Most shade trees grow to towering heights, but many species of shade trees grow much shorter and are excellent for use on smaller urban lots. Planting varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases ensures that these long-lived trees remain healthy for many years to come.
Also called the maidenhair tree, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) trees are the oldest species of tree, dating to prehistoric times. Ginkgo trees grow to 75 or more feet high and are long-lived. Delicate white flowers appear in late June and early July, which give way to bean-like seed pods. The spent blossoms can make a mess beneath the tree, but it is short-lived, confined only to the ginkgo's short flowering season. Ginkgo trees turn a brilliant yellow in the fall, but the leaves do not remain long on the tree after changing color. Extremely disease resistant and practically pest-free, ginkgo trees do well in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8.
The most disease-resistant variety of oak trees, the white oak (Quercus alba) grows slowly to a height of about 80 feet. It grows in a wide range of soil types and withstands urban growing conditions well. White oak is very resistant to damage from storms and high winds, and is an excellent shade tree for tornado country. Their canopies are rounded with sturdy horizontal branches, making them one of the most majestic-looking shade trees.
Black walnut (Juglans nigra) are long-lived, stately shade trees that often grow upwards of 80 feet high. Their wood is prized by furniture makers, and their nuts are delicious and buttery tasting. Black walnuts excrete a substance from their roots which discourages most other plants and trees from growing nearby. It makes an excellent single specimen on a large lot. Mature trees will bear good crops of nuts in two out of five years. Best yields occur when the trees reach 30 years of age. Walnut trees are rarely bothered by serious diseases. Although they can be bothered by insect pests, they rarely suffer serious damage.