35 wide and works well curbside, where it won’t interfere with utility lines. Japanese crepe myrtle (L. fauriei) ‘Fantasy’ with white flowers is especially vigorous and large, stretching 40–50 feet high.