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Too hot to go outside?

The Best Shade Trees for Colorado!

By Chris Leinster - July 21, 2020

We’re midway into summer and the sun’s scorching heat has us mostly huddled up inside. Fortunately, Colorado’s dry air cools off nicely in the evenings, inviting us to relax or even dine outside. If your outdoor patio is seared by the sun during the day or evening, you probably need a tree to provide shade for your outdoor living spaces.

Trees with high canopies soak up the sun’s energy and provide cooling shade for your patio and even your home. Strategically placed trees can make it bearable to be outside even on the hottest days. Granted, it may take some time before you truly feel the effects from a newly planted tree, but if you’re in your home for the long haul, trees planted today will pay off within just a few short years. If you drive through a neighborhood that was built out during the middle of the past decade, you’ll likely be surprised at the maturity of the trees and the shade and privacy they are already offering. Check out the following list of some of our best shade trees for Colorado.

Maple Trees are prized for their fast growth rate, durability and disease resistance, and their explosive Fall color, generally red, orange, yellow, or a combination of the three. They are generally classified into categories of Red, Norway, or Sugar, among others, but for most purposes they are relatively interchangeable and mostly do well under most conditions. Silver Maples should be avoided due to their weak wood and rot susceptibility, but hybridized variants such as ‘Autumn Blaze’ are outstanding for our climate and are even seed-less! For smaller yards or tight spaces, Ginnala or Tartarian Maple offer diminutive variants of their colossal cousins.

Oak Trees are valued for their fast growth and hardiness. When you picture a tire swing hanging from a majestic tree by Grandma’s farm house, you are likely thinking of an Oak. Northern Red, Texas Red, or Scarlet Oak probably have the most refined branching habit and best fall color. Bur and Swamp White have a rather coarse appearance in winter, however they are rugged and adaptable to a wide variety of growing conditions. There are many varieties of Columnar Oak that are among our most slender trees for narrow spaces. All Oak have acorns, although it may take many years before trees produce them. Even then, not all Oak produce acorns every year. Still, it may be best to avoid planting over a patio or where cars park, as the nuts can pack a punch when dropped from 30’!

Linden Trees have become increasingly popular as common species such as Elm and Ash have succumbed to disease and insects. Linden are fairly clean trees with a graceful appearance. There are several varieties that are basically interchangeable and even experienced arborists have difficulty distinguishing among them at maturity. The flowers are a light green which aren’t particularly showy but they do produce an interesting two-toned effect over the canopy, as well as a pleasant honeysuckle scent.

Honeylocust Trees are among Colorado’s cleanest and fastest growing trees. The tiny leaves allow plenty of sunlight to reach the ground, keeping the area bright while providing cooling shade. The leaves also shrivel up and blow away in the fall, so there’s not much to rake up! Light penetrates upward too, so up-lighting your Honeylocust produces a glow high up into the canopy that reflects back down around the yard. These aren’t your grandparents Honeylocust that produced thorns and seed pods. Today’s hybridized versions are graceful and elegant, without either unwanted attribute. As with all newly planted trees, winter wrap the trunks to prevent sunscald.

Catalpa Trees are massive and tropical looking. They hardly look like they belong in Colorado with their lush, large leaves and prolific orchid-like flowers. Yet, they do quite well here, often recovering from drought and hail with renewed vigor. In early summer, clusters of white flowers cover the tree. Up close, the pitcher shaped bells have delightful purple-speckled throats that make splendid table ornaments. The down side are the large, long seed pods that resemble giant string beans and that clutter up the ground. This is no more of a nuisance than raking up leaves though, so don’t let that deter you if you appreciate the finer attributes that are only found on these striking specimens. The bean pods can be raked into the garden to be left as an attractive garden mulch, so don’t be afraid to add these splendid Catalpa to your landscape!

This is not an exhaustive list and many more shade and flowering trees can be found at For more details or information visit our website or call Happy Trees at (303) 903-3341 today!