Not all trees have the option of being in full sun conditions. Those shady spots in the landscape can be graced with ornamental trees if you choose trees that like shade. Shade-loving trees make a beautiful contribution to the landscape with their foliage, flowers and interesting habits.
The American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana, is also known as water beech, musclewood and blue beech. It is from the Betulaceae family. USDA hardy to Zone 3, it is a deciduous tree that is multi-stemmed with a slow growth rate. The hornbeam grows 20 to 30 feet in height and width. Leaves are dark green and oblong, 2.5 inches long and 5 inches wide. In the fall these leaves turn orange, red or yellow. Flowers are 4 inches long and bloom in April and afterward have 1-inch-long nutlets. The hornbeam should be planted in moist, acidic soil in full sun to shade. It can tolerant either extreme. Propagate via seed or by cuttings.
The sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana, is also known as swamp or laurel magnolia. It is from the Magnoliaceae family. USDA hardy to Zone 5, it is a semi-evergreen that is multi-stemmed with an upright growth habit. It grows from 10 to 30 feet tall in the northeast United States and 40 to 60 feet tall in the southeast United States. Leaves are bright green, smooth and 5 inches long. These turn bright yellow or stay green in the fall. Flowers are white, 2 to 3 inches long, and are lemon scented. They come during the summer. Sweetbay magnolia should be planted in wet, acidic soil in full sun or partial shade. Propagate via seed or by cuttings.
The Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata, is from the Taxaceae family. USDA hardy to Zone 4, it is a slow-growing evergreen tree that gets 10 to 40 feet tall and wide. Leaves are needle-like and dull green. These needles can turn yellow in the fall. The yew flowers from March to April, but the blooms are not showy. The Japanese yew will grow in well-drained, slightly acidic soil and in sun or shade. Propagate via cuttings.
The blackhaw viburnum, Viburnum prunifolium, is from the Caprifoliaceae family. USDA hardy to Zone 3, it is a deciduous shrub that can be pruned to a tree form. It gets 15 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide. It is a slow grower. Leaves are deciduous, dark green and 1.5 to 3.5 inches long. The leaves turn purple in the fall. Flowers are white, tiny and in showy clusters 2 to 4 inches wide. Fruits are edible and are drupes, going from pink to black as they mature. Propagate via seed.