7 Fast-Growing Shade Trees for USDA Zone 7 (Small & Large)

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » USDA Zone 7 » 7 Fast-Growing Shade Trees for USDA Zone 7 (Small & Large)

Trees are a beautiful addition to any property, but they have many practical uses in the landscape too.

One of the most useful types of tree in USDA hardiness zone 7 is the shade tree. It acts as a cool spot for you and your family during the hottest periods of the year, as well as keeping parts of your home cooler in summer and providing extra insulation in the winter.

Whether you have plenty of room or limited space on your property, there are large and small options for you.

Here are some excellent options for fast-growing shade trees in zone 7.

7 Shade Trees For Zone 7 Gardens

1. Northern Red Oak (Quercus Rubra) – Large

Northern Red Oak
Image by Andreas Rockstein via Flickr

Growing at a rate of at least 2 feet per year, the Northern Red Oak is a fast-growing and popular choice of shade tree in the US, due to its sophisticated good looks, straight growth habit, and rounded, even canopy. This native is also instrumental as a wildlife tree, providing food and shelter to birds and mammals in the area. Its acorns are especially valuable.

When it comes to landscaping, its ability to provide shade is the most obvious reason to buy a Northern Red Oak. But this oak species can also be planted as a street tree and along sidewalks and boulevards. Along with the pin oak, it is the most widely planted oak species in Eastern North America.

The Northern Red Oak isn’t too picky, but there are a few things you can do to help it along. If possible, provide it with rich, sandy, acidic, well-draining soil in a location with plenty of light.

Other Common Names: Red Oak, Champion Oak, American Red Oak

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 60-80 feet tall with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) – Large

Weeping Willow
Image by Ettore Balocchi via Flickr

Who wouldn’t want a romantic weeping willow decorating their property? Not only does this classic tree add ambiance to the landscape with its elegantly drooping branches, but its wide canopy provides plenty of protection from the summer heat. What’s more, it is one of the fastest-growing of all shade trees, adding an extra 8-10 feet to its height per year.

Outside of use as a shade tree, the weeping willow helps to prevent erosion – paired with its predilection for moist soil, it is at its best when planted near bodies of water to keep banks intact. Its weeping branches will look particularly beautiful grazing the surface of a pond or stream. It can also be used as a simple specimen plant or a privacy tree.

Just be aware of where you plant this tree – weeping willows need plenty of space and should be planted away from any underground pipes so their moisture-seeking roots don’t cause any issues.

Other Common Names: Babylon Willow

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Late Winter to Early Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) – Large

Dawn Redwood Tree
Image by F.D. Richards via Flickr

Want a living fossil overlooking your garden? Then the Dawn Redwood is the perfect tree for you. This impressive tree is a relative of the redwood and the bald cypress and was thought to be long extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1940s in Hubei, China. It is 50 million years old!

What’s more, this ancient tree is just as useful as many of its younger relatives. It grows quickly, at around 2 feet per year, and can reach enormous heights, with one even recorded at 200 feet tall. Its broad trunk, pyramidal shape, and dense feathery foliage make it an excellent shade tree, as well as a focal point for larger landscapes and even a tall privacy screen or property boundary.

Dawn Redwoods are somewhat fussy growers – they cannot tolerate dry soil, and pH levels need to be acidic in order for the tree to thrive.

Other Common Names: Metasequoia

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 50-90 feet tall, with a 15-25 foot spread

Flower Season: Early Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Amur Maple (Acer ginnala) – Small

Amur Maple tree

Image by F. D. Richards via Flickr

Get the classic beauty of a maple tree in a much smaller package with the Amur maple. This petite maple can be grown as both a large shrub and a small tree, and it has a naturally neat rounded form with dark green lobed leaves. However, it is most stunning in the fall when its foliage transforms into brilliant shades of orange and red.

Use the Amur maple as a small, dense shade, specimen, or patio tree. It can even be grown in containers! Plant it in moist, well-draining soil in a location with full sun or partial shade.

While the Amur maple is an excellent choice for a compact and fast-growing shade tree, US gardeners should know that this maple is considered invasive in some parts of the US. Make sure to check your state planting guidelines to see if this applies to your property.

Other Common Names: Siberian Maple

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 15-18 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Mid-Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

5. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) – Small

Eastern Redbud
Image by Scottb211 via Flickr

One of America’s greatest flowering natives is the Eastern Redbud. In the eyes of many US gardeners, the Redbud is a decorative tree, known for the clouds of vivid pink blooms that burst forth in spring. But what some don’t realize is that the Redbud is a very effective shade tree for smaller properties, with its fluttering heart-shaped summer leaves.

This small ornamental also offers visual interest at every other time of year, with its striking architectural growth habit and mild yellow fall color. Outside of a shade tree and specimen, it is used in landscaping as a living sculpture, street trees or along walkways, and even as a large hedge among several other practical uses.

In the right conditions, it will gain an extra two feet every year. Plant the Redbud in moist, well-draining soil in either full sun or partial shade. According to the Penn State Extension, it is adaptable and not fussy about pH levels.

Other Common Names: Eastern Redbud, American Judas Tree, American Redbud,

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet tall, with a 30-35 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) – Large

Northern Catalpa
Image by Wendy Cutler via Flickr

Next, we have a larger shade tree that is also a common sight growing wild in the northern US. This stunning native, the Northern Catalpa, is a somewhat narrow tree with an open, irregular crown and large heart-shaped leaves that cast the perfect amount of shade in the heat of summer.

The Northern Catalpa also exhibits abundant white spring flowers that look so similar to azaleas that they lend a touch of color and exoticism to their surroundings. Other than as an ornamental shade tree, the catalpa is also effective as a street tree, lawn tree, and to create a shelterbelt.

These trees are an excellent option for urban areas due to their tolerance to salt spray, urban pollution, drought, and poorly-draining soil. However, it grows best in moist, deep, well-draining soil. Be aware that catalpa wood becomes weaker and more brittle as it ages, which can cause considerable mess after storms.

Other Common Names: Catawba Tree,Cigar Tree, Western Catalpa, Hardy Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, with a 20-40 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Nature Hills

7. Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) – Small

Washington Hawthorn
Image by F. D Richards via Flickr

Of all Hawthorn trees, the Washington Hawthorn might be the most ornamental of the bunch. With its bright white flowers and dark green glossy leaves that turn different shades of red, orange, and purple in fall, it can add significant appeal to your property. Just be aware of its thorny branches!

Many gardeners don’t realize the potential of the Washington Hawthorn as a shade tree. While it is small, it has a naturally dense branching habit and foliage that lends it well to casting shade in summer. It is also a lovely wildlife tree, attracting pollinators and birds with its flowers and summer fruits, and can be grown in a row as a thick hedge.

According to the WSU Clark County Extension, this hawthorn will fare well in poor-quality soil, but it prefers to be planted in moist, well-draining soil with full sun exposure.

Other Common Names: Hawthorn, Thorn Apple, Thornapple

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 25-30 feet tall, with a 20-25 foot spread

Flowering Season: Late Spring to Early Summer

Available at: Nature Hills

Plant Fast-Growing Shade Trees For Your Summer Garden

Saving on your electricity bills could hardly be any easier with these fast-growing trees for zone 7. They may take some long-term investments, but many of these trees will be tall enough to cast effective shade in as little as 5 years. In the case of the weeping willow, you’ll be rewarded with full shade in just a year or two!

Practical landscaping doesn’t end with shade trees. If you’re looking for year-round color and texture to keep your garden looking lively, check out the best evergreen trees to plant in zone 7.

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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