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Low Maintenance Shade Trees

cows in shade image by Antonio Oquias from

High maintenance trees require regular pruning and need to be watched for insect and disease problems--which then need to be taken care of. Low-maintenance trees save the gardener both time and worry. If some of the plants in your garden require more attention, low-maintenance trees will free up your time to take care of other garden problems.

Persian Parrotia

Persian parrotia (Parrotia persica) grows from 20 to 40 feet tall and 25 to 34 feet wide with branches growing low on the tree’s multiple trunks. Deep, crimson-red flowers appear in the early spring before the leaves. The leaves are the main feature of the tree, starting out as red-purple, turning dark green in the summer and finally yellow, burnt orange or deep scarlet in the fall. The tree is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8 and likes full sun or partial shade and a well-drained soil. Persian parrotia needs very little pruning and is virtually pest- and disease-free.

River Birch

River birch (Betula nigra) is classified as a large shade tree, growing up to 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Plant in full sun or partial shade. The soil can be moist, dry or wet, as long as it is acidic. The river birch is one of the few members of the birch family that is highly resistant to both insects and diseases. Egg-shaped, dark-green leaves turn chartreuse or, very rarely, golden-yellow or yellow-brown in the fall. Male flowers are the most prominent, blooming in April and growing up to 3 inches long.

Princess Tree

Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa) is a native of China that features heart-shaped leaves and clusters of lavender-colored flowers that bloom in the spring before the egg-shaped leaves appear. The tree grows from 30 to 50 feet tall with a similar spread. Plant the tree in a moist, well-drained soil in a spot that has full sun or partial shade and is sheltered from the wind. Flower buds appear in the fall, stay on the tree through the winter and bloom the following spring. The tree has no known insect enemies and is not susceptible to serious diseases. The only pruning it needs is for shaping. The princess tree is hardy in zones 5b through 9.

European Hornbeam

European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is a medium-sized tree that grows up to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide. Plant the tree in full sun or partial shade and a most, well-drained soil. Egg-shaped leaves grow up to 4 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide, turning chartreuse or golden-yellow in the fall. Both male and female flowers grow on the same tree in separate clusters--the male clusters reach 1 1/2 inches long and the female 3 inches long. The tree retains its shape without pruning and has no serious disease or pest problems.

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