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Good Shade Trees for Small Yards

Planting trees is the best way to protect yourself from harmful sun rays and enjoy stunning outdoors while relaxing in a shady spot.

Whether you want to enjoy the beautiful weather in summer or give yourself some time to relax, the outdoor areas can bring many colours to your home. However, if your backyard is all about soaking in the sun, you might not be able to spend more than a few minutes out there, especially during the summer.

The blistering sun and hot afternoon can have you heading indoors when you would rather be outside. That’s why it is essential to provide shade to play areas, pet areas, or outdoor living areas to protect your family, guests, and pets from the sun.

However, it is hard to find good shade trees for your yard, especially if you have a small space to work with. But, it should not stop you from planting trees. There’re hundreds of small trees that are perfect for small yards. Moreover, before you consider planting a tree, determine the purpose you want the tree to serve.

Are you planting a tree for shade?

Do you want to make your small yard look more beautiful by planting a tree?

Or, do you want to plant a tree to protect your privacy?

Determining the purpose will make it easy for you to narrow down your options.

Below I have listed some good shade trees for small yards that are easy to plant and require minimal maintenance. These good shade trees are perfect for small yards, fast-growing, and look great to the eyes.

So, let’s have a look at these good shade trees for small yards!

10 Good Shade Trees for Small Yards

1.      Red Buckeye

good shade trees for small yards | red buckeye tree

Red Buckeye Tree

Red Buckeye (Aesculus Pavia) tree is a good shade tree for small yards. The vivid red flowers of this tree last for weeks, putting a dazzling spring show. Hummingbirds and butterflies love these flowers. However, Red Buckeye is a slow-growing tree, and the average height is 15 feet with a canopy spread.

Moreover, if you plan to plant Red Buckeye, keep in mind that the harsh conditions can scorch its leaves. So, make sure to grow it somewhere that provides afternoon shade, especially when the weather is too hot. It also requires frequent water during dry spells to thrive. The plant can easily be planted in medium moisture or well-drained soil.

Because of its stunning springtime show of red flowers, it is no surprise that Red Buckeye is considered among the most beautiful of any temperature zone tree. The tree earned its name from the whitish scar visible on each brown seed, giving the seeds an appearance similar to a deer eye.

  • Red Buckeye can happily grow in Hardiness Zones 6-9.
  • The type of tree is ornamental, and it is commonly planted to add beauty to any landscape.
  • The Red Buckeye can grow up to 20 feet in height and spread up to 15′ at maturity.
  • Red Buckeye’s growth rate is slow-medium. The height can increase up to 20″ per year.

Growing Conditions

  • You can plant the tree both in full sun or partial shade.
  • It can happily thrive in acidic, loamy, sandy, or well-drained soil that is a bit alkaline.

Growing Zone

  • You can quickly grow Red Buckeye tree in USDA zones 4-8

2.      Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)

good shade trees for small yards | crepe myrtle

Crepe Myrtle

Do you want to decorate your yard with stunning flowers and showy fall foliage during summer? Crepe Myrtle is another good shade tree for small yards to make them look beautiful. You can plant the tree during the long warm growing season. Moreover, you can also remove the lower branches to reveal the bark. The tree should be pruned during late winter.

Crepe Myrtle can reach up to 30 feet in height. Another significant factor of this tree is that it can be planted in four different colours – Red, pink, white, purple. It can thrive on average, slightly acidic, or well-draining soil.

These trees can happily thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones seven and above. However, be mindful as they might suffer cold damage in zone 7. These trees love to thrive in full sun. It means they might not bloom if planted in partial sun. They love soil that is moist but well-drained.

Moreover, they perform well in dry, sandy soil. But, you should be aware that the tree cannot tolerate waterlogged soils for extended periods.

  • Once planted, Crape Myrtle shouldn’t require supplemental watering in climates with 20 inches of rain per year.
  • Over-fertilizing can result in messy leaf growth, fewer flowers, and the production of unsightly suckers.
  • If you desire a standard tree shape (single trunk), you should prune off the suckers as soon as they appear.
  • Sometimes, aphids attack the Crepe Mytles, making the dark green leaves brownish or grey. It isn’t harmful but can make your tree lose its charm. However, in the case of extreme aphid infestation, flowering can be impaired. You can prevent this by spraying soapy water.

Growing Conditions

  • Make sure to plant the tree in a sunny spot.
  • The tree is adaptable to moist soils and doesn’t require rich or amended soil.

Growing Zone

  • The tree is hardy to USDA zones seven and above.

3.      Crabapple

good shade trees for small yards | crabapple

Flowering Crabapple Trees

Are you struggling to find a good shade tree because your yard is too small? Well, Crabapple is among the excellent shade trees for small yards that can easily accommodate even in the minuscule yards. The maximum height of the tree is around 15 feet. Crabapple produces spring flowers, attracting native pollinators, such as honeybees.

The tree also requires less maintenance. It doesn’t necessarily require pruning, but you can do it when required. Crabapple can happily thrive in medium moisture, loamy, or well-drained soil. The color varieties include white, pink, and red.

The crabapple tree is also often called “The Jewel of the Landscape” because of its tremendous visual impact. During spring, the leaves out while the flower bus swell before they burst to reveal blossoms in shades ranging from pink to red to white.

Once the flowers fade, small fruits will appear, attracting squirrels and hummingbirds. The fruit lasts throughout the winters. The difference between Crabapple and apple is the fruit size. Crabapples are 2 inches (5cm) in diameter.

Care Tips

  • Newly planted crabapple trees don’t require fertilization until spring. However, they do need frequent watering during the first year.
  • Make sure to keep the soil over the tree roots moist. A two to five inches mulch layer over the roots prevents the soil from drying out.
  • They are drought-resistant, but they thrive if you water them if the rain is less than 2.5 inches in a week during summer.
  • Applying a two inches mulch layer during spring produces enough nutrients for the tree. You can also place a light feeding fertilizer.
  • Crabapple tree requires minimal pruning. You should remove damaged, diseased, and dead branches in spring. Remove suckers as soon as they appear.
  • Pruning at the end of June can reduce the number of flowers and fruits in the following year.

Growing Conditions

  • Like any other blossom tree, Crabapple also performs well in sunny conditions.
  • The tree isn’t fussy about soil.
  • Make sure to prepare a hole wide enough for its roots to spread out quickly.

Growing Zone

  • The crabapple tree is hardy to USDA zones 4-8.

4.      Early Golden Apricot (Prunus Armeniaca)

good shade trees for small yards

Golden Apricot Tree

Early Golden Apricot (Prunus Armeniaca) is another good shade tree for small yards. It is a small-medium size tree adorned with pink and white flowers in spring. Large, smooth, golden-orange apricots follow these flowers in mid-summer.

These fruits are suitable for baking, heating, drying, or canning. The self-pollinating apricot tree draws a rounded crown with upward branches clothed in finely serrated and dark green leaves. The tree can reach up to 20 feet in height and up to 600 cm in diameter.

It means you should plant this tree away from patios, water pipes, and water pipes. The tree does well in deep, fertile, moist, and well-drained soil in full sun. These trees are intelligent, as they begin fruiting early in their second year.

Since the Early Golden Apricot trees are frost-sensitive, they are best for Mediterranean climates. Moreover, these trees also require pruning to stay healthy and strong. It would help protect your tree from aphids, squirrels, Japanese beetle, leaf roller, and other insects.

Growing Conditions

  • Full sun is the perfect condition for the early golden apricot tree. It means the tree should get at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.
  • It can thrive well in loamy, acidic, rich, moist, and well-drained soil. However, the tree isn’t drought-resistant.

Growing Zone

  • Early Golden Apricot tree is hardy to USDA Zones 5-9. However, the tree will not produce fruit if exposed to late frost.

5.      Golden Chain Tree

good shade trees for small yards

Golden Chain Tree

The Golden Chain tree is another good shade tree for small yards. The tree is considered the goldilocks of the plants. It belongs to the pea family and performs well in a narrow range of USDA zones. Like the fairy tale, Golden Chain also doesn’t like too cold or too hot conditions.

It means the tree loves to thrive in “just right” conditions – especially if you an optimal floral display. However, the tree is rare because of its fussiness, but the beauty it adds to your yard is well worth considering this tree.

One of the best locations in the US where the Golden Chain can be seen in abundance is Bar Harbor, and it is because of the cool summers there. Moreover, the tree is also among the fast-growing trees with up to 24 inches per year growth rate.

The tree produces golden-yellow flowers that look so stunning. The racemes produce a compelling and robust fragrance. You’ll surely fall in love with the tree’s bright and cheerful appearance.

Growing Conditions

  • Make sure to plant the Golden Chain tree in the early spring or fall.
  • The tree loves to grow in direct sunlight and partial sun.
  • It can tolerate any soil, but it is best to plant it in a well-drained alkaline loam.

Growing Zone

  • The tree is hardy to USDA zones 5-7.

6.      Bartlett Pear

good shade trees for small yards

Bartlett Pear Trees

Bartlett Pear is among the classic trees in the United States. The tree is also the most popular pear-type tree due to its sweet, large, green-yellowish fruits. Planting a Bartlett Pear tree in your yard will provide you with an uninterrupted supply of its fruit.

Besides their popularity in the United States, the Bartlett Pear tree is also a favorite in the United Kingdom. In the UK, these trees are known as Williams pear trees, while the fruit is known as William pears. However, planting a Bartlett pear tree in your home is a big business.

Up to 75% of pear trees grown commercially are belong to Bartlett Pear trees. However, gardeners also love growing these trees in their backyards. The tree grows a maximum height of up to 20 feet tall and up to 13 feet wide, making it one of the excellent shade trees for small yards.

Growing Conditions

  • Since the tree requires full sun, make sure to choose a spot where it can get direct sunlight for at least six hours.
  • The tree also requires deep, moist, and well-drained soil, which should be acidic.
  • Bartlett Pear needs regular irrigation because it cannot tolerate drought.
  • For pollination, make sure to plant a compatible pear species, such as Moonglow, Starking, or Stark.

Growing Zone

  • The tree is hardy to USDA zones 5-8.

7.      Japanese Stewartia

good shade trees for small yards

Japanese Stewartia

If you also love the beauty of rich fall foliage but have minimal land to work with, Japanese Stewartia is a perfect option. As the name suggests, the Japanese Stewartia tree is native to Japan. Besides its stunning shades of burgundy, red, and orange that emerge in the fall, the exfoliating bark and stunning blooms of the tree can make anyone fall in love with it.

The distinctive genius of shrubs is classified into the Theaceae (tea family), closely resembling the camellia. Japanese Stewartia is a slow-growing tree and requires minimal maintenance. The dark green leaves of the tree turn into eye-catching autumn hues in the fall.

Another significant factor about this tree is that it is disease-free. As an elegant and graceful tree, you can grow it in parks, residential lawns, or other uncrowded parts of your yard.

Growing Conditions

  • Make sure to plant this tree in a spot where it can get full or partial sunlight.
  • Japanese Stewartia require moist, well-drained, and moderately fertile soil.
  • It blooms in late summer or during fall.

Growing Zone

  • It is hardy to USDA zones 5-8.

8.      Autumn Brilliance Serviceberries

good shade trees for small yards


Suppose you are still searching for a good shade tree with stunning fall color to lighten up your landscape; consider the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberries tree. This aptly named sports refreshing red/orange fall color. Moreover, since the tree is disease-resistant, it requires minimal maintenance.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberries tree grows upright and has highly branching that could go up to 25 feet in height. The tree is drought tolerant and can tolerate a variety of soil types. It looks spectacular in the spring because of its big white flowers.

The flowers are followed by fruit that tastes similar to blueberries. You can leave the berries for birds to devour or make into pies.

Growing Conditions

  • Plant the tree in full sun to part shade in well-drained average soil. However, the tree prefers moist loam soil.
  • The tree requires little to no maintenance because it is drought tolerant and disease-free.
  • Though it is a more petite sucker than others, remove the suckers if you want a tree rather than a shrub.

Growing Zone

  • It is hardy to USDA zones 4-9.

9.      Venus Dogwood Tree

good shade trees for small yardsVenus Dogwood is a fast-growing tree that produces stunning large white flower-like bracts. It is also a good shade tree for small yards because of its small size. In the fall, you will love the appearance of attractive red ornamental fruit. The glossy green foliage also looks terrific with red fall color.

Dogwood is easy to care for and disease-resistant. During the fall, its fruit attracts birds. The unmatched four-season appearance of beauty makes this tree popular among gardeners with small yards. Dogwood has many types ranging from small shrubs to single ornamental trees.

Some of its most common types include:

  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Kousa Dogwood.
  • Mountain Dogwood.
  • Giant Dogwood.
  • Pagoda Dogwood.

Growing Conditions

  • Venus Dogwood performs well in full sun or partial shade.
  • It can tolerate various soils, but the tree prefers rich, organic, and slightly acidic soils.

Growing Zone

  • Dogwood is among the most vigorous trees and hardy throughout zone six.

10.  Ribbon Leaf Japanese Maple

good shade trees for small yards

Japanese Red Maple in full bloom

Ribbon Leaf Japanese Maple is one of the ideal good shade trees for small yards. Famous for its eye-soothing foliage, dense and upright habit, it is excellent for miniature landscapes. During the spring, the tree’s delicate foliage emerges dark red before turning into bronzing as the season progresses.

Fine-textured foliage of Japanese Maple transforms into dazzling red during fall, standing out attractively in the yard. Besides planting it in your yard, you can also plant the tree in containers and bonsai.

It grows up to 12′ in height. Moreover, It is also easy to grow the tree and requires little to no maintenance. However, it still requires some pruning.

Growing Conditions

  • The tree loves full or part shade.
  • It can happily thrive in organically rich, moist, well-drained, and acidic soil.
  • Make sure to prune during the dormant season (if required) and avoid pruning during spring.
  • The tree is not disease-resistant, so make sure to protect it from aphids, horse chestnuts, and verticillium wilt.

Growing Zone

  • The tree is hardy to USDA zones 6-9.

Wrapping Up

If you love the growing tree but have a small yard to work with, it could be challenging to find a good shade tree that can easily fit in your landscape. Some popular trees, such as oaks, magnolias, and maples, get too big for miniature landscapes. That’s why I have created this list of good shade trees for small yards. Besides being small to fit into your yard easily, these good shade trees offer some other benefits for small yards. For example, some of the above trees offer beautiful fall foliage, while others make your landscape look stunning by producing colorful flowers. So if you have a small landscape to work with, make sure to consider one of the trees mentioned above that is perfect for your yard.

Read More

10 Best Shrubs for Shade Areas

Low-Maintenance Backyard Plants

14 Small Backyard Design Ideas

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map