Shade-loving small trees

Updated February 21, 2017

Landscaping shady areas of their yard proves difficult for many homeowners. Grass may not grow readily in such locations, and many flowers need partial to full shade to reach maximum growth potential and bloom accordingly. This leaves many people to consider shrubs or small trees for these shady locations. There are several small trees that grow well in shade, depending on other conditions present in the growing environment.

Downy Serviceberry

The downy serviceberry is a small tree that displays oval-shaped, green leaves and reaches a mature height of 15 to 25 feet, according to the University of Nebraska. It produces white, spiky flowers in the spring, later developing edible berries that change from green to red and finally to black. It grows best in well-drained soil in a location with partial shade.

Vernal Witch Hazel

Known scientifically as Hamamelis vernalis, the vernal witch hazel tree grows in light shade and produces yellow flowers in early spring. Reaching a mature height of just 6 to 10 feet, this is one of the smallest shade-tolerant tree species.


The easy-to-grow yaupon, or Ilex vomitoria, grows in partial shade to a height of 15 to 20 feet. This evergreen develops red berries on it through the fall and winter seasons, according to the University of Florida Extension. It grows in wet, waterlogged areas with a variety of soils while still possessing significant drought tolerance.

Blue Beech

The blue beech is a slightly larger tree, reaching a full height of 20 to 30 feet. It grows well in densely shaded areas, offering a definite advantage over many other tree species that thrive in only light or partial shade. Its leaves change to a scarlet colour in the fall.

Japanese Magnolia

These deciduous trees reach a height of 15 to 25 feet and grow well in either sun or shade. Keep in mind that Japanese magnolias prove difficult to transplant and suffer from scale, mildew and cold injury.

Wax Myrtle

This fast-growing evergreen grows in shade or sun to approximately 15 to 20 feet in height. The wax myrtle proves ideal for many locations with problematic growing conditions because of its ability to grow in moist or wet soil and salty areas.

Japanese Yew

The Japanese yew is an extremely small tree that reaches a mature height of only 5 to 15 feet, according to University of Minnesota Extension. It may reach closer to its maximum potential height in areas with at least partial sun. Its deep green foliage attracts deer but is toxic to cows and horses, making it a poor choice for farmland.

Red Buckeye

The Aesculus pavia grows quickly, reaching a final height of 10 to 15 feet. This deciduous tree displays eye-catching spiky, red blooms in late spring. It grows best in partial shade with acidic soil. Keep in mind that the seed pods of the red buckeye are poisonous.

Japanese Red Maple

The Japanese red maple is a deciduous tree with deep, red-coloured fall foliage. It is a slow-growing tree, reaching a height of no more than 15 feet at maturity. Although this tree grows best in a slightly shady location, its leaves turn a more brilliant colour when placed in full sun.

Deciduous Holly

Reaching a height of 10 to 15 feet, this tree grows in either full sun or partial shade and adapts well to a variety of conditions. It develops red berries in the fall that remain throughout the winter season. In spite of its ability to be easily grown, the deciduous holly proves susceptible to some pests, including tent-caterpillars and aphids.

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