Shade Tree questions

I'm looking to get a new tree for our backyard to provide a bit more shade throughout the summer. I did some searches around and on this site, got some ideas, but would still look for some more specific suggestions/facts/ideas from those on here if you don't mind :)

I live in Oakville (just West of Toronto , Canada). I have 3 primary goals I need to reach with the tree:

Main Goals

  1. Shade for the backyard, (I guess at least 40 ft, preferably 50+)

  2. Privacy between neighbour to the back and our raised deck. I'm not trying to get shade on the deck, I just want a partial barrier between neighbours and myself, so we can sit on our deck and they on their patio and we're not staring at each other :)

  3. Fast/moderate growth speed. I understand it'll take a few years to get large, I just don't want it taking "too" long ;)

Secondary Goals (aka "Nice to have")

Additional things I'd "like" to keep in mind, or at least be aware of:

  1. Prefer a tree with not too many diseases it is prone to .

  2. Fewer typical pests/etc. Our area seems to have things such as: Asian long horned beetles, Japanese beetles, Ash borers in the area .. that I know of :) I'd rather not deal with those if I can avoid it. I would like to minimize attraction of squirrels, mice, rabbits, chipmunks, etc. : rodents in general .. most birds we're ok with (we have Cardinals, Orioles, Blue Jays and Woodpeckers to name a few) Would also like to avoid caterpillars if possible .. :) (I know this one's tough - not sure which trees are more prone to them.)

  3. Lower maintenance - I'm not against raking, however, if a tree is dropping excessive sap, needles (i.e. pines), nuts, etc., whatever, which makes ongoing maintenance a nuisance ... I might shy away from it :)

Backyard Details

So some more details:

Our backyard is on south side of our house, so facing on our deck south towards the neighbours, we have more neighbours to our right(west) which are already obscured by trees/shrubbery and grants us evening shade. We have a dense thicket of Sumac to our left (east) granting morning shade and privacy from the walkway.

The fence/property line is probably about ~50 ft from our house. Not huge backyards, but not tiny. I don't think we want too huge a tree, or it'll start impacting neighbours in the future.

We have a small 8x10 shed in the SW corner, some cedars lining the East fenceline, and various gardens which aren't all that "set" at the moment :)

We have encountered some minor pockets of flooding/pooling during a heavy rain which we are still building up and working on .. regardless, it doesn't seem to stay long. So during a heavy rain, pooling water, but a few hours after the rain, it'll be gone. Our soil seems to be mostly a reddish clay ... not a really good/rich soil .. just a thin surface soil, then this hard red clay.

My Research

I did some more research and found the following on some trees, I'm hoping anyone with more knowledge of these guys could provide additional information or links that might help me in my decision :)

Red Maple: 50+ ft height, fast growing, adaptable and hardy tree somewhat drought and flood tolerant. Prone to Asian long horned beetles. I only mention the beetles, at the moment, I think this may be our top choice. I think we can handle the beetles :) (I hope).

Katsura: 100+ ft height, fast, likes moist soil, sensitive to droughts. It's definitely moist in our backyard, mostly due to pooling water mentioned .. however, we're not really a drought prone area, so this guy might be an option, although perhaps a bit tall in the future)

American Linden (aka Basswood): 100 ft, fast, seeds attract chipmunks, mice, squirrels :( ... bark eaten by rabbits/voles :( (we have LOTS of squirrels and rabbits - I'm not eager to attract more of them .. lol ) Prone to Japanese beetles. Nice looking tree, however, after reading up on things, it seems alot of things we don't like, seem to like the Linden .. O.o I'll probably shy away from this one ...

Large leaved Linden: 100 ft, moderate Not sure if it's less prone to fungus and pests the American Linden seems to have ...

Silver Linden: 100 ft, very tolerant to pollution, soil compaction, drought, etc. drops buds/pollen during spring/fall - might require ground cleanup ? O.o It seems this one's a "messy tree", they don't suggest it for near sidewalks due to the cleanup required .. :)

Hickory: ?? I didn't get much info on this one - seems too many varieties .. would any of these be a possibility for me here ?

Beech: ?? prone to beech blight aphids ?

Oak: ?? not immediately fond of dealing with the acorns/squirrels :) I couldn't find immediate specs on the height and such .. and again, I'm not writing it off just due to the squirrels, yet :) This might actually be my 2nd option behind the maple, in fact.

So I tried to get all my thoughts done and all relevant information .. hoping to get some ideas, suggestions, etc ? Are there other trees might be better suited to my purposes I haven't listed ?

Worked on a sketch .. let's try adding it :) enter image description here

2 Answers 2


My vote is Katsura! Don't worry, they rarely get that big in a residential landscape. Gorgeous bark, branching pattern, spectacular in Fall for color. What about privacy during winter? Are you set on deciduous? If I were you I'd look into a conifer for privacy. The Virescens Cedar; Thuya plicata 'Virescens'. I'd get at least 3 and stagger them in a natural setting versus a straight line. They have a tight, dense and narrowish form. You can purchase them 8 or 10' high pretty inexpensively. Growth is pretty fast but not so fast as to be worrisome in a wind storm. I'm just guessing a bit here as to the amount of room you have. You did a great job with your question!! It would be nice to see a sketch of what you are working with...I am assuming you've got a lawn?

I like to see more people make use of Serviceberry. Amelanchier alnifolia or other specie. Using the dark green for a backdrop these smaller trees are great to use in a lawn and around patios. They only get 20-30' high and as wide. Much better scale to use near a home! First tree to blossom in spring, small leaves that don't need much cleanup, lots of berries both the birds and you will love (jams)...(the birds will clean them up way before they could make a mess)!! Open, airy form with light gray smooth bark. Won't shade out your grass like the other trees you mentioned. Breath-taking neon reds and purples for fall color.

I like to make a 'grove' of these using 3 to 5. Get rid of some of that lawn and Install crushed fine gravel beneath and you have an inexpensive informal patio. I look for the multi-stemmed trees for a grove but you could also use single stem Serviceberry the grandifolia or laevis species. Serviceberry is one of the rare 4-seasons of beauty trees available. And disease/pests are fairly nonexistent! Even just one of these trees would work, just don't succumb to using more than one kind of tree, especially for the landscape around the home. This is just another idea.

If you could send a quick sketch, mark some dimensions, doesn't have to be fancy or even to scale. If you still want just a deciduous tree, another to look into would be Honey Locust. Sunburst is a pretty variety of a bright yellowish green. The botanical name is important to know so that you don't get the Honey Locust WITH thorns!! Gleditsia inermis moraine 'Sunburst' (inermis means without thorns). Forget worrying about raking leaves! The leaves are divided into teensy little leaflets that disappear in your lawn. Very light shade so works well as a lawn tree. No fall color or showy blossoms but very hardy, little bothered with disease and insects and they DO grow fast.

If shading out your lawn is no problem, you couldn't possibly go wrong with Katsura!!

All these trees will love clay soil just fine, in fact the balled and burlaped trees are grown in heavy clay. Please remove the burlap from the root ball, carefully but completely. The burlap they use is chemically treated so to inhibit root growth at the nursery and to not break down easily. Make sure to dig only as deep as that rootball. You want the rootball sitting on undisturbed soil so that it doesn't sink into the ground and the bark gets covered with soil/mulch which will cause bacteria to girdle the vascular system. Also, I wouldn't stake any tree other than bareroot trees. Fall is the best time to get trees, great deals and without any leaves they are not in any danger of being blown over. The big heavy root ball should anchor even the conifers I talked about! Remove all ties and tags, too. An unstaked tree grows faster, provides supporting roots and its trunk gets bigger and stronger. Staking a tree is akin to a cast on your arm. Makes trees weak. Then when stakes are removed the tree WILL be blown over. Trees need MOVEMENT to put down support roots and build a strong trunk.

Whatever tree you get, plan on regularly watering for a few years. This is probably more than you needed...I love it when homeowners can be successful with plants and trees.

Great sketch! Says tons! I am not going to try to sell you anything...!! But an informal extension of your lower patio would be a huge boon to your landscape and its usability. It would provide a 'transition' from the home(formal) to a softer informal landscape. I'd probably add a firepit or brazier. In addition, a CMU garden wall for seating/defining/home value improvement. CMU is concrete modular units...they are doing some incredible things with these 'legos' for the garden. Look up Pisa, Roman Ashlar pattern in dove grey with about 20% darker grey. Make the wall 15-18" high and add a concrete cap in very light dove grey. Definitely 3/8 minus crushed gravel for the surface extension of your patio (use landscape fabric beneath 4" of gravel)...edge between lawn and gravel use pt 2X4's. Imagine sitting in adirondack chairs surrounded by walls of twisted limbs while blossoms cascade from a canopy (roof) 10-12' above. Nuff said, grins! Maple is fine, a bit more disease/insect prone...more work with raking (get a gas-powered blower, you'll not know how you survived before). It would be good to create a definite 'shape' to your lawn and allow your plant beds to be larger, wider. You have an image in your mind of what you want! I'd work with that and show you a few other ideas for you to chew upon. I'm a Landscape Architect and get a bit excited showing people a few tantalizing images of what clients normally are unable to envision. The maple will shade your lawn quite a bit but will probably work just fine. You are doing great research first before planting! Most just wander around a nursery and BUY something to bring home to plant. Your work will pay off!

  • Added a sketch: and yeah, not worried about privacy in winter, so not looking for an evergreen :) got enough of those ... ;) Considered serviceberry, I don't think it'll be tall enough to help block us while on the deck (it's about 10-15 ft up). I'll look more into the Katsure and that Honey Locust. :) Thank-you!
    – Ditto
    Jul 14, 2015 at 1:56
  • 1
    You may be underestimating Serviceberry's size. The tops of the ones next to my house are level with the second story windowsills and from what I can see they're not done growing up.
    – GardenerJ
    Jul 14, 2015 at 3:17
  • Chatted with .. "the wife" last night O.o Not sure Serviceberry nor Katsura will work, all the pics we've seen seem to show them (typically) as a multi-trunk "shrub". She's definitely leaning towards the maples still - which is fine .. nice solid tree. :) She also seems to prefer the larger leaves, so Honey Locust got the boot :( (she's a picky one ;) lol ). Anyway, what's the deal with those Katsuras ? I see some looking like a "tree", others like a "shrub" .. different varieties ?
    – Ditto
    Jul 14, 2015 at 13:31
  • I remember them being almost pyramidal in form, sure there might be multi-stemmed plants but...Serviceberry is classes as a large shrub/small tree. Grows fast and a bit of pruning, patience it turns into a Sunset Magazine specimen tree. A grove of these is mind-boggling. Maples do have a few more problems with disease/insects and leaves have to be removed from lawn. Most have wonderful fall color. Imagine sitting on a crunchy floor with walls of twisted limbs and a roof/canopy of blossoms raining down all around...I'll go look at Katsuras on the internet. I am familiar just in-person...
    – stormy
    Jul 15, 2015 at 0:06
  • GardenerJ...Really? Did you plant them? How old do you think they are? That height wouldn't bother me for what I've used these trees for...what do you think of your mature Serviceberries?
    – stormy
    Jul 15, 2015 at 0:10

Avoid Linden trees...they are very messy, drop leaves, fuzzy balls, sap. Worst tree ever. I have one at the front of my house, it is huge and has large surface roots that spread everywhere.

I have a Corkscrew Willow in my backyard that has grown 30 ft in 8 yrs. It is a beautiful and unusual tree. Nice shade in summer then has wavy branches for winter interest.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.