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Trees for Partial Shade

maple trees in autumn image by michael luckett from

Gardeners requiring trees that tolerate partial shade conditions have a variety of choices. Whether larger trees canopying the area reduce the light or gardeners choose to develop a shady landscape, quite a few trees from small to large will thrive in the lower light conditions. Some shade-loving trees are North American natives, making them hardier, requiring less maintenance and suitable for native gardens.

Florida Maple

The smallest of Maple Trees image by Kimberly Wickerink from

The Florida maple (Acer barbatum), also called the southern sugar maple, tolerates growing in a wide range of light conditions from sun to partial shade. Trees are hardy in USDA planting zones 8 and 9. This maple is a North American native, making it well suited in native gardens or as an accent tree. The Florida maple has a medium-fast growth rate and produces green flowers throughout springtime.

Trees grow anywhere from 25 to 60 feet in height and have a spread of 25 to 40 feet. Florida sugar maple trees grow best in well-draining acidic soil mediums. They have a high drought-tolerance, but will have the best growth with regular water applications. Their low tolerance to salt spray makes them unsuitable for areas located directly on the coast.

Eastern Redbud

redbud branch image by Carbonbrain from

Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) tolerates a wide range of light conditions, growing in sunny to shady areas of the landscape. Trees are well suited for growing in USDA planting zones 8 and 9. The eastern redbud is a North American native that attracts both butterflies and birds, making it well suited for a backdrop in butterfly or native gardens, or as a specimen tree. Trees fill with masses of colorful blooms in springtime and, depending on the cultivar, blossoms range in colors of pink, purple or lavender.

Eastern redbud trees have a medium-fast growth rate, reaching 20 to 30 feet in height and 15 to 35 feet in width at maturity. Trees tolerate various well-draining soil mediums from acidic to alkaline. It has a high drought-tolerance, looking its best with regular watering. The tree’s low tolerance to salt makes it unsuitable for direct coastal plantings.


florida scrub jay image by Robert Ulph from

Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), also called black gum, tolerates growing in partial shade to full sun conditions. It grows best in USDA planting zones 8 and 9. Trees bloom with small, white flowers throughout springtime but are relatively inconspicuous. In fall, the tree’s foliage is a mass of color with oranges, yellows and reds. Various bird species use the tree’s berries as a source of food.

Trees are slow growers but grow quite tall, reaching a mature size of 65 to 75 feet in height and having a spread of 25 to 35 feet. Tupelo prefers growing in well-draining, acidic soil mediums. It has a high tolerance to drought. Coastal areas located not directly on the water can add tupelo trees to their landscapes as the tree has a medium salt tolerance and a medium-high tolerance to wind.

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