Deciduous shade trees

One of the primary reasons for choosing a tree is shade. Its cooling shelter is something to look forward to, and the dappled light under its arching branches is something to savor on hot summer days. In time, a seat, bench, or table underneath may be in order. Sited near the south-facing side of your house, a shade tree can help cool the house in summer, saving you money on air conditioning. Choose wisely so your vision can come true.

Get information on the ultimate mature size of any tree before you buy. If the one you thought you wanted is predicted to be too big for the spot, don't despair — ask about smaller-size options within the group or opt for a reasonable substitute. If the nursery staff's answers don't satisfy you, do a little research on your own.

The best shade trees are ones with a single, thick main trunk. Discover whether this growth habit is natural for the tree you have in mind; if it isn't, you can cut off side trunks while the plant is still young.

Consider what you want to grow under your shade tree. You can place the tree in the middle of your lawn when you first bring it home, but as it grows, you may find that the grass below becomes thin, scraggly, or dies back altogether due to the lack of sunlight as well as the tree's roots hogging the soil's nutrients and moisture. Down the line, then, prepare to underplant your shade tree with shade-tolerant grass or a shade-loving, drought tolerant groundcover. Or if you plan seating under the tree's shelter, maybe place nothing but mulched ground around the tree's base.

Trees with weeping habits are not ideal shade trees because their downward-swooping branches don't allow a person to stand under them comfortably, never mind underplanting or placing seating in its shade. Classic examples are weeping birches, beeches, and willows. These trees are lovely in their own right and still deserve to be grown, but grow them in some spot where using their shade isn't important to you.

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