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The Best Small Shade Trees

Red Maple tree image by Mr. D from

If you are looking for a way to provide your yard with shade but don't have a lot of room, don't fret. There are a number of shade trees that will remain small. In the case of trees, "small" means anywhere from 15 to 30 feet tall.

Tatarian Maple

The Tatarian maple (Acer tataricum) grows about 15 to 20 feet tall with a similar spread. It is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 3 through 8. It is tolerant of a variety of soils but should be planted in an area that receives full sun, although it will tolerate some shade. Except for problems in some areas with verticillium wilt, this maple is seemingly pest-free. It produces an attractive greenish-white flower in the spring, which turns into pink or red fruit. In the fall, its green leaves will turn shades of yellow and red.

Amur Maple

The Amur maple (Acer ginnala or Acer tataricum subsp. ginnala) is about the same or slightly smaller as the Tatarian maple. It is very easy to grow, drought-tolerant and relatively pest-free. It can be planted in a wide range of soils in either full sun or light shade. It is best known for its fall color, which may be any shade of red, orange, yellow or even reddish purple. It is hardy in zones 3 through 8. This species has demonstrated "invasive tendencies" in some areas, according to the University of Connecticut.

Golden Rain Tree

The golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) is also known as the panicled goldenraintree, varnish tree or golden-rain tree. It can grow anywhere from 20 to 40 feet high with a similar spread. Its name comes from the showy yellow flowers it produces in June. The flowers eventually turn into white capsules that resemble Japanese lanterns. It is hardy in zones 5 through 9 and will grow in almost any soil provided it is planted in full sun. It also seems to tolerate drought, heat, wind and air pollution and has no major problems with diseases or pests.

Trident Maple

Traditionally, the trident maple grows about 25 to 30 feet high, but it has been known to grow up to 50 feet tall. However, it does have a slow growth rate. It is hardy in zones 5 through 8. The trident maple prefers a moist, slightly acid soil in full sun and is tolerant of wind, salt, drought, soil compaction and air pollution. Its leaves begin as a bronze or purple color before turning to dark green in the summer. Then, in the fall, the leaves turn shades of orange and red.

Downy Serviceberry

The downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) is also known as the Juneberry, shadbush, servicetree or sarvis tree. It grows between 15 and 25 feet tall with a 10- to 15-foot width. It can be planted in full sun to partial shade and prefers a moist soil, but will tolerate other soil types. It is hardy in zones 4 through 9. In the spring, it produces white flowers that turn into small fruit attractive to a variety of birds. Fall colors range from yellow-orange to red.

Black Tupelo

The black tupelo or black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) grows between 30 and 50 feet high with a 25-foot spread. It is native to the United States and hardy in zones 4 through 9. It should be planted in an acidic soil that is well-draining and will tolerate full sun to partial shade. It is very colorful in the fall and will turn various shades of yellow, orange, red and purple. The black tupelo is very strong and attractive to many birds.

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