Trees offer an incredible value in an urban environment, providing fresh air, structure and shade to a garden or street. Trees that work especially well as shade trees for urban areas are those that are a manageable size and have a somewhat dense, wide canopy for people to sit under.
The orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata) is a flowering member of the bean family that hails from India, Vietnam and China. The tree reaches an average height of between 20 to 30 feet, with a dense canopy that may be as wide as 20 feet. The orchid tree produces deep shade, made more intense by the fragrant purple, pink or blue orchid-like flowers that appear in flushes from late winter to early summer. Orchid tree is well suited to an urban area thanks to its modest size, and will grow in USDA zones 9 to 11. Plant the tree in full sunlight in a slightly acidic soil, and water freely.
A native of the United States and Canada, white ash (Fraxinus americana) is a large, deciduous shade tree that boasts an oval shape. The timber of the tree is famous as the preferred wood for baseball bats, but the tree is also well known as an attractive landscaping tree. White ash reaches an average height of between 50 to 80 feet, and is notable for its dense dark-green leaves and diamond-patterned bark. White ash grows in both partial and full sunlight in USDA zones 3 to 9, preferably in a deep, well-draining soil. The tree is sensitive to drought and should be watered frequently, especially during the summer.
Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is an evergreen native of the southern United States. The tree reaches an average height of between 60 to 90 feet, with a broad canopy that is ideal for reading or relaxing under during the summer. The tree is characterized by its showy, heavily fragrant white blooms, which appear during the spring and summer. The Southern magnolia is a popular landscaping tree for estate grounds and streets. For best results, grow the Southern magnolia in USDA zones 7 to 9 in a rich, well-draining soil that's kept consistently moist. The wetlands tree is drought tolerant, but will look healthier if water frequently.