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Permanent greening of shady locations is always associated with the difficulty of finding suitable plants. Trees are no exception, because very few trees and shrubs really like permanent shade. Although many of them are more shade-tolerant when young, the trees then strive towards the light with increasing age. However, there are some species or varieties of trees that can be described as shade tolerant.

shadow areas

No plant is permanently suitable for dark places. Even trees absolutely need one or the other light moment during the day. It doesn't matter whether the light hits the trees at regular or irregular intervals. Not every shaded area is the same. That's why it's important to do some research on the space before deciding on a tree.


If a bed or an area in the garden is in the sun for at least four hours during the day and the rest of it in the shade, it is called penumbra. Except for the special sun worshipers, almost all tree species grow here without any problems and you are spoiled for choice.

garden area

light shadow

Places under translucent trees and other elements that let stray light through, or a constant alternation between times of light and shade are referred to as light shade. The lighting conditions here are similar to those in the penumbra, just not separated according to the time of day. If shrubs are to be planted under tall, shallow-rooted trees, the shade is usually not the problem. Most of the time, competition from roots and the nutrient-poor, possibly dry soil bother them.

full shade

Fully shaded areas are somewhat problematic for permanent greening. Fortunately, they are very rare in the home garden. They are usually found under dense conifers or in small courtyards inside very tall buildings. In the latter case, however, the plants still receive a little light from above, so that it is not as pitch black as in a dense coniferous forest.

home garden

Shrubs and trees give a garden structure and inspire with their shape, foliage or even flowers. However, the trees need to be selected very carefully so that they remain a beautiful eye-catcher and do not become the dominant element in a short time. Therefore, mainly small trees or shrubs are suitable for home gardens. Many front gardens also have the unfavorable feature that they are on the north side of the house and therefore in shady areas. A rather unfavorable place in the garden for plants. Sometimes it is desired that there is also a certain privacy screen, especially from the view from above. When planting, be sure to keep the necessary distances from the house and water and sewage pipes.

Flowering garden area

courtyard garden

In the inner-city area there are a large number of backyards in which no large trees can be planted because it is already quite dark. Most of the smaller tree species need a lot of sun and are therefore not suitable for courtyard gardens with little light. Nevertheless, the residents do not have to do without a beautiful tree in the yard. There is also a whole range of trees and shrubs that are more shade-tolerant than others.

tree species

Tree species for shade

With the so-called shade tree species, a fraction of the sunlight is sufficient for them to grow healthily and thrive. Therefore, in contrast to the light tree species, planting in the shaded areas of houses and walls as well as under larger trees is also possible. Beech, linden, yew and various types of maple belong to the distinct shade wood species that occur in our forests. However, these trees reach an enormous growth height and are therefore not suitable for the home garden in their original form. However, there are also varieties or cultivated forms that remain smaller.

spherical crowns

Trees with spherical crowns

A particularly decorative design element for the front garden are trees with small spherical crowns and standard trees. Most front yard owners have to make do with little space. Nevertheless, you do not have to do without a beautiful tree with a spherical crown. The latest generation of these small trees is very easy to care for, as the crowns do not require regular pruning and remain in good shape without any complex care measures. The following varieties are suitable for the shady north side.

Globe maple (Acer platanoides 'Globosum')

This tree species is one of the most interesting tree species for the little sun-drenched front yard. The spherical maple is a popular nesting place for birds and naturally develops a spherical, very dense crown that widens slightly with age. If the tree is to be kept slender, pruning in early winter is recommended.

  • partial shade to light shade
  • Growth height: 3-4.5 m
  • yellowish flowers in spring
  • intensive yellow coloring of the leaves in autumn
  • deciduous
Norway maple, Acer platanoides

Ball trumpet tree (Catalpa bignonioides 'Nana')

The ball trumpet tree forms a very dense crown of large leaves resembling elephant ears. The tree grows very slowly and is not particularly tall, making it suitable for even the smallest of front gardens. Young trees can still be somewhat sensitive to frost. With increasing age, the ball trumpet tree becomes more and more frost-resistant. Cuts are possible, but not common.

  • partial shade to light shade
  • Growth height: 2-3 m
  • normal garden soil, permeable and rich in nutrients
  • Autumn color of the leaves: yellow
  • deciduous
Trumpet Tree, Catalpa

Flowering trees

Flowering trees for the shade area

Some shrubs are not only more shade-tolerant than others, but also produce attractive flowers. However, these trees bloom less the darker their location. So if you are looking for a flowering tree for a place on the north side of the house, you are on the safe side with the following trees:

Amelanchier pear

The different species of pear grow naturally as small trees or larger shrubs. Although the pear thrives best in the sun or semi-shade, a more shady location does not bother the robust plant. However, this should not be too moist, otherwise the pear will be susceptible to powdery mildew.

  • Growth height: 2-3 m
  • Growth rate: around 30 cm per year
  • Flower: white (April)
  • Soil: loose and not too moist
  • beautiful autumn colors in orange tones
  • Location: sunny to shady
Serviceberry, Amelanchier lamarckii

Honeysuckle (Lonicera ledebourii)

The Californian honeysuckle is a true all-rounder among the trees. It tolerates dryness as well as wetness, the sun as well as the shade. But that's not all: It is frost hardy, flowers profusely and is also wind resistant. There are variants that grow as irregular shrubs, standard trees or sparsely branched, tree-like varieties.

  • Growth height: mostly 2-3 m
  • Flowers: bright yellow or red in June/July
  • almost all garden soils
  • Location: sunny to shady
Winter scented honeysuckle, Lonicera x purpusii

Cornus (Cornus mas and Cornus sanguinea)

The cornelian cherry grows as a large shrub, usually with several branches, rarely as a small tree up to a height of between three and five meters. Its golden-yellow flowers, which appear on the tree in March or April before the leaves sprout, are particularly interesting. Their edible fruits are similar to cherries and dark red in color.

  • Growth height: 3-5 m
  • Flowers: golden yellow (March/April)
  • Fruits: cherry-like, edible
  • fresh clay and humus soils, likes lime
  • Location: sunny to shady
Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas

Magnolia (Magnolia)

Magnolias are among the oldest ornamental woods and are not only used in parks and avenues, but increasingly also in domestic gardens. The trees are much more shade-tolerant than other flowering tree species. From around the age of five, the trees form their flowers before the leaves sprout in spring. Magnolias grow very slowly, reaching between three and four meters in height when they are old. But there are also shrub-like varieties that hardly grow higher than two meters.

  • Tulip magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana): large pink flowers
  • Magnolia 'Black Tulip': A rarity from New Zealand with water lily-shaped, purple flowers
  • Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata): short, shrubby habit, star-shaped flowers
  • shallow roots
  • shade tolerant
  • needs enough space to develop well
Tulip magnolia, Magnolia soulangeana

Magnificent bell (Enkianthus campanulatus)

The glorious bell usually grows as a shrub, becoming tree-like in old age with side branches protruding in tiers. The bluish-green leaves turn reddish to yellow in autumn. The special feature of the magnificent bell lies in its reddish-white flowers, which hang down in umbels from the shoots. Since the tree feels at home in places with less light, you can plant it in a front yard on the north side of the house without hesitation.

  • Growth height: 2-3 m
  • Flowers: Reddish-white, lily-of-the-valley-like umbels in May/June
  • for acidic soils
  • Location: semi-shady to shady
Bell-bell, Enkianthus campanulatus

Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata)

The hawthorn owes its name to the crimson, double blossoms that the small-crowned tree lets shine in May. Since the small tree or shrub tolerates heavy pruning, it is also suitable for smaller gardens and front gardens. It prefers partial shade, but also tolerates shade well. Uncut, the real hawthorn grows up to a height of six meters. It is also available as a standard with a slightly spreading crown.

  • Growth height: up to a maximum of 6 meters
  • well tolerated by cuts
  • also available as slow-growing standard trees
  • As deep-rooters, they require little space in the ground
  • can also be planted along paths or driveways
  • Location: partial shade to light shade
Hawthorn, Crataegus laevigata

Hawthorn (Crataegus)

This native large shrub or small tree can be recognized by its white flowers in May and berries in late summer. The hawthorn not only tolerates almost all soils, but also locations in the shade. The hawthorn usually grows as a multi-stemmed large shrub between three and five meters in height, but is very tolerant of pruning and, above all, extremely frost-resistant and wind-resistant.

  • Growth height: up to 5 m
  • white flowers in May and June
  • pretty tough
  • undemanding
  • likes neutral or calcareous soils (no strongly acidic soils)
  • orange autumn leaves
Hawthorn, Crataegus

Shade tolerant trees

Shade tolerant trees with distinctive leaf coloring

In addition to flowers, the shape or color of the leaves can also be a very special ornament on trees or large shrubs. The following ornamental foliage trees are also suitable for shady locations, for example on a north side of the house:

blood plum (Prunus blireana)

The blood plum does not develop any fruit after its beautiful, pink blossom in spring. The plant prefers a semi-shady location, but can also tolerate slightly shady areas. There, however, the willingness to bloom decreases somewhat. Depending on the variety, the blood plum grows as a broad or rather narrow shrub or even as a spherical standard, which, however, requires an occasional pruning.

  • Growth height: between 2 and 6 m depending on the variety
  • Flowers: pink in April to May
  • leaves: black-red to bronze-colored
  • Soil: rich in nutrients, permeable
  • Location: partial shade
Dwarf blood plum, Prunus cistena

Harlequin Willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki')

Especially as a standard, the harlequin willow with its white and colorful foliage is an attractive eye-catcher in the garden. Although the trees from East Asia only flower with inconspicuous catkins, their unusual foliage color almost gives the impression of a rich bloom.

  • Height of growth: 1.5 to 3 m depending on trunk height
  • must be trimmed regularly
  • Flowering: Catkins in March/April
  • white-green mottled, small-leaved foliage
Harlequin willow, Salix integra

Evergreen shrubs

A tree in the front yard can be an advantage or a disadvantage. That always depends on how much space is available and whether you prefer brightness in the house. Evergreen shrubs, especially in the front yard, offer good privacy protection from prying eyes. If you don't want to plant sprawling trees in front of a window, you can fall back on narrow columnar shapes, which are available from many tree species. There are also trees that keep their dead leaves on their branches until spring and therefore provide good privacy all year round.

Column yew (Taxus baccata)

In addition to its columnar, slender growth, the columnar yew has other advantages. It grows very slowly and its dark green needles remain on the wood all year round, so that it is a feast for the eyes in the front yard even in winter. The female form of the columnar yew forms fiery red, globular berries that are poisonous when eaten. If you have small children in the household, the male form without fruit set is more suitable.

  • dense, columnar growth
  • Growth height: 4-7 m
  • Soil: calcareous, nutritious and moist
  • Location: sunny to shady
  • evergreen
  • slow growing
  • also attractive in small groups
Yew hedge, yew, taxus

False cypress (Chamaecypraris lawsoniana)

The blue columnar cypress or the yellow cone cypress in particular exhibit columnar growth. With growth heights between three and six meters, they remain quite narrow at 1.0 to 1.75 meters. If the evergreen plants are not to grow too tall, it is best to cut back the upper vegetation zone early on.

  • Growth height: up to 6 m
  • nutrient-rich, moist soil
  • undemanding
  • evergreen
  • Location: sunny to shady
White cypress, Chamaecyparis thyoides

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

This low-growing beech species is well-known and popular, especially for hedges. But the native wild wood also does extremely well in a solitary position. What hardly anyone knows: the hornbeam or hornbeam tolerates shade not only when young, but also in old age. In addition, the tree offers excellent privacy protection, although it is not winter green. However, it retains its dried-up leaves until the spring breaks out. Only when the new buds open will the old foliage be shed. If the tree gets too big, it can simply be pruned (even radically) and it will reliably sprout again.

  • Growth height: up to 10 m
  • very cut compatible
  • nutrient-rich garden soil
  • sunny to shady
Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus

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