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The 8 Best Flowering Trees for Shade

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the trees listed here and explain why they’re great to have in your backyard on a hot summer day.

Here are the 8 best flowering trees to plant in your backyard for added shade:

  1. Tulip Tree
  2. Red Maple
  3. Portuguese Laurel
  4. Flowering Dogwood
  5. Allegheny Serviceberry
  6. River Birch
  7. Hackberry
  8. Northern Catalpa

Now, let’s cover each one in detail!

1. Tulip Tree

Tulip tree on a white background
Close-up of a flower on a tulip tree

The tulip tree gets its name from the enormous flowers resembling tulips that blossom on its branches during spring. This tree is one of the largest hardwood trees found in eastern North America and is significantly taller than most other species in the region. 

In fact, the Tulip tree can grow up to 197 feet (60 meters) tall, with a diameter of nearly two meters (seven feet). And you can only imagine how much shade a tree of such proportions can provide.

The Tulip tree is an excellent addition to any backyard because the flowers add color in the spring and fall, while the gigantic tree offers ample shade in summer. The only drawback with this beauty is that it can take up to fifteen years before the first flowers bloom.          

2. Red Maple

Red maple tree on a light-grey background
Yellow flowers on a red maple tree

The Acer Rubrum, popularly known as the Red Maple, is one of the more common deciduous trees in eastern and central North America. And if there’s a tree that’s going to make your backyard pop, it’s the red maple. Aside from red leaves, twigs, and stalks, this plant is known for the tiny clusters of hanging red flowers that start to appear in spring.

The red maple is also popularly known as the swamp maple and the water maple, a testament to the tree’s ability to grow in wet conditions. However, this plant is incredibly adaptable, and its root system will transform to suit the soil.

Additionally, this plant grows quickly, gaining between thirteen and twenty-four inches (33-61 centimeters) in a year. Flowers bloom on the higher branches that receive sunlight within just four years of planting the tree.

3. Portuguese Laurel

Portuguese Laurel Tree in a Field
Portuguese Laurel Flowers
Courtesy of Cillas

The Portuguese Laurel is native to southwestern France, Portugal, and Morocco, and is typically planted as a garden hedge. The most valuable thing about this plant is that it can thrive with very little sunlight and is ideal for covering up shady spots in your backyard.

However, by trimming it sparingly, you can get this laurel to grow between thirty and fifty feet (9-15 meters), high enough to provide ample shade for those standing nearby. 

The laurel blooms with small, white, fragrant flowers in spring and summer, and a row of these plants can help brighten the garden considerably. The dense foliage it creates provides a nearly impenetrable shade even on the sunniest days.

As a bonus, the flowers and berries on the Portuguese laurel attract a variety of birds, bees, and butterflies, creating a rich, vibrant atmosphere in the garden.

4. Flowering Dogwood

Flowering dogwood in a yard

The flowering dogwood is a tree native to eastern North America and northern Mexico and is one of the more popular ornamental trees in the US. You can find it in most American and English homes with a garden attached.

This plant grows up to twenty to forty feet (6-12 meters) high and can be single or multi-trunked, depending on the variety and soil conditions. An added benefit of getting a flowering dogwood is that this plant can be quite hardy and requires little maintenance for proper growth.

The most attractive quality about this dogwood is the particular hue of its flowers, which alternate between white and pink, creating a unique cover that changes gradually through the seasons.

The dogwood typically grows under direct sunlight but thrives when it’s grown in partial shade. If possible, it’s best to plant the flowering dogwood under another shady tree. The best part about this plant is that it typically blooms within two years of planting, with some individuals flowering within the first year. 

5. Allegheny Serviceberry

Allegheny Serviceberry Tree

If your backyard receives too much sunlight, you may not want to plant this tree. 

However, if you’ve got a shady spot to fill up, consider getting yourself an Allegheny serviceberry. This plant has an intricate branch structure with beautiful white flowers appearing in clusters before the leaves come out in spring. 

The Serviceberry is easy to grow, requiring minimal maintenance once it graduates from the sapling stage. And by adding it to your garden foliage, you can help significantly reduce temperature and increase shade cover. 

Additionally, this plant also produces berries in summer that start red and eventually turn black. These berries are edible and highly nutritious, containing large quantities of iron and copper. The only problem with these juicy berries is that they tend to attract pests who feed on the fruits and flowers. 

However, while the Allegheny Serviceberry easily attracts insects and diseases, these issues are typically minor and can be resolved quickly without harm to the plant.

6. River Birch

White rowing boat tied to a river birch tree on the shore of a lake

The river birch grows at a medium to high rate, gaining between thirteen to twenty-four inches (33-61 centimeters) in a given year. As the name suggests, this plant grows naturally on river beds and near flowing water. However, given its adaptable root system, this plant can be easily planted in your backyard or anywhere with favorable soil conditions.

Unlike most other trees on this list, the river birch has more subdued flowers arranged in catkins. The tree is monoecious, where male and female flowers grow on the same plant, and the brown male flowers are significantly longer and more noticeable than the erect green female flowers.

And while the flowers may not be too attractive, the river birch is so adaptable that it’s the ideal choice for a diverse garden. And it’s sure to provide plenty of shade even during the harshest summers.

7. Hackberry

Close-up of blooming Hackberry tree

The best thing about the Hackberry tree is how its leaves are arranged to serve you in both summer and winter. The foliage is dense enough to provide a thick covering in summer but still spaced out enough to allow the sun’s rays to penetrate the floor during winter.

The hackberry tree can grow up to forty meters in favorable settings and is hardy enough to stand various weather conditions, including salty winds and dry heat waves.

The hackberry grows about three to six feet (1-2 meters) yearly, like elm, except it isn’t susceptible to most common diseases that affect other house plants. And if you’re a water-conscious gardener, the hackberry is ideal because of its resistance to drought. In fact, once the tree has adequately grown, you won’t need to water it.

And finally, the hackberry is the perfect home for several butterfly and bird species, and its fruit is known to attract a variety of small wild animals. Thanks to this, planting hackberry in your garden can significantly improve the landscape.

8. Northern Catalpa

Catalpa tree and white flowers

The Northern Catalpa is native to the midwestern USA and is also popularly known as the hardy catalpa, western catalpa, and cigar tree. The only drawback with this beauty is that its root system doesn’t do well in every location. However, this plant can adapt to a few different soil types and should grow properly in most American backyards.

Besides its enormous size (this plant can grow sixty feet (18 meters) high and up to forty feet (12 meters) wide!), the catalpa is pure eye candy and deserves a place in your backyard. The plant comes with loud white flowers, heart-shaped leaves, and dangling pods, features that make this beauty popular among kids. The dense foliage means you can comfortably sit under one of these trees even during the hottest part of the afternoon.

For more, don’t miss 10 Best Types of Trees to Plant in Rocky Soil.

Portuguese Laurel flowers photo courtesy of Cillas, CC BY-SA 4.0 <" target="_blank">, via Wikimedia Commons