Tips for Growing Shade Trees and Evergreens

Plant shade trees and evergreens in your yard for years of beauty.
Plant shade trees and evergreens
in your yard for years of beauty.

Shade trees and evergreens are the largest elements in the landscape, well able to complement even the biggest house. Use them to frame your home, but plan ahead to ensure that the trees will not become overwhelming; if you have a smaller house, you should plant smaller trees than if you have a very large home. With each passing year, big trees grow more valuable, increasing the worth of your house and property.

In winter, large trees have additional benefits. The lofty greenery of a big pine, spruce, or fir, or the dark, widespread limbs of a handsome oak stand out amid a landscape of brown, white, and gray. Their very stature demands respect, and in winter you will have the luxury of enjoying them without rivalry.

But large trees do more than look elegant. Did you know that large trees can help lower your energy bills? Shade-casting trees to the south or west of your house can keep the house 10 degrees cooler in the summer. By starting some shade trees now, you are making an investment in the future. Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting the right trees for your yard:

  • Choose pest or disease-resistant species or varieties instead of problem-plagued trees. When you take the time to select a tree ideally suited for your site, your chances of long-term success are great. But they're even better when you check the track record of the tree you have in mind. If it's prone to insect or disease attack, continue your studies to find alternative, untroubled species or varieties. Because large shade trees can live for decades, even centuries, spending an extra hour or two determining the best tree to plant will pay off for a long, long time.

    Instead of European white birch, try disease-resistant river, Monarch, or Avalanche birches. A substitute for a silver maple tree is Celebration maple. Try substituting Crusader hawthorn for rust-susceptible hawthorns, and Metroshade plane trees for disease-susceptible London plane trees.

  • Choose younger and smaller trees to plant over larger ones. The motto "bigger is better" is not true in this case. Although you can have nearly full-sized trees planted in your yard (at a whopping price), smaller trees transplant more easily and grow more quickly than larger trees. They also cost less and are easier to handle without hiring landscapers.

    It's best to start with a tree that has a 1- to 11/2-inch trunk diameter (officially called its caliper). Very small seedlings -- the kind given away by forestry departments on Arbor Day -- are a little too diminutive. They take a long time to grow large enough to be noticed in the yard, especially if hidden amid grass.

  • When planting fast-growing trees, start with economical and quick-developing bare-root saplings. Fast-growing trees will increase in height by several feet a year. Under ideal conditions, a young tree that stands 3 feet tall upon planting will be up to 5, 6, or 7 feet tall the next year. The following year, it may be 10 feet tall or larger.

    All trees require time to reach their prime, but fast growers stay on the move and hardly test your patience at all.

  • Look to slower-growing trees for long, trouble-free lives and enough strength to withstand wind and ice storms.

  • Plant fast-growing trees with slower-growing species to get shade fast. As the slower-growing trees get large enough to make an impact on the yard, cut out the weaker fast growers. You end up with the best of both worlds -- quick greenery and lasting strength.

  • Plant evergreens in spring or summer up to about mid-August, but no later. To support their foliage through winter, they need to have a well-established root system and plenty of internal moisture before the ground freezes.

Keep reading to learn how to choose the right shade trees and evergreens for your yard.

Looking for more gardening tips? Try these links:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn great helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.