Planting a shade tree in your yard or landscape will have long-term consequences. The right shade tree will beautify and increase the value of your property. It can also reduce your cooling bills. Size and tolerance of your soil and climate will limit your choice of trees, as will their insect resistance. Bugs love to snack on trees. Some tree varieties are veritable smorgasbords, while others get only an occasional nibble.
Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), hardy from the Southwest east to the Gulf Coast to the Southwest and north to Kansas, is a medium-sized shade tree between 40 and 50 feet high and 30 feet wide. Its size alone, says Texas A&M's Horticultural Department, makes Chinese pistache a good choice for single-story home landscapes. Delicately textured leaves remain vivid green through the hottest summers. In autumn, they take on glowing shades of orange, red or deep crimson. Female trees produce purple fall berries that attract birds.
Properly maintained, this long-lived tree will grow between 2 and 3 feet each year. Within 2 or 3 years of planting, it is highly drought, heat and wind tolerant and insect resistant. Plant between September and November in full sun and well-drained soil. It's intolerant of wet roots. Mulch it well and water only when the top inch of soil is dry. Prune to shape in the spring.
Golden Rain Tree
Golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) is another shade tree native to China. Standing 30 to 40 feet high and wide, it has feathery leaves up to 18 inches long. They're an attractive bronze-pink when new, becoming vivid green in the summer and yellow in autumn. The tree's name comes from its profuse drooping clusters of golden yellow June and July flowers. Papery brown seedpods follow. With no significant insect problems, this tree is tolerant of drought and urban pollution. Plant it in full sun and averagely moist, well-drained soil.
Maidenhair tree (Gingko biloba) is well known as the source of a memory-enhancing nutritional supplement. The Missouri Botanical Garden says that this slow-growing shade tree from China eventually reaches between 50 and 80 feet high with a 30 to 40 foot spread. Its green fan-shape leaves are similar to those of maidenhair ferns. In April, both male and female trees produce small green flowers. The females follow with autumn fruit that has an unpleasant smell when it bursts. Trees sold at nurseries are usually male. Maidenhair tree is at its best in autumn, when its leaves become brilliant yellow before dropping. While it tolerates a wide pH and soil range, it does best in full sun and moist, well-drained sandy soils. Like golden rain tree, it can handle urban pollution and heat.