Playground slides, swings and climbing towers can turn as hot as a furnace during the summer. Shade trees help limit the heat retained in the metals and plastics used on play equipment. The best trees to shade a playground include those specimens that have a thick canopy of long-lasting leaves. Fast growth rate also factors into the choice of the best tree for a playground area. Plan for the planting of any shade tree by allowing plenty of room for the mature tree size. This allows the plant to provide 20 or more years of cool shade for playground areas.
Red oaks produce vibrant red and brown leaves in the fall. Landscapers frequently use this lovely tree for lining streets to produce shade along sidewalks. Red oaks can reach 75 feet in height and feature a rounded, traditional tree shape without much grooming. Red oaks grow quickly and prefer acid soil with good drainage. These trees are prized for their beautiful rounded shape and rapid growth. Red oaks produce fruit as scorns measuring about a half inch in width.
American Mountain Ash
This slow-growing tree likes full sun that makes it the perfect tree for the playground. Many playsets sit alone in the expanse of a field without light variation to protect shade-loving shrubs and trees. American mountain ash features lance-shaped leaves and clusters of white flowers in the early summer. The tree produces berries to attract abundant birds to the play area. Ash trees can grow up to 40 feet tall and don't grow well in dry soil. American mountain ash trees are deciduous and can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 2 to 6.
Children love to gather the bright yellow leaves of the sugar maple as the foliage drops from this stunning tree. Sugar maples grow up to 75 feet, featuring a broad crown to provide abundant shade in the play area. This tree also tolerates full sun to partial shade planting areas, making it quite versatile in the landscape. Allow plenty of room for the sugar maple to reach mature height because this tree takes up considerable space. Sugar maples produce small flowers in the spring and prefer well-drained, moist soil.
Sycamores serve as a beautiful addition to the playground landscape by providing a fast-growing tree. American sycamore doesn't have the dense canopy of maples or oaks. Sycamores provide the perfect dappled shade for those sunny days at the playground. These trees grow up to 100 feet and grow well in poorly drained soil. Sycamores can handle hot, dry conditions and work well on city playgrounds, provided there's room for mature growth. Sycamores can be a messy tree that drops twigs and bark frequently. However, sycamores provide quick resolution to the need for shade to protect the playground. Sycamores tolerate hardiness zones 4 to 9.