10 Shade Tolerant Native Trees for Your Landscape

Shady areas in a landscape have a tendency to be tricky on many flowers, shrubs, and trees. If you’d like to liven up a sun starved area of your yard or garden with native trees, then these selections will help you decide which ones are right for you.

Aesculus pavia L. (Red Buckeye)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision SpermatophytaSeed plants

Division MagnoliophytaFlowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae

Order Sapindales

Family Hippocastanaceae – Horse-chestnut family

Genus Aesculus L. – buckeye

Species Aesculus pavia L. – red buckeye

This deciduous tree can also be a bushy shrub in some locations. It is a fast growing to its mature height of 15-25 feet. It will flower in dark red tubular flowers form April to May, and is a prime pick for those who want a splash of color. Hummingbird friendly, this tree will also attract bees. It prefers shady locations and will bloom early for first color in your garden. Keep in mind; this is a short lived tree.

Carya aquatica (Michx. f.) Nutt. (Water Hickory, Bitter Pecan)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Hamamelidae

Order Juglandales

Family Juglandaceae – Walnut family

Genus Carya Nutt. – hickory

Species Carya aquatica (Michx. f.) Nutt. – water hickory

This tree gets up to 65 feet tall and one foot wide. It has a narrow crown and prefers partial shade with wet soil. Its flowers are yellow and its fruits are nuts in thin husks. The seeds have a bitter taste, giving the name “Bitter Pecan”. Its bark is shaggy and scaly and lends texture to the tree. Its wood is difficult to work with and is used normally as a fuel source.

Carya ovata (P. Mill.) K. Koch (Shagbark Hickory)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

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Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Hamamelidae

Order Juglandales

Family Juglandaceae – Walnut family

Genus Carya Nutt. – hickory

Species Carya ovata (P. Mill.) K. Koch – shagbark hickory

This particular hickory has richly aromatic leaves and the wood is good for meat smoking in barbeques. It will get up to 70-90 feet tall with a spread of 30-40 feet. It is a slow grower. Known as the best tasting of the hickory nuts; one mature tree will ripen 2-3 bushels a year. It is shade tolerant and can tolerate normal drought. Plant this in sun or partial shade for maximum growth. This is bold and ornamental in the landscape.

Cornus amomum P. Mill. (Silky dogwood)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae

Order Cornales

Family Cornaceae – Dogwood family

Genus Cornus L. – dogwood

Species Cornus amomum P. Mill. – silky dogwood

Another great selection for bird lovers, the silky dogwood will grow from 6-15 feet. It has abundant small white flowers from May to June, and will produce blue berry-like fruit from August to September. It’s this fruit that makes it a favorite for birds. It favors partial shade. Although it does flower, it is decidedly non-fragrant.

Crataegus aestivalis (Walt.) Torr. & Gray (May hawthorn)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae

Order Rosales

Family Rosaceae – Rose family

Genus Crataegus L. – hawthorn

Species Crataegus aestivalis (Walt.) Torr. & Gray – may hawthorn

This tree gets up to 20-30 feet high and wide; preferring partial shade and moist soil. It has white blooms in spring. It grows moderately fast and easily. Herbal folklore has it as a heart tonic, as a tea or a tincture. Its green leaves turn yellow in fall and its fruits are red dotted, resembling a crabapple.

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Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. (American Beech)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Hamamelidae

Order Fagales

Family Fagaceae – Beech family

Genus Fagus L. – beech

Species Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. – American beech

A slow growing tree that prefers partial shade and well drained soil. It will get 50-80 feet tall and have a spread of 40-60 feet. It has golden brown fall color and its fruits (nuts) will attract birds and squirrels. It has flowers that will appear just after the leaves. Beech has sensitivity to heat and drought.

Fraxinus caroliniana P. Mill. (Carolina Ash)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Asteridae

Order Scrophulariales

Family Oleaceae – Olive family

Genus Fraxinus L. – ash

Species Fraxinus caroliniana P. Mill. – Carolina ash

Growing up to 25-50 feet tall and having a trunk diameter of 6 inches this Ash prefers partial shade and wet soil. It has light green leaves and one winged samara fruits that mature around October or November. It has ash grey bark.

Magnolia tripetala (L.) L. (Umbrella Magnolia, umbrella-tree)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Magnoliidae

Order Magnoliales

Family Magnoliaceae – Magnolia family

Genus Magnolia L. – magnolia

Species Magnolia tripetala (L.) L. – umbrella-tree

With one to two foot diamond shaped leaves, the umbrella tree really is a canopied marvel. It gets up to 40 feet tall and has a 20-30 foot spread. It will have several trunks and large showy flowers that are typical to the magnolia taxa. Its cone like fruit will mature in August or September and is pollinated by beetles. This magnolia prefers partial shade or full shade and is not drought tolerant. An ornamental favorite for any garden, this tree will do you proud.

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Magnolia virginiana L. (Sweetbay)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Magnoliidae

Order Magnoliales

Family Magnoliaceae – Magnolia family

Genus Magnolia L. – magnolia

Species Magnolia virginiana L. – sweetbay

A slow-growing evergreen tree, this magnolia species can grow from 50-100 feet. It produces spectacular white flowers from April to July and will have red fruits from July to October. It will do perfectly in a partly shady spot in your landscape. Two-thirds of all magnolia wood is used for furniture, but it is also used for Popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, and broom handles. It is important forage for deer and cattle, making up 25% of their diet in the winter.

Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng. (Redbay)

Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass Magnoliidae

Order Laurales

Family Lauraceae – Laurel family

Genus Persea P. Mill. – bay

Species Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng. – redbay

Redbay will get up to 70 feet tall and has bright green aromatic leaves. It prefers light shade and moist soil. Its flowers are small light yellow green and hang in clusters; its fruits are dark blue in fall. The bark is dark with a reddish tint. Seeds are used as quail food and the leaves have been used for flavorings.