What Trees Grow Well in Full Shade?

Does your yard not get a lot of sunlight but you’re still looking to plant trees in it? Do you find yourself asking what trees grow well in full shade? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, look no further. There are a variety of trees that grow well in full shade. If your yard does fall in this category, then these types of trees are the ones you should be looking at. They will grow tall, healthy, and to maturity—all without a lot of the sun. So, if you’re looking to find out what trees grow well in full shade, here are some options for you.

American Beech


Also known by its scientific name, Fagus grandifolia, the American beech tree can grow in full sun or full shade. Even in full shade, it can live for up to 400 years! In fact, they thrive in dense areas and in full shade. As its name suggests, these trees grow beech nuts, which will attract wildlife, but they also can be eaten by humans.

These trees have leaves that are oval and pale green in color but darken up in the summer. Then in the fall season, they turn yellow-brown. American beech trees can grow in USDA Zones 4 to 9 and should be planted in soil that is both moist and rich. They can grow anywhere from 20 to 30 feet in height.

Eastern Hemlock

Do you want to plant an evergreen tree in your yard that can tolerate shade? The eastern hemlock, or Tsuga canadensis, is the one for you, as they can grow in either full sun or full shade. Out of all evergreen trees, these are the ones that can handle lower light during the daytime best.

The branches of eastern hemlock trees do tend to look more like they’re of the spruce genus. These trees grow in USDA Zones 4 to 8 and in soil that’s rocky to average. They typically reach about 50 feet in height at maturity.

Japanese Maple

If you’re looking for a popular tree to plant in your yard that can survive in full shade, the Japanese maple, known as Acer palmatum scientifically, is one to look into. They’re ornamental and busy trees, meaning they will add a special aesthetic to your yard. Another great thing about the Japanese maple is that the size can vary from large shrubs to small trees. So if your yard is on the smaller side, this is a perfect tree for you to plant.

Japanese maple trees need shade in order to be at their best, as the shade protects their foliage from the sun. In the spring, the leaves are reddish-purple in color, and in the fall, they turn a wide variety of colors. The color and shape of the leaves depend on the variety that you choose. Additionally, its hardiness zone differs based on the variety as well, but most can grow in USDA Zones 5 to 9 in soil that’s well-drained and acidic. The height of the tree depends on the cultivar too, but they typically grow to about 20 feet or taller.

Pagoda Dogwood

Are you looking to add fruit trees with white flowers to your yard? The pagoda dogwood, scientifically known as Cornus alternifolia, is one that will also grow well in full shade. The branches of these trees grow in horizontal tiers, hence the name pagoda. It’s an elegant shape. Between the layers, white flowers and blue-black berries enhance the beauty of your yard. The flowers and fruit on this tree grow in clusters. The fruit will help attract local wildlife, such as pheasants, squirrels, and songbirds.

These trees grow in USDA Zones 4 to 6 in soil that is well-drained, acidic, and moist. They can reach a height of 25 feet, making them great for smaller spaces. Pagoda dogwood trees thrive in the shade, as it’s important to keep their roots continuously cool.

Sugar Maple

If a tree that has beautiful, vibrant, fall foliage is appealing to you, the sugar maple, Acer saccharum, will grow in full shade and keep its great color. You also can extract sap from it for maple syrup, as its name suggests. Not only is it beautiful in the fall, but in the summer, its bright green leaves will catch your eye.

Sugar maple trees grow in USDA Zones 3 to 8, in soil that is fertile, well-drained, and non-compacted and has a slight acidity to it. They can reach a height of about 70 feet.

Bigleaf Maple

Do you want a tree with large leaves? The bigleaf maple, or Acer macrophyllum, has leaves that can be as long as two feet. The color of these leaves is dark green, but they turn yellow and orange-yellow in the fall season. They grow best in areas that are dark and dense but can survive in sun too.

To be at their healthiest, these trees need a lot of water to grow, meaning that they should be planted in an area that gets a lot of rain. They grow in USDA Zones 6 to 9 and in a variety of soil types, from shallow and rocky to wet and loamy. The leaves aren’t the only thing that’s big on these trees, they are big in general, growing anywhere from 75 to 100 feet.

The above six trees all great options if you’re wondering what trees grow well in full shade. Even if your yard doesn’t get a lot of sun, that doesn’t mean you need to be deprived of the beauty of having your own trees. If you’re still questioning which one will grow best in your yard, give us a call today, and we will be happy to provide you with a personalized recommendation.

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