Trees That Grow in Full Shade

  • 01 of 14

    These Trees Can Handle Less Sun

    Japanese maple foliage
    Frank Lukasseck/Getty Images

    Finding a tree that can grow in full shade can be a bit tricky sometimes. After all, most plants crave as much sun as they can get during the day so that their leaves can perform photosynthesis. Full shade, according to gardening expert Marie Iannotti, is "Less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day, with filtered sunlight during the rest of the day. Full shade does not mean no sun." 

    There are, however, some that have adapted well enough to tolerate less light. While you may not get...MORE optimal height, flowering or fruiting, they will at least be able to grow there. These 12 trees are suitable for planting in full shade locations.

    You will also need to consider any plants you place underneath carefully. These trees will only deepen the shade for them, so make sure you choose accompanying plants like hostas and impatiens that can grow in full shade.

    Continue to 2 of 14 below.
  • 02 of 14

    American Beech

    American Beech tree
    Image by Wendell Smith under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

    The American beech is, as the name suggests, one source for beech nuts which are favored by wildlife and can be eaten by humans.

    • Latin Name: Fagus grandifolia
    • Family: Fagaceae
    • Other Common Names: North American beech
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 3-9
    • Height: 50-80' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade

    Growing profile for the American beech

    Continue to 3 of 14 below.
  • 03 of 14

    American Hornbeam

    Amercan Hornbeam
    Niall Williams/flickr/CC By 2.0

    The wood of the American hornbeam is quite strong, inspiring the common name of ironwood. Hornbeam also refers to the wood strength since "beam" is a name for a tree in the Old English language. The flowers are also useful and are included as a component in the alternative medicine therapy called Bach Flower Remedies. 

    • Latin Name: Carpinus caroliniana
    • Family: Betulaceae
    • Other Common Names: Ironwood, blue beech, water beech, muscle tree, muscle beech, and musclewood
    • Native to: North and...MORE South America
    • USDA Zones: 3-9
    • Height: 20-35' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade

    Growing profile for the American hornbeam

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  • 04 of 14

    Big Leaf Maple

    Big Leaf Maple
    Kevin Schafer/Getty Images

    The big leaf maple is appropriately named and each leaf can be as long as 2 feet. Fall colors on this species are yellow and orange-yellow. 

    • Latin Name: Acer macrophyllum
    • Family: Sapindaceae
    • Other Common Names: Broadleaf maple, bigleaf maple, Oregon maple
    • Native to: Western North America
    • USDA Zones: 5-9
    • Height: 20-100' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade

    Growing profile for the big leaf maple

    Continue to 5 of 14 below.
  • 05 of 14

    Eastern Hemlock

    Eastern Hemlock trees
    Image by Nicholas_T under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

    Few evergreen trees are able to tolerate shade, as you may have noticed from this list. Eastern hemlock is a great species to handle lower light during the day.

    • Latin Name: Tsuga canadensis
    • Family: Pinaceae
    • Other Common Names: Canadian hemlock, hemlock spruce, Canada hemlock
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 3-7
    • Height: 30-80' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade
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  • 06 of 14


    Buddha Dog/flickr/CC By 2.0

    The hop-hornbeam is a cousin of the true hornbeams (Carpinus) and the name hop refers to the fact that the fruit is similar in look to the flowers on hops (Humulus lupulus,) which is used in the production of beer.

    • Latin Name: Ostrya virginiana
    • Family: Betulaceae
    • Other Common Names: American hop-hornbeam, eastern hophornbeam, ironwood, hophornbeam, American hophornbeam
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 3-9
    • Height: 20-50' tall
    • Exposure: Part shade to shade for best results

    Growing...MORE profile for the hop-hornbeam

    Continue to 7 of 14 below.
  • 07 of 14


    Hoptree leaves
    Image by Scott Loarie under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

    The hoptree is a small deciduous tree that can fit into most gardens. The flowers are sweet smelling. The name stinking ash came about because of the odor that arises if foliage or bark are damaged.

    • Latin Name: Ptelea trifoliata
    • Family: Rutaceae
    • Other Common Names: Common hoptree, wafer ash, stinking ash
    • Native to: North and Central America
    • USDA Zones: 4-9
    • Height: 5-20' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    Continue to 8 of 14 below.
  • 08 of 14

    Japanese Maple

    Japanese maple
    Ketkarn sakultap/Getty Images

    Japanese maples do prefer to have at least some shade usually to protect their foliage, though colors may start to fade and fall color could be less spectacular if they get too much shade. There are thousands of different cultivars available in a variety of colors and leaf shapes.

    • Latin Name: Acer palmatum
    • Family: Sapindaceae
    • Other Common Names: Smooth Japanese maple
    • Native to: China, Japan, and Korea
    • USDA Zones: 5-9, varies by cultivar
    • Height: Usually 15-25' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full...MORE shade

    Growing profile for the Japanese maple

    Trees for Japanese Gardens

    Continue to 9 of 14 below.
  • 09 of 14

    Japanese Yew

    Cones on a Japanese yew
    Image by Tatters under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

    The Japanese yew is another shade-tolerant evergreen tree. In fact, it is one of the best evergreens for this situation. 

    • Latin Name: Taxus cuspidata
    • Family: Taxaceae
    • Other Common Names: Spreading yew
    • Native to: China, Japan, Korea and Russia
    • USDA Zones: 4-7
    • Height: 4-40' tall depending on variety
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade

    Growing profile for the Japanese yew

    Continue to 10 of 14 below.
  • 10 of 14

    Pagoda Dogwood

    Pagoda Dogwood
    rockerBOO/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    Flowering will be better if you can find a site with more sun, but the pagoda dogwood is one possibility for your full shade spot. 

    • Latin Name: Cornus alternifolia
    • Family: Cornaceae
    • Other Common Names: Green osier, alternate leaf dogwood, alternate-leaved dogwood
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 4-7
    • Height: 15-35' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • More about dogwood trees, shrubs and subshrubs
    Continue to 11 of 14 below.
  • 11 of 14


    Pawpaw tree
    Renata Oliva / EyeEm/ Getty Images

    You are likely to get a lesser fruit crop from your pawpaw tree if it is planted in full shade, but it will still grow.

    • Latin Name: Asimina triloba
    • Family: Annonaceae
    • Other Common Names: Indiana banana, paw paw, poor man's banana, prairie banana, American pawpaw, papaw, paw-paw, Indian banana, Hoosier banana and common pawpaw
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 6-9
    • Height: 15-30' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Growing profile for the pawpaw
    Continue to 12 of 14 below.
  • 12 of 14

    Sugar Maple

    Sugar maple leaves in spring
    Image by treegrow under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

    The sugar maple is a useful tree to have in your garden. You can experiment with making maple syrup each spring. In the fall, the tree will provide a gorgeous foliage color change display.

    • Latin Name: Acer saccharum
    • Family: Sapindaceae
    • Other Common Names: Rock maple and hard maple
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 3-8
    • Height: 50-80' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade
    • Growing profile for the sugar maple
    Continue to 13 of 14 below.
  • 13 of 14

    Windmill Palm

    Windmill Palm
    Mike Jack/flickr/CC By 2.0

    The windmill palm is a great way to add a tropical feel to your garden since it is able to handle cooler temperatures than many other warm climate staples like other palm trees, banana trees, etc.

    • Latin Name: Trachycarpus fortunei
    • Family: Arecaceae
    • Other Common Names: Chusan palm, hemp palm, Chinese windmill palm and the Nepalese fan palm
    • Native to: Burma, China, and India
    • USDA Zones: 7B-11
    • Height: 10-40' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade

    Growing profile for the windmill palm

    Continue to 14 of 14 below.
  • 14 of 14

    More Trees and Shrubs for Your Different Situations

    Trees and shrubs
    AlpamayoPhoto/Getty Images

    You arrived here to find out about trees that do well in shade, but are there other types that you need in your yard? Here are some recommendations for specific situations: