Although shady areas aren't ideal spots for growing many trees, there are some trees that do well in shade. When planning a landscape, it's important to know which trees are able to tolerate shade. Shade is not the total absence of light, but is decreased, filtered light. Many small understory trees thrive growing under large shade trees and are good choices in small yards where there's limited space and light.
The flowering dogwood is a typical understory tree that grows well in light to medium shade. It produces pink or white bracts, which are modified leaves growing at the base of the stem. These bracts develop in the middle of spring, which are followed by red fruit clusters in fall. This tree needs well-drained, moist soil. According to Gardening in the Shade.com, flowering dogwoods can reach a height of 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide.
Japanese Angelica Tree
The Japanese angelica is a small, deciduous tree, meaning it sheds its leaves when the weather becomes colder. According to Enjoy Your Garden.com this shade-loving tree grows as high as 20 feet and is about 20 feet wide. Because it spreads out as wide as it is tall, the Japanese angelica needs slightly more room than an average tree. Its bold leaves contain many green leaflets that have creamy white edges and abundant panicles, which are clusters of small white flowers.
The silver birch produces deciduous foliage and is able to tolerate sunny conditions, as well as shade. This tree is grown in moderate climates in moist soil that's well-drained. It has oval leaves that produce thin yellow flower clusters in spring. Because of its white bark, this medium-sized tree is especially attractive when planted in small groups.
The Florida anise is an evergreen, shade-loving tree that has an oval shape due to its drooping branches which bend toward the ground. This tree grows in partial to full shade and in moderate to wet soil. It produces white or cream-colored flowers in the spring and fall. In addition to being shade tolerant, the Florida anise is also resistant to insects and disease.
Aucuba is a conifer, evergreen tree, meaning it doesn't shed its leaves and has separate cones for reproducing sexually. It grows in partial or full shade and in moderate, dry conditions. This tree, which grows rather slowly, produces purple flowers in spring that turn red in autumn. The tree's leaves have a distinct yellow blotch in their centers, which are surrounded by smaller yellow specks.
The Aurea hoptree is a slow-growing, deciduous tree that can grow in either full shade or sun. It's a showy tree that has striking yellow leaves that eventually fade to lime green by August. The tree produces black fruit in late spring.