Providing welcome shade for yards, streets and parks, shade trees are among the largest deciduous trees. Their considerable mass also absorbs traffic noise, making them indispensable for urban areas. Shade trees are the stars of the changing fall colors and their fallen leaves can be used as mulch or composted to enrich the soil in your garden.
Cucumber Tree Magnolia
Grown not for its flowers but as a large, beautiful shade tree, the cucumber tree magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) can grow up to 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Its fruit aggregates resemble cucumbers, which accounts for its common name. Symmetrical in youth and becoming more open as it matures, cucumber tree magnolia grows best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. Magnolias do best if planted in a location protected from harsh winds.
Growing to a height of 45 feet with a 40-foot spread, red maple varieties (Acer rubrum var.) grow into various tree shapes, such as rounded, conical or broad. All varieties have red spring flowers and red or orange-red autumn foliage. Red maples are fast growing and as such, require a lot of moisture, particularly when becoming established. Avoid planting maples in overly alkaline soils.
A genera boasting many varieties, cottonwoods (Populus spp.) are large, fast-growing shade trees. They grow between 50 and 80 feet high, depending on the variety. Most cottonwoods have yellow or yellowish-orange fall color. Some varieties are cottonless and most varieties take an upright or columnar growth habit.