Shade-Tolerant Small Trees

Light up underused areas of the garden by planting shade-tolerant trees. Grown in a wide range of colors and shapes, shade-tolerant trees are often evergreen to provide a burst of color to a winter landscape. Small varieties of shade-tolerant trees help to fill in tight spaces where a large tree would overpower the landscape.

Wheel Tree

Wheel tree (Trochodendron aralioides) is a slow-growing evergreen tree with medium texture. Growing 10 to 20 feet tall, wheel trees have a broad growth habit and spreading, horizontal branches. The leather-like dark leaves grow 3 to 6 inches wide and turn bronze in fall. New foliage on wheel trees is red or bronze, creating a showy garden display. Wheel trees cast light shade within the garden and have bright green spring-blooming flowers that present themselves on erect racemes (short stalks). Wheel trees tolerate shade and grow best in well-drained soils. They tolerate wet soil but cannot withstand drought. Plant wheel trees in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 6 to 8.

Wild Olive

Wild olive (Osmanthus americanus) is an evergreen tree with medium texture and an open, multi-trunked form that is loose in habit. As evergreens, wild olive trees retain their foliage and color all year long. Growing 15 to 25 feet tall, wild olive trees are shade-tolerant. The dark green, oval leaves on wild olives grow 2 to 4 ½ inches long. A bird attractant, wild olives have strong wood and creamy white flowers. The fragrant flowers emerge in early spring to light up the garden with color. Wild olive trees tolerate a range of soil conditions, making for a versatile tree variety. Plant in USDA zones 6 to 9.

Olson's Frosted Strawberry Japanese Maple

Olson's Frosted Strawberry Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Olson's Frosted Strawberry') is a slow-growing deciduous tree that grows 6 to 10 feet tall and wide. The foliage is strawberry red as it emerges and diffuses to pink along the vein of each leaf. The deeply divided leaves have serrated edges. Olson's Frosted Strawberry Japanese maple trees have a wide spreading form with cascading branches. Frost-tolerant, they grow best in shade and well-drained, acidic soils. Provide consistent water to ensure a healthy maple. Olson's Frosted Strawberry Japanese maple requires protection from intense heat. Plant in USDA zones 6 to 9.

Keywords: shade tolerant trees, small shade trees, wheel tree, wild olive tree, strawberry Japanese maple

About this Author

Callie Barber is a writer, designer and photographer in North Carolina. Barber's love for design and writing inspired her to create Design Your Revolution, a blog that shares creative and affordable ways to decorate your indoor and outdoor living environment. Her articles have appeared in and and her photography has been featured in "Automotive News" magazine and