Summer is quickly approaching- and with it comes those long hot summer days. Now is the time to consider adding a beautiful shade tree to your landscape!

Whether you’re planting a shade tree for aesthetics, or to cool your home in the summer (which by the way can save you up to 35% on your cooling bill), or create an ecosystem conducive to the wonderful world of shade plants, keep in mind these three basic principles.

When selecting a shade tree be sure to consider the mature size of the tree; some can reach heights of well over 80-feet. Also, consider the desired shade density you’re wanting to create – trees with smaller leaves tend to create a dappled effect whereas trees with large leaves will provide dense or deep shade. Seasonality of shade and sun is an additional consideration. Remember that the sun you are blocking in the summer may be the sun you want and need in the winter! If that’s the case, you’ll want to be sure to select a deciduous tree and not an evergreen such as a Southern Magnolia.
Whether flowers or fall foliage color are important to you are also things to consider. Some shade trees bloom in the spring and some in summer, and some put on a fantastic foliage show in the fall. Some do both!

When choosing a location for your new shade tree, think about factors such as overhead power lines, nearby sidewalks and driveways, your home foundation, septic tanks, and leach fields. Take note of areas in the yard that are especially wet. Is the tree you’re considering one that will thrive in such a location? If your decision is purely based on providing shade where it’s needed, you’ll most likely site your new tree on the southwest side of your property where the afternoon sun is at its peak.

Planting a shade tree is like planting any other plant in your garden, just on a larger scale depending on the size of the container.

  • Dig a hole approximately twice the size of the container.
  • Mix 1/3 planting mix with the soil removed from the hole.
  • Return enough of the mixed soil to fill enough of the hole so when the tree is placed in the hole it will be approx. 1” above ground level (over time it will compact and be at ground level).
  • Fill in around the root ball with the mixed soil and tamp in place.
  • With the remaining soil removed from the hole, build a berm around the newly filled hole.

For the first two years, you will water in this berm only – flooding weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on conditions and the tree you selected. If you are located in an area prone to wind it is advised to stake your tree, but for no longer than two years.