Trees That Grow Well in Shade

Trees are an integral part of most landscape designs, but homeowners looking to purchase a tree need to consider the planting location. The majority of trees need at least six hours of sunlight to thrive. Whether your tree is a shade tree, ornamental, or evergreen, if the planting location is dark and limited in its exposure to the sun, choose a tree that can grow in the shade.


In the wild, dogwood trees are often found growing in the understory of the forest, in the dappled shade of taller deciduous and coniferous trees. Dogwood trees, including the popular Flowering, Kousa and Pagoda varieties, tolerate shade very well. These trees grow up to 30 feet high (25 feet for the Pagoda) and feature bracts (special leaves) of pink or white that bloom in the spring. The Flowering dogwood has the largest, showiest blooms, while the Kousa dogwood has the most colorful fall foliage in shades of red and copper. The Pagoda dogwood has a beautiful shape.

Carpinus caroliniana

The American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) is also commonly called the Blue Beech or Ironwood tree. This tree is known to thrive in light, partial or even full shade. Carpinus caroliniana can grow up to 30 feet high and has a canopy equal to its height. It is a slow-growing tree that has brilliant yellow and orange fall foliage.

Magnolia grandiflora

The Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is a popular ornamental tree in the south due to its huge, fragrant white flowers, glossy deep green leaves and pleasing, symmetrical shape. The tree can grow quite large, reaching a height of 90 feet. Magnolia grandiflora tolerates shade quite well and prefers moist soil.

Magnolia virginiana

Like the Southern magnolia, Magnolia virginiana (commonly called the Sweetbay magnolia) is an evergreen tree that thrives in dappled, moist valleys. The tree has silvery undersides to its leaves, causing it to flicker or sparkle when the wind ruffles the foliage. The creamy white flowers have a slightly lemony scent.

Keywords: trees that grow, well in shade, shady areas

About this Author

April Sanders has been a writer and educator for 11 years. She is a published curriculum writer and has provided academic content for several subscription databases. Sanders holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in social psychology and a Master's degree in information sciences and technology.