Despite the northern latitude, the wide-open spaces in Zone 4 get warm during the summer.
Planting a large shade tree can keep your yard and gardens much cooler.
I’d like to share five shade trees that grow well USDA zone 4.
5 Beautiful Shade Trees Perfect For USDA Zone 4
1. White Oak (Quercus alba)
The white oak makes an extraordinary wildlife tree that’s well-known for its great size and strength. Adding one of these massive trees to your yard will provide outstanding shade for your garden or landscape.
White oak trees need a season or two to get established, and they’re fast growers when they’re young.
These mighty trees develop an incredible spreading habit, with hardy wind-resistant branches that grow in wide angles. White oaks are long-lived, with some of them being documented at over 600 years old!
While everyone isn’t a fan of processing and eating acorns, the white oak provides an abundance of them for the wildlife to enjoy. However, several nut trees grow well in zone four.
This tree’s new spring leaves emerge with a soft pink tint and a fuzzy down that’s surprisingly soft to the touch. The leaves transform into large, leathery leaves that are deeply lobed and smooth, without bristled tips.
Other Common Names: Stave Oak
Growing Zones: 2 – 9
Average Size At Maturity: 40 -100 ft tall with a 30 – 70 ft spread
2. American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
American Sycamores are among numerous fast-growing trees in zone 4. These trees grow to a massive size, and they’re long-lived. The decorative seed pods add to this Sycamore’s beauty.
American Sycamore trees are one of North America’s oldest and largest trees, even taller than the white oak. Their rapid growth and immense size make them an excellent choice for a central focal point or a border tree. Because it is tolerant of air pollution, it can thrive on a city lot just as well as in the country.
The massive symmetrical canopy of the American Sycamore provides a shady, cool spot to sit on hot summer afternoons. The beautiful white bark tends to peel off in places, which only creates a unique mottled look.
This tree variety is often considered to be self-pruning as you’ll rarely see dead branches that are common to the canopies of other large landscape trees. However, the wood from Sycamore trees makes excellent mulch for flower gardens.
Other Common Names: Sycamore, Eastern Sycamore, Buttonball, Buttonwood
Growing Zones: 4 – 9
Average Size At Maturity: 75 – 150 ft tall with a 30 – 50 ft spread
3. Shademaster Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacantos var. Intermis ‘Shademaster’)
The Shademaster Honeylocust is incredibly low maintenance and pollution tolerant. It makes an excellent shade and lawn tree. It grows into a beautiful rounded shape with beautiful green leaves throughout the summer that turns golden-yellow in the fall.
While it is pretty typical for a tree’s leaves to transform into that yellow color, the difference is that the honeylocust leaves are small, with branches that are widely spaced.
The shape and size of the leaves, paired with the widely spaced branches, cast a lovely shade, but not such a deep shade that keeps whatever is growing beneath it struggling to survive. Since the leaves are so small, they don’t need to be raked in the fall because they aren’t large enough to harm the grass.
The Shademaster Honeylocust has such a hard and durable wood that it holds up exceptionally well against wind damage and ice storms.
If you’re familiar with other honeylocust cultivars, you’re probably concerned about the thorns. However, the Shademaster is thornless and seedless, meaning there’s no mess or risk of getting poked.
Growing Zones: 3 – 9
Average Size At Maturity: 30 – 70 ft tall with a 30 – 70 ft spread
4. Krauter Vesuvius Flowering Plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Krauter Vesuvius)
The Krauter Vesuvius Plum or Flowering Plum is famous because it offers multiple seasons of colors that stand out among the rest. I think it’s one of the prettiest plum trees that grow in zone 4.
Not only is the KV plum tree highly ornamental, but the fruit is edible and delicious. While the plums are tasty, they’re only about the size of a cherry, so you might want a couple of them.
We often think of shade trees as towering over us, but the KV plum only reaches about 15 to 20 feet tall. No worries, it will still provide sufficient shade. They’re perfect for yards that have limited space. The perfectly oval-shaped canopy adds to the ornamental value of any landscape.
Because Krauter Vesuvius plums grow in zones 4 through 9, they thrive in extremely cold and snowy winters in the north. Still, they also do well in the hotter dry climates down south.
Other Common Names: Flowering Plum, Purple Leaf Plum
Growing Zones: 4 – 9
Average Size At Maturity: 15 – 20 ft tall with a 10 – 15 ft spread
Flowering Season: Early-mid Spring
5. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
Ginkgo biloba trees have unique fan-shaped leaves. In the fall, the leaves are a beautiful golden-yellow color, which makes for a showy autumn display as the leaves fall to the ground. Add to that the beautiful tiny green flowers, and you have a sight to behold.
This Ginkgo cultivar grows well in a wide range of soils. It’s resistant to pests, pollution, wind, and disease.
Some know this tree as the Maidenhair tree, as the Ginkgo Biloba resembles Maidenhair ferns. The tree is incredibly unique, but sadly it has no close living relatives. It’s one of the oldest living types of trees.
If you were wondering, yes, this tree is used for Ginkgo Biloba supplements that improve memory, blood flow, and symptoms of dementia. There are specimens reported to exist in China that are more than 1800 years old!
I love the way the leaves of the Ginkgo flutter in the slightest breeze, thanks to the fan shape. The leaves are dark green from spring to summer, before turning that golden-yellow color I mentioned earlier.
Other Common Names: Maidenhair Tree
Growing Zones: 3 – 9
Average Size At Maturity: 40 – 70 feet tall with a 30 – 40 ft spread
Incredible Shade Trees
Not only do the White Oak, Ginkgo, Flowering Plum, American Sycamore, and Shademaster Honeylocust provide incredible shade, they’re beautiful too.
Before choosing any tree to plant, check out the USDA growing zone map to ensure it will thrive.
- 5 USDA Zone 4 Shade Trees For Your Garden or Landscape
- 6 USDA Zone 4 Cherry Trees (Best Cold Hardy Varieties)
- 7 USDA Zone 4 Pear Trees (Hardy Varieties to Grow Today)
- 6 USDA Zone 4 Plum Tree Varieties For Reliable Harvests
- 6 USDA Zone 4 Nut Trees (Reliable Options for Cold Climates)
Elaina has had her hands on the Earth since she was little. For over a decade, she’s been tending gardens and learning about plants and trees.
A seasoned writer with a green thumb, Elaina loves to write about everything from gardening and homesteading to health and wellness.
When she’s not in the garden, you can find her in the chicken coop, with her rabbits, or somewhere in the woods with her cats and dog.