Shade trees for any garden

By Jennifer Stackhouse

Tags: ‘Flamingo’, ‘Spartan’ juniper, ‘Summer Red’, ‘Teddy Bear’, Acmena, Agonis flexuosa ‘Burgundy’, ash, banksia, bay tree, Birch, Camellia, Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, citrus, Crabapple, Crepe Myrtle, Deciduous, deciduous tree, dwarf flowering eucalypt, evergreen magnolia, evergreen shade tree, Feijoa, fig, flowering eucalypt, Frangipani, gleditsia, grevillea, Indian Summer, Jacaranda, Japanese maple, Lillypilly, little gem, Loquat, magnolia, maple, moonlight, nectarine, Olive, ornamental pear, Pittosporum, plum, prunus, robinia, spring-flowering tree, Syzygium, Tristaniopsis ‘Luscious’, Waterhousea

Summer can be a tough time in gardens but it’s a lot more comfortable if your garden offers a shady oasis from the heat. With a bit of leafy shade the garden becomes somewhere to spend time playing, relaxing and eating. Planting trees around a home does more than provide shade. Trees lower the temperature indoors and out.

Summer is the season to assess where extra shade is needed in gardens to keep paving cool or to shade an outdoor seating area. Examples of trees that are both shady and attractive abound in mature local gardens, street plantings and parks and there are lots of options available at the garden centre.

For best shading, position shade trees on the north or western side of the property.


Height and spread

The spread of a tree as it matures is particularly important for shade and for planning. Knowing the width of a tree as it matures is vital to position a newly planted tree so it is away from structures and boundaries.

Where space is at a premium, there are many dwarf trees that suit compact spaces and summer is the time to seek them out. Ideally keep trees at least 5 metres from structures and avoid digging near services (Dial 1100 before you dig to check the location of these services at your place).


Deciduous or evergreen

The other vital decision to make about which tree to plant is to decide whether it is deciduous or evergreen. A deciduous tree is one that loses its leaves in autumn and winter – often after putting on a colourful display – and remains bare for several months and grows new leaves in spring. An evergreen tree is green year round. It does discard leaves but these leaves fall occasionally through out the year.

The benefit of a deciduous tree is that it allows the winter sun to shine through. Evergreen trees provide shade all year round.

Top shade-giving deciduous trees include ash, birch, jacarandas (these trees are deciduous in early spring and regain their leaves in late spring after flowering begins), maple, ornamental pear, deciduous spring-flowering magnolias, gleditsia, prunus and robinia.

Top evergreen shade trees for a large garden include flowering eucalypts (look for named varieties to avoid forest giants), evergreen magnolia and lillypillies including Acmena, Syzygium and Waterhousea.


Compact trees for summer shade

Shade is important for small spaces as well. While a shade sail or an umbrella can provide summer shade, the shade from a leafy tree feels cooler and can be more appealing and of course trees provide environmental benefits and offer a changing display through the year.

Even where a garden is tiny – perhaps a courtyard or deck – leafy shade is important. There are compact but spreading trees for a range of climates that can be under-pruned to provide space for seating in their shade. Many can also be grown in a large container where access to soil is restricted.

Here are top suggestions for small trees both native and exotic options. Look for named varieties to ensure that your selection grows to the desired height and spread.

Deciduous Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, birch, crabapple, crepe myrtle (especially dwarf forms in the Indian Summer series), dwarf fruit trees including plum and nectarine, Japanese maple, fig, frangipani, magnolia and ornamental pear.

Evergreen Agonis flexuosa ‘Burgundy’, banksia, bay tree, camellia, citrus, dwarf flowering eucalypts including ‘Summer Red’, evergreen magnolias including ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Teddy Bear’, feijoa, grevillea ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Flamingo’, loquat, olive, pittosporum, ‘Spartan’ juniper and Tristaniopsis ‘Luscious’.


Jennifer Stackhouse

Jennifer Stackhouse

Horticulturist, garden writer, blogger & editor.

  • Tâm Duyên

    Hi Jennifer,

    Could you please help me find out a problem of my plant as attached photo which looks so weak without any flowers for few years and I have no idea when and how correct it with fertilizer and proper care.
    I do not know the name of this plant.

    Please advise me. Very appreciated.


    Thi Phan

    • FlowerPowerAustralia

      Hi Thi, by the looks of the leaves it could be a Tibouchina tree which normally don’t look too good at this time of the year. To give this plant it’s best chance of flowering fertilise 3 times a year, the first one can be done now then in Autumn and Spring. Every month use seasol or seamungus and water regularly to keep the soil moist. Good luck! The Flower Power team.

      • Tâm Duyên

        Hi The Flower Power team,

        Many thanks to you for helpful advice.
        By the way, Please also tell me if I can trim the tree now and how.
        Thank so much.

        • FlowerPowerAustralia

          Hi Tam, You can trim at the end of summer. Since it has not flowered for a long time don’t be afraid to cut it right back. First, remove all the dead and dying wood. Then cut back all branches about 50-60%. You may need to wait a year for your tree to flower again. Good Luck! The Flower Power team.