Advice on Cultivating Shade Trees and Evergreens

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Landscape & Gardening

For long-lasting elegance, consider planting shade trees and evergreens
on your property.

In landscaping, large trees like shade trees and evergreens are crucial elements that can complement any home, no matter how big. However, it’s important to plan carefully to avoid overwhelming your house, especially if it’s small. Large trees can add value to your property over time. During winter, big trees stand out amid a landscape of brown, white, and gray, making them look even more elegant and impressive. But aside from their aesthetic appeal, large trees can also help lower your energy bills. Planting shade-casting trees to the south or west of your house can keep it cooler by up to 10 degrees in the summer. When selecting trees for your yard, choose pest or disease-resistant species or varieties that are well-suited for your site. Younger and smaller trees are also easier to handle and transplant more easily than larger ones, making them a more practical choice. Fast-growing trees can also provide shade quickly, while slower-growing trees are more durable and can withstand wind and ice storms. Combining both types of trees can provide the best of both worlds.

If you want to add some greenery to your yard quickly, consider planting fast-growing trees. While these trees may not be as strong or long-lasting as slower-growing options, they offer a great way to get green foliage in a hurry. Evergreens are best planted in the spring or early summer, with a cut-off date of mid-August. This gives them enough time to establish a strong root system and develop internal moisture before winter sets in. When selecting shade trees for your yard, consider adding some with bold fall colors to add an exciting pop of color at the end of the growing season. As fall approaches, the trees will break down their chlorophyll, revealing the underlying coloration of the leaves. If you’re not sure which trees to choose, consult a gardening expert or try some of the links provided for more helpful hints.

Some of the best trees to choose for their beautiful autumn colors include maples, birches, sourwood, ginkgo, tulip tree, red oak, linden, and white ash trees like Autumn Applause. These trees shine when it’s cool at night and sunny during the day.

Additionally, here are some other tips for selecting shade trees and evergreens:

  • Plant a willow tree with twisted branches and curling leaves, like Golden Curls or Scarlet Curls, to enjoy a tree that doubles as a sculpture and makes an interesting focal point in small spaces.
  • In narrow areas, like courtyard gardens, consider adding an upright accent with extra-slim trees such as Columnaris European hornbeam, Dawyck European beech, Princeton Sentry ginkgo, and Columnaris Swiss stone pine.
  • Add some spice to your landscape by growing trees with uniquely colored foliage, such as red-leaved Japanese maples, golden-leaved box elders and tulip trees, or purple-leaved Norway maples and beech trees.
  • Some trees with colorful foliage are available at garden centers and nurseries, while others can be found at specialty nurseries.

On the next page, learn about planting evergreens and shade trees.

Looking for more gardening tips? Check out these links:

  • Gardening Tips: Get helpful hints for all your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Learn how to garden.

Planting Evergreens and Shade Trees

When planting new evergreens and shade trees, dig a wide, shallow hole that’s at least twice the width of the root ball. In the past, gardeners were advised to dig holes of various shapes and sizes, but new findings on how tree roots grow suggest that a wide hole is best. Many trees concentrate their feeding roots in the top foot of soil, so a wide hole allows for an open, surface-hugging expanse for early growth and helps young trees establish more quickly. There’s no need to amend the soil; trees thrive best when established in native soil.

Plant evergreens and shade trees in a wide, shallow hole.

beauty and enjoyment if you take good care of them. Here are some tips to ensure they stay healthy:

  • Water regularly. Newly planted trees need to be watered deeply once a week during dry spells. Established trees need about an inch of water every week, either from rainfall or irrigation. Water the tree at the drip line (the area beneath the outermost branches) to ensure moisture reaches the roots.
  • Fertilize appropriately. Most trees benefit from a slow-release fertilizer applied in the spring. Follow the instructions on the package carefully, and avoid over-fertilizing as this can damage the tree.
  • Prune as needed. Remove any dead, diseased, or damaged branches as soon as possible. Prune in late winter or early spring before the tree starts to bud.
  • Protect from pests. Regularly inspect your trees for signs of insect or disease damage. If you notice any problems, contact a professional arborist for advice on treatment.
  • Watch for signs of stress. Trees can experience stress from a variety of factors, including drought, pests, or poor soil conditions. Look for signs such as wilting, yellowing leaves, or stunted growth, and take action to address the underlying issue.

By following these simple tips, you can help your trees thrive and enjoy their beauty for years to come.

Maintaining healthy trees can bring joy with minimal effort. To ensure a healthy tree, follow these tips:

  • When planting a young tree, water it directly on the planting site and make a shallow saucer of soil below the leafy canopy to avoid water runoff. Once the tree has established enough new roots to grow vigorously, water it just outside the perimeter of the tree canopy with soaker hoses to encourage root growth.
  • Mulching the tree with bark mulch, wood chips, or compost from the drip line to 4 inches from the trunk helps keep the planting site moist and eliminates weeds. However, avoid excessively thick layers of mulch, which can limit soil aeration and cause root smothering. Shallow-rooted trees can grow thick root mats in the mulch, leading to root girdling and excessive drying in summer.
  • To prevent summer spider mite attacks on evergreens, spray the plants with a hose every day during hot, dry weather to dislodge the mites and discourage their multiplication.

Learn how to safeguard your trees from harsh winter weather below.

For more gardening tips, check out these links:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn helpful hints for all your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.

Preparing Evergreens and Shade Trees for Winter

To prepare evergreens and fragile shade trees for winter, follow these tips:

Thin-barked trees can split in winter; protect them by wrapping the trunk.

Wrap the trunks of thin-barked trees, such as fruit trees, during winter to prevent bark from splitting and to deter rabbits and rodents from chewing on them. Plastic tree guards can also be used for extra protection against accidental damage from mowers. However, it is important to remove the tree wrap in the spring to avoid it becoming too tight on the swelling trunk or creating a hiding place for pests.

To prepare evergreen trees for dry winter weather, water them more frequently in the fall, particularly if there has been limited rainfall. Applying an antitranspirant coating to the leaves can also help to limit evaporation from the foliage.

When planting evergreens in cold climates, avoid placing salt-susceptible species near the street where salt used for snow and ice control can splash onto the needles and soil, causing the tree to brown out and eventually fail. Instead, opt for trees that can withstand salt spray, such as sycamore maple, shadblow, Austrian black pine, Japanese black pine, red mulberry, and sour gum.

With careful selection and proper care, the shade trees and evergreens planted today can enhance your home and neighborhood for many years to come. For more gardening tips, check out our links on gardening, annuals, perennials, and helpful hints.


1. What are some of the best shade trees for growing in my yard?

Some of the best shade trees to plant in your yard include oak trees, maple trees, and birch trees. These trees are known for their strong, sturdy trunks and large, sprawling canopies that provide ample shade for your yard. Additionally, they are relatively low-maintenance and can be grown in a variety of soil types and climates.

2. How do I properly plant a shade tree in my yard?

To properly plant a shade tree in your yard, you should first choose a location that receives plenty of sunlight and has well-draining soil. Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the tree’s root ball and the same depth as the root ball. Place the tree in the hole and fill it in with soil, making sure to water it thoroughly.

3. What are some tips for caring for my shade trees?

Some tips for caring for your shade trees include watering them regularly, fertilizing them once a year, pruning any dead or diseased branches, and mulching around the base of the tree to help retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing.

4. What are some good evergreen trees to plant in my yard?

Some good evergreen trees to plant in your yard include pine trees, spruce trees, and cedar trees. These trees are known for their year-round green foliage and are a popular choice for landscaping and privacy screens.

5. How do I properly plant an evergreen tree in my yard?

To properly plant an evergreen tree in your yard, you should follow the same steps as planting a shade tree. However, it is important to note that evergreen trees prefer slightly acidic soil, so you may need to amend your soil if it is too alkaline.

6. What are some tips for caring for my evergreen trees?

Some tips for caring for your evergreen trees include watering them regularly, fertilizing them once a year, pruning any dead or diseased branches, and protecting them from strong winds and heavy snowfall.

7. Can I plant shade trees and evergreens together in my yard?

Yes, you can plant shade trees and evergreens together in your yard. However, it is important to choose trees that have similar soil and light requirements to ensure that they both thrive.

8. How long does it take for shade trees and evergreens to reach maturity?

The time it takes for shade trees and evergreens to reach maturity varies depending on the species and growing conditions. Generally, shade trees can take anywhere from 10 to 30 years to reach maturity, while evergreens can take anywhere from 5 to 20 years.

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