If your property is shaded--either by trees or buildings--your tree planting options are somewhat limited, but there are several species of trees that can tolerate limited light. Like their sun-loving cousins, trees that will grow in the shade benefit from a layer of mulch to suppress weeds, regular and deep watering during the first year and an appropriate fertilizer applied in the spring.
Tucked below the forest canopy are several species of evergreen trees. According to a University of Idaho Forestry Information bulletin, these trees “grow slower than shade intolerant trees, but they are in it for the long haul and often 'release' (grow faster) after shade intolerant trees have died, eventually taking their place in a process called succession.” Some slow-growing evergreen trees that have adapted this strategy include hemlocks (Tsuga canadensi and Tsuga caroliniana), Hinoki false cypress (Chamaecypari obtuse), western red cedar (cedrus) and some species of fir.
Flowering trees add color, beauty and—occasionally—fragrance to the shade garden. The spice bush (Lindera benzoin) can be grown as a tree. Both its flowers and fruit are spice scented. Sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) grows to a height of about 20 feet. It develops small, white flowers and the nectar attracts butterflies. Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) is a landscape favorite. Dogwoods offer all-season interest: spring flowers, vibrant fall foliage and bright red winter berries. A native North American tree, sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) is also known as lily of the valley tree. Its fragrant white flowers attract bees and butterflies.
Trees With Winter Interest
The winter garden relies heavily on texture for visual interest. Trees with interesting bark stand out against this stark, leafless environment. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) and shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) are attractive native hardwoods with peeling, heavily textured bark. These adaptable trees tolerate partial shade but also grow well in full sun. Witch hazel (Hamamelis) is small tree with a big advantage: it is the first tree to bloom, sometimes as early as late January. Small, shrubby and highly adaptable, pussy willow (Salix caprea) develops showy, pendulous catkins in late winter.
Trees That Attract Birds
Attract birds to your shaded garden with winterberry (Ilex verticulata), wild olive (Osmanthus americanus) and persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). These attractive, smaller trees produce fruits or berries that attract and feed birds throughout the summer and into the early winter.