Trees are usually thought of as creating shade, not growing in it. But there are many tree varieties that do well in partial or full shade, making them useful additions to landscapes featuring areas that are shaded by other vegetation and buildings. As with sun lovers, trees that thrive in areas that are partially or fully shaded also feature spring blossoms and eye-pleasing fall leaf colors.
Ohio Buckeye trees grow in USDA zones 3 to 7. They reach from 20 to 40 feet tall at maturity and can grow to the same width. Grow the tree in partial shade and moist, well-drained soil that doesn't get dry. The nuts, covered in a hard green rind, are poisonous, but the tree's aesthetic qualities are well known. Greenish-yellow flowers with light orange throats bloom on panicles in late spring. The fall foliage, with compound, fan-like leaves comprised of five to seven lobes, turns brilliant orange.
These smaller trees thrive in partial shade. They grow in USDA zones 5to 9, reach from 15 to 30 feet tall at maturity and from 15 to 20 feet in width. White, 4-inch bract flowers bloom in April. In the fall, glossy red berries attract widlife, and leaves turn dark red to reddish purple in the fall. Grow a flowering dogwood in well-drained, moist soil.
Landscapers grow these small trees for their elegant form and striking foliage. Japanese maples grow in USDA zones 5 to 8 and are one of the few trees that do well in full shade. They grow up to 20 feet high and wide, are low-growing and are often planted near residences and in containers where they are pruned and grown as bonsais. Small, inconspicuous red flowers bloom in the spring and star-shaped leaves turn colors from bright yellow to red in the fall. Grow Japanese maples in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. They have moderate drought tolerance.
American Beech trees tolerate varying light conditions, from full sun to shade. These large trees are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8. Forest beeches grow up to 120 feet tall, but cultivated trees usually grow up to 75 feet tall. In the fall the leaves turn bronze, then become light tan, with some clinging to the tree into the winter. On older trees, the bark is gray and wrinkled. Spiny burs include four tiny nuts eaten by wildlife and people. The wood is resistant to breakage and moisture decay. Plant this tree in well-drained, slightly acidic soil in an area where large roots growing close to the soil surface will not damage structures.