Large shade trees grow from about 75 to 150 feet tall and have their place in large properties and parks. Small shade trees, those under 30 feet tall, can provide a bit of shade for plants in the middle of a lawn. Medium size shade trees, however, fit in the landscaping plans for yards, providing shade for the sunny side of the house, for plants and for people looking for a shady spot to catch a cooling breeze.
Sycamore maples (Acer pseudoplatanus) are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 7. The tree grows from 40 to 60 feet tall producing lobed leaves--dark-green on the top and green-white on the bottom--that measure 3 to 6 inches across and turn yellow or green-brown in the fall. Yellow-green flowers bloom in May and are followed by winded fruit pods growing in large clusters. Sycamore maple performs best in full sun, but can take a partial shade situation. The tree is salt tolerant and grows well by the shore.
The monarch birch (Betula maximowicziana) is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 6 and likes full sun. The tree grows from 40 to 60 feet tall starting out with a pyramid shape and maturing to a more rounded crown. Leaves grow from 3 to 6 inches long and up to 4 inches wide, turning yellow in the fall. Flowers bloom in April, with male flowers growing in hanging clusters 4 to 5 inches long and female flowers in hanging clusters up to 2 1/2 inches long, followed by nutlets in hanging, cylindrical-shaped clusters.
Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) produces a round, edible nuts, measuring 1 inch in diameter. The tree grows from 50 to 75 feet tall, with 6 to 10-inch long, light-green, compound leaves made up of five to nine leaflets. Leaves turn to yellow or gold in the fall. Plant bitternut hickory in full sun or partial shade, and in a soil that is moist and well-drained. The tree is hardy in zones 4 to 9.
Silver linden (Tilia tomentosa) is hardy in zones 4 to 7. The tree does well in full sun or light shade and a moist, fertile, well-drained soil, reaching a height of 30 to 40 feet. Dark-green leaves turn yellow in the fall, growing from 2 to 5 inches long and about the same in width. Light-yellow or cream flowers bloom from late June through early July, growing in hanging clusters of seven to ten. The flowers are followed by egg-shaped nutlets.