The 10 Best Shade Trees to Block the Sun and Beautify Your Yard

Stay cool in the summer and enjoy colorful foliage in fall with these beautiful shade trees.

fall foliage linden tree garden
Photo: Adam Albright

Deciduous shade trees can keep your home and outdoor spaces cooler by blocking the hot sun. These trees also add beauty to your landscape with features from flowers to pretty fall foliage and interesting bark.

01 of 10

American Hornbeam

hornbeam tree along fence line
Denny Schrock

Tough, low-maintenance shade trees that grow nearly anywhere, American hornbeams have textured leaves that turn yellow to red in fall, then persist through winter. This shorter shade tree has beautiful ridged bark, most noticeable in winter. The slow-growing, deciduous tree develops an attractive rounded shape.

Name: Carpinus caroliniana

Growing Conditions: Part shade to full shade in medium moisture soil

Size: Up to 35 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3–9

02 of 10

American Linden

fall foliage linden tree garden
Adam Albright

Slow-growing and stately, lindens come in a wide variety of types. Also known as American basswood, its heart-shaped leaves provide dense shade, while the tiny yellow flowers produce small fruits that birds like. This medium to large deciduous tree produces pale yellow fall color.

Check out the following popular varieties: American Sentry (Tilia americana 'MckSentry'), 'Boulevard,' Legend (Tilia americana 'DTR 123'), 'Lincoln,' 'Redmond,' and Tilia americana var. heterophylla, known as white basswood or beetree linden.

Name: Tilia americana

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moisture, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 80 feet tall and 50 feet wide

Zones: 2–8

03 of 10


large elm tree in grass field
Denny Schrock

Elms have long been popular shade trees with their distinctive vase shape and strong branches. Dutch elm disease, however, killed millions of elms in North America between 1930 to the late 1980s. Now, new disease-resistant varieties such as 'Princeton' are available. Lacebark or Chinese elms offer unusual mottled bark, small leaves, and good resistance to Dutch elm disease and elm leaf beetle.

Name: Ulmus spp.

Growing Conditions: Full sun in medium moisture, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide

Zones: 4–9

04 of 10


Ginkgo biloba
Erica Dines

The extremely pest-resistant ginkgo has unique, fan-shaped leaves that turn a buttery yellow in fall. It's best to buy only trees labeled as male, because female ginkgoes produce messy, stinky fruit. Look for these top-performing varieties: 'Autumn Gold,' 'Magyar,' 'Presidential Gold,' 'Emperor,' and 'Princeton Sentry.'

Name: Ginkgo biloba

Growing Conditions: Full sun in medium moisture, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide

Zones: 3–8

05 of 10

Japanese Zelkova

zelkova shade tree
Denny Schrock

Noted for its graceful shape, clean foliage, and resistance to Dutch elm disease, Japanese zelkova is a large deciduous tree with an upward-branching, vase-shaped crown. As the tree ages, its smooth gray bark peels to reveal orange-brown inner bark. In the fall, its leaves turn a beautiful yellow-orange to red-brown color. Improved cultivars include 'Green Vase,' 'Halka,' 'Musachino,' and 'Village Green.'

Name: Zelkova serrata

Growing Conditions: Full sun in average, medium wet, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 80 feet tall and 80 feet wide

Zones: 5–8

06 of 10

Kentucky Coffee Tree

kentucky coffee tree yellow leaves
Marty Baldwin

A tough shade tree that's resistant to insects and diseases, Kentucky coffee tree was named for its seeds, which are produced in long pods. Native Americans and early settlers ground, roasted, and used the seeds as a coffee substitute, although the raw seeds are toxic. This tall, deciduous tree has scaly. gray-brown bark and yellow-to-brown fall foliage that will add bright color to your landscape. Look for standout male varieties (without seed pods, which can be messy), such as 'Espresso' and 'Prairie Titan.'

Name: Gymnocladus dioicus

Growing Conditions: Full sun in moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 80 feet tall and 55 feet wide

Zones: 3–8

07 of 10


red maple tree growing outdoors
Adam Albright

One of the most dazzling shade trees for fall color is the maple. No matter your yard size, there's a colorful type of maple tree to fit your needs. In addition to their showy leaves, some types (such as the paperbark maple and coral bark Japanese maple) display intriguing branch color and texture. Other species, like the red maple, show brightly colored flower clusters.

Name: Acer spp.

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium to wet, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 70 feet tall and 50 feet wide (depending on variety)

Zones: 3–9 (depending on variety)

08 of 10


yellow oak leaves deciduous shade tree
Per Breiehagen

In 2004, Congress named the oak America's national tree. More than 60 species are native to the United States, so try to choose the best one for your region. Live oak is the recommended species for Southern regions. In colder regions, northern red oak thrives the best. Burr oak, pin oak, sawtooth oak, scarlet oak, and swamp white oak are just some of the popular species with colorful fall foliage.

Name: Quercus spp.

Growing Conditions: Full sun in medium moisture, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 80 feet tall and wide (depending on variety)

Zones: 3–10 (depending on variety)

09 of 10

Tulip Tree

tulip tree bloom
Denny Schrock

One of the largest trees native to North America, the tulip tree is named for its cup-shaped orange, yellow, and green flowers that appear in late spring. The flowers are followed by dry, cone-shaped brown fruits. Its bright green leaves turn golden yellow in fall. For a smaller cultivar, look for 'Little Volunteer', which grows up to 35 feet tall.

Name: Liriodendron tulipifera

Growing Conditions: Full sun in moist, well-drained soil.

Size: Up to 90 feet tall and 50 feet wide

Zones: 4–9

10 of 10


tepedlo tree fall foliage
Denny Schrock

Count on superb red fall color, plus shades of yellow, orange, and purple, when you plant a tupelo. This native tree is also called black gum, sour gum, and black tupelo. Its dark green leaves turn bright scarlet in fall, and its fall fruits attract migrating songbirds.

Name: Nyssa sylvatica

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in average, medium to wet soils

Size: Up to 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide

Zones: 3–9

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  1. Gymnocladus dioicus. North Carolina State University Extension Toolbox.

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