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Anytime you take on a landscaping project, whether it be a new build or sprucing up an older property, one of your considerations will be which trees, how much shade do you need, and what's going to work for you. With evergreen trees or semi-evergreen trees, you have the advantage of constant foliage and only a minimal amount of clean-up during leaf shedding season. When starting brand new, you want to think about what you can purchase that's fast-growing, as mature trees are hard to transplant and often prohibitively expensive.
We've put together a list of sixteen beautiful evergreen and semi-evergreen trees that work for most climates that need extra shade. Some of these are great on their own, and some work well in groupings, some work best in the desert and some require a bit of moisture on their toes. See which of these trees works best for your landscaping situation.
1. Ficus Nitida
The ficus nitida or Ficus microcarpa 'Nitida,' also known as Indian Laurel Fig, is one of the best-selling shade trees. Its fast-growing dense evergreen foliage provides great privacy screening for yards. An ability to be pruned into almost any shape and size means it's easy to care for. Multiple branches make up the trunk giving it a beautiful reaching appearance as does the light-colored bark. This tree thrives in hot, dry desert environments.
2. Shoestring Acacia
Shoestring Acacia or Acacia stenophylla is an evergreen tree native to Australia. Long frond type leaves, reminiscent of willows or other weeping trees, give it its name and provide filtered shade. The trunk is maroon in appearance, and it presents pale yellow blooms from spring through the fall. It does well in an arid climate.
3. Timber Bamboo
Timber Bamboo or Phyllostachys vivax is a medium to large-sized tree that is perfect for windbreaks or foliage privacy screenings. You might choose to thin out the foliage as it grows to show off the gorgeous bamboo shoots. This is fast-growing and does well in groupings for the ultimate in plant mass. Because of its upright, non-spreading growth, it's a good plant when space is at a premium. Though it loves water, it can handle some drought and works in a variety of climates.
Don't have a nursery in your area that sells this gorgeous tree? Or you don't want to venture out to find this plant? It's possible to order a one-gallon started plant from the comfort of your own home. This one is hardy in USDF Zones 6-10.
4. Chinese Evergreen Elm
The Chinese Evergreen Elm or Ulmus Parvifolia is the top choice for a wide, umbrella-shaped shade tree. This tree loves Southwestern climates and is the perfect "tire swing" tree when it reaches maturity. Its spreading branches and dark green leaves provide maximum shade on hot summer days. The mottled bark, with its textured pattern, gives this tree a beautiful and unique look. Pruning in the spring will help you keep the shape you want for this semi-evergreen tree.
5. Japanese Privet
Japanese Privet or Ligustrum Janponicum is a smaller evergreen shrub or tree. It has beautiful glossy dark green foliage and blooms with white flowers in the spring. Some people find the odor more noxious than aromatic. The berries it produces are toxic and should never be eaten. This plant can be grown as a small tree or as a shrub.
It's reasonably cold-tolerant but does not like to have wet feet, so it should be planted in a spot that gets plenty of soil and has good drainage. It's also deer resistant, which is great if you have them milling about your yard.
6. Chinese Pistache
The Chinese Pistache or Pistacia Chinensi has been coined the "ugly duckling" tree because it turns from a gangly young tree into a gorgeous canopied shade tree at maturity. Perhaps most known for its brilliant fall foliage, this tree is a lovely addition to your garden. This tree loves full sun, can tolerate urban settings, and grows at a medium rate. At full height, it will reach twenty-five to thirty feet, with a canopy that has a similar diameter spread of branches.
7. Majestic Ash
The Majestic Ash or Fraxinus uhdei 'Majestic' is an easy-to-grow, magnificent shade tree. These disease and insect resistant trees are suitable for erosion control on slopes, and once they are established become "water-wise" and are able to conserve usage if needed. These trees work in almost every climate but will drop leaves in colder weather and stay evergreen in warmer climates.
8. Cider Gum
The Cider Gum or Eucalyptus gunnii is one of the fastest-growing and hardiest of the Eucalyptus trees. It has a super cool smooth bark that flakes off in large pieces revealing creme and pink tones beneath the outer greys. The foliage has that incredible Eucalyptus fragrance and is a lovely silvery-blue-green color. This tree needs plenty of room to spread out and grow, and it can get as high as 70 feet tall (30 feet on the low end). The canopy will spread from 18 to 40 feet wide. It likes full to partial sun and does best in a dry environment like the desert southwest and California.
9. Southern Magnolia
The Southern Magnolia tree or Magnolia grandiflora is a tree common to the Southeastern United States. This well-known tree grows to magnificent heights of 60 to 80 feet and has about a 40' shade canopy at maturity. It features large waxy green leaves with reddish-brown undersides and grows large white flowers, up to a foot in diameter, in May through June.
The smell of these flowers is very rich and pleasant. This tree does shed in the fall but does not lose all of its leaves as deciduous trees do. It likes to have at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day and requires some pruning as a young tree if you want to create a distinct trunk appearance.
10. Deadora Cedar
The Deadora Cedar, or Cedrus deodara, is also referred to as the Himalayan cedar, as it originates from that part of the world. It can grow very tall, up to 160 feet, growing 1 to 2 feet per year. It has long slender needles that range from 2 to 5 inches and is loved for its picturesque drooping boughs.
Despite the photo above, most varieties of this tree prefer warmer climates, doing best in zones 7 and above. This tree needs lots of room to spread out if you want to take advantage of its beautiful looks. Plant this tree in slightly acidic soil, in a location that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight and that is protected from the wind. It likes moist soil, but not wet, so be careful not to over water.
11. Wax Leaf Privet
12. Eastern White Pine
Pinus strobus, or eastern white pine, is a very popular choice for Christmas trees due to its blue-green color and long, soft needles. It is easy to shape as it grows, so you could grow your own row of holiday decor while taking advantage of the summer shade they provide.
This tree is fast-growing, rocketing up at two feet per year until it reaches its maximum height of 50 to 80 feet. It grows best in full sun to partial shade, in acidic, moist soil, but is very tolerant.
13. Leyland Cypress
One of the fastest-growing evergreens, the Leyland cypress, or cupressus x leylandii, will grow up to four feet per year. This tree is frequently used for privacy screening in landscaping, as it can get up to 100 feet tall and 20 feet wide in optimal conditions.
Leylandii has a shorter lifespan than other trees, living for a maximum of 20 years, so keep that in mind when making your choice. They are easy to grow, though, thriving in rich, well-drained soil in a sunny location.
14. Emerald Cedar
Emerald Cedar, or Thuja occidentalis "Smargd" is another good choice for a privacy hedgerow. They are typically only 15 feet in height and grows in bright urn-shaped columns of green that are very handsome in landscaping. They grow approximately one foot per year, so they will take a little longer than other choices to mature.
They are tolerant of soil type, and do well in full sun to partial shade, making them very versatile and easy to care for trees.
15. Eastern Red Cedar
A favorite for crafting into bonsai trees, false cypress, or chamaecyparis pisifera, can be used many ways from foundation plantings, shrubs, or as trees. Dwarf cultivars are usually around 5 feet tall, while others can grow as much as 20 feet. The thread leaf foliage is gold-green and easy to shape, making them a good choice for decorative topiaries.
These trees are easy to grow and require as much or as little care as you apply. They are heat tolerant but can be prone to windburn in the winter.
If you found this list helpful, we encourage you to take a look at these other posts about trees here at GardenTabs.com.