10 Trees with Big Leaves to Add Shade to Your Yard

Leaves of the bigleaf magnolia against the bright blue sky

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Leaves are usually the first thing we think about when we think of trees. On some trees, they paint dazzling displays of color in the fall, and on others stay green to give us a splash of color throughout the greyest days of the year. Leaves come in all shapes and sizes but can truly amaze when they are exceptionally large. While most plants with extremely large leaves are palms from tropical locations or plants that reside in the shade, several trees grow quite well in the climates found in North America. Adding a tree with large leaves can be a fantastic way to create shade or impact by adding a specimen tree that stands out while establishing texture in an otherwise seemingly flat space.

Here are 10 trees with large leaves to add to your yard.

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Leaves of the sugar mape

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The large leaves of the sugar maple may not be the biggest ones found on this list, but they provide the biggest burst of color. This deciduous tree makes an excellent addition to the landscape if a large shade tree or specimen is called for. While great for areas with heavy shade, it will not do well in heavily congested locations as it does not tolerate urban pollution very well. Also, sugar maples make poor street trees compared to some of the other large-leafed trees on this list, as they cannot tolerate road salt. 

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 3-8 
  • Flower: Insignificant
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Moist, Well Draining

London Planetree (Platanus × acerifolia) 

Leaves of the London plane tree

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London planetrees are just one of the trees on this list that have wonderful huge leaves that create beautiful shade, which is perfect for lining streets. This hybrid between two sycamore species, Platanus orientalis and Platanus occidentalis, is extremely tolerant to urban pollution and road salt and, unlike one of its constituent species, is much tidier. Most often recognized for their peeling silver bark, the lovely green hues that the foliage creates cannot be overlooked, especially when it provides much-needed shade against scorching urban streets. 

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 5-9
  • Flower: Red (Female), Yellow (Male)
  • Light: Full, Partial
  • Soil: Sandy, Loamy

Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Leaves of a sycamore tree

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Like the London plane, the sycamore is most recognized for its beautiful spotted exfoliating bark. But look up, and these amazingly resilient trees will greet you with huge green leaves that create a canopy of shade to cool even the warmest summer days. Whether used as a street tree, a lone shade tree in a garden, or planted in a group, sycamores will present you with an attractive option to improve your landscape. One positive that comes with the species is the growth rate, which can be up to four feet per year, giving you a large tree in relatively little time.

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 4-9 
  • Flower: Insignificant
  • Light: Full, Partial
  • Soil: Moist, Well Draining

Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) 

Leaves and flowers of the bigleaf magnolia

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With the largest leaves of any tree native to North America, the bigleaf magnolia is a no-brainer to make this list. Its leaves, normally 24 inches long, can measure up to an astounding 30 inches long! This amazing species, native to the balmy southeastern United States, is rarely found in the wild and relies on its prestige as a wonderful ornamental addition to landscapes to ensure it does not completely disappear. As a tree, it is perfectly suited to provide an impactful visual presence with its huge leaves and beautiful fragrant white blooms. 

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 5-8
  • Flower: White
  • Light: Partial Shade
  • Soil: Loamy, Moist, Well Drained

Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)

Leaves of the the fiddle leaf fig

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Most often known in the United States as a finicky houseplant, the fiddle leaf fig does grow well outdoors in some subtropical locations. Placed in the shade, the small tree presents multiple trunks that grow to about 20 feet with large leaves of dark green. The tree is an excellent addition to Asian gardens and shade gardens and as a backdrop to provide a canvas to add contrasting colors. 

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 10-12
  • Flower: Rarely Flowers Outside Native Range
  • Light: Partial Shade
  • Soil: Loamy Well Draining

Australian Banyan (Ficus Macrophylla)

Leaves and fruit of the Australian banyan

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Another tree from the fig family, the Australian banyan, is usually noted for its amazing root structure. These beautiful roots are often known to strangle or choke competing flora, but the species' lovely large dark green leaves are no less impressive. A native to subtropical locations in Asia, the Australian banyan does not grow well in most areas in the continental United States. Still, it will thrive in areas in California and Florida. When used as a landscape tree, the species makes a wonderful addition to moist, shaded gardens away from pathways where the roots would disturb stone, brick, or cement work.

  • Hardiness Zone:  USDA 9-11
  • Flower: Rarely Flowers Outside Native Range
  • Light: Partial Shade
  • Soil: Sandy, Loamy

Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Leaves of the Bur Oak

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The Bur oak has the largest leaves of all the oaks, which helps create an amazing verdant showpiece poised by itself in a landscape. Stately on their own, oaks make terrific specimen trees, but the majesty of the Bur oak's large leaves will truly captivate and produce a sense of scale in larger spaces. In a garden, the tree canopy can bring out areas of shade that allow plantings to thrive in the shade while it receives the full sun they need. 

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 3-8 
  • Flower: Insignificant
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Sandy, Silt, Loamy

Oregon Maple  (Acer macrophyllum)

Leaves of the Oregon Maple

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The Oregon maple, or bigleaf maple, the largest North American Maple, is, as the latter name suggests, the maple species with the largest leaves. It is uncommon to find the species growing further than a few hundred miles from the Pacific Coast, where it makes its home in moist sites at the base of western mountain ranges. This large tree makes an excellent shade or specimen tree or can be the focus in the middle of a shade garden.   

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 6-7
  • Flower: Insignificant
  • Light: Full sun to Part Shade
  • Soil: Moist, Well Drained

Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)

Leaves of the Northern Catalpa

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The Northern catalpa is a large deciduous tree native to North America. The tree is mostly known for its astoundingly beautiful blooms and odd long bean-like seed pods that can grow over a foot. What makes this tree so beautiful when not flowering or producing seed pods is the gorgeous heart-shaped leaves that often reach a foot long. The foliage impresses throughout the summer, creating welcoming shade but turning an uninteresting dull yellow as autumn comes around. The Northern catalpa makes for a fantastic flowering specimen tree that will stop people in their tracks when it is in bloom and beckon them to relax in its shade on a hot summer day.

  • Hardiness Zone: USDA 4-8
  • Flower: White
  • Light: Full, Partial Shade
  • Soil: Moist, Well Drained

Royal Paulownia  (Paulownia tomentosa)

Leaves of the Royal Paulownia

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Very reminiscent of the Northern Catalpa, the Royal Paulownia is another large flowering deciduous tree with large leaves. However, this species is not native and considered invasive in some areas. Because of its invasive status, it should be considered carefully before use in a landscape, but its aesthetic uses are many without the catalpa’s sometimes messy seed pods. The leaves on the Royal Paulownia create as much of an ah factor as those of the catalpa and, at times, get even larger, but its invasiveness cannot be overlooked.

  • Hardiness Zone:  USDA 5-8
  • Flower: Lavender 
  • Light: Full sun
  • Soil: Adaptable