How to Select Shade Trees in Montana


Shade trees are often considered wide-growing deciduous trees; however, evergreen trees, as well as taller and thinner deciduous trees, might also provide the amount of shade you desire. In Montana, choosing a tree is not as simple as purchasing an appealing tree from a nursery. You must consider the climate, especially since in parts of Montana, winters can dip to minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Much of Montana experiences high winds, too. You must also consider other factors, such as soil condition and planting location.

Step 1

Contact your local utilities company to check where the underground utility lines are around your planting site. A worker may come and mark the lines so you can determine a safe area for planting a tree.

Step 2

Measure your space and consider the mature growth of the tree, including the root growth (generally the width of the tree's canopy). Measure between your desired planting site and the closest buildings, septic tank, sidewalks, wells, structures, overhead wires, pipes and other obstructions.

Step 3

Evaluate your climate. Find out your United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone by visiting the National Arboretum website. Most parts of Montana are in zones 3 and 4. Trees and plants are rated to a zone and if the tree is considered cold hardy in your zone, you can safely plant it.

Step 4

Examine your soil. Dig up the top 12 inches and see if it's mostly clay, sand or rock, which are common soil conditions in Montana. You can amend the planting site soil if desired, but you may want to choose a tree that can tolerate your current soil conditions.

Step 5

Notice the shade trees growing near your home. Pick a sample leaf and take it to your local nursery or county extension office. Ask an expert what kind of tree it is, how large it grows and what conditions it needs to thrive. This may be the tree you will want to plant.

Step 6

Select a shade tree--either an evergreen or deciduous tree--based on your climate, daily hours of sun and the tree's mature size, including roots. For instance, a hackberry tree is rated to USDA zone 2 (which is suitable for all of Montana) and grows between 25 to 50 feet tall. It can also stand high winds, adapt to most soil conditions, and grow well in full or partial sun. If you have 25 feet of clearance around your tree, 50 feet of clearance upward, partial shade and an area subject to high winds, this may be the perfect shade tree choice for you.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape


  • Univeristy of Missouri Extension: Selecting Landscape Plants- Shade Trees
  • Washington State University: 100 Cold Hardy Trees, Perennials, and Shrubs for Kittitas County
  • Montana USDA Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: select shade trees, choosing shade trees, shade trees Montana

About this Author

Melissa Lewis has been a professional writer since 2005. Her work has appeared in various online publications. A former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist, Lewis is also a script writer, with a movie script, "Homecoming," she co-wrote currently in production. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.