7 Shade Trees to Consider if You Live in USDA Zone 8

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » USDA Zone 8 » 7 Shade Trees to Consider if You Live in USDA Zone 8

Homeowners will find many benefits in planting trees on their property, but one of the most practical uses for tree planting is to provide summer shade and winter insulation.

Not only will it keep you more comfortable in harsh weather, but you will also save money by reducing your heating and AC usage!

USDA hardiness zone 8 is definitely in the warmer range of US growing zones, with long, hot summers. People living in these regions should prioritize fast-growing shade trees to protect them from the hottest periods of the year.

Here are some of the best zone 8 shade trees for you to plant before the next summer season.

7 Shade Trees For Your Zone 8 Property

1. Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

hackberry tree
Image by mogollon_1 via Flickr

A tougher shade tree than the Hackberry will be hard to find for zone 8 gardeners. This northeastern native is known for its considerable hardiness, able to grow in an enormous variety of soil types, including varying pH levels and poor-quality soil.

It is a low-maintenance, ‘set and forget’ type of tree that can withstand abnormally harsh conditions such as drought, air pollution, flooding, and strong winds.

The Hackberry is a medium-sized deciduous tree with a spreading growth habit and a rounded canopy, perfect for providing shade in summer.

It has interesting textured bark, but is otherwise of medium visual appeal – it is not stunningly beautiful and does not produce significant fall color, but is usually chosen for its utility as a hardy shade tree. It also works well as a street tree.

Make sure you have space to accommodate the Hackberry’s size and its dense root system which can disrupt cement, foundations, and pipes if grown nearby.

Other Common Names: Common Hackberry, Sugar Hackberry, Sugarberry, Beaverwood, Nettle Tree, American Hackberry

Growing Zones: 2-9

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, with a 25-45 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Late Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. River Birch (Betula nigra L.)

River Birch tree
Image via Nature Hills

Truly one of the best shade trees one can plant in the US, the River birch is a popular birch variety admired for both its usefulness and its distinctive, attractive appearance.

It has a lively look with bright green foliage that turns bright yellow in fall and signature showy yellow catkins. But above all, it is known for its exfoliating bark, with a tanned outer layer that peels back to reveal shades of pink and cinnamon beneath. This bark provides visual interest to your property every day of the year.

Of course, the River birch makes an effective shade tree with its rounded canopy and arched, compact-growing branches. It can also be used as a specimen, accent tree, or street tree.

According to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, the River birch grows wild in wet soil, particularly along streams and riverbanks. In cultivation, it is best grown in moist, acidic soil with full sun exposure.

Other Common Names: Water Birch, Black Birch, Red Birch

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 25-50 feet tall, with a 25-35 foot spread

Flowering Season: Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

American Sweetgum
Image by Andreas Rockstein via Flickr

While it has some minor drawbacks, namely its famous spiky seed pods that can cause an annual nuisance, the American sweetgum can make a very desirable shade tree when grown on the right property.

It is a tall, ornamental native with a wide, crown that starts off pyramidal before becoming more rounded in maturity. Its leaves are bright green and star-shaped, and turn stunning shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple in fall.

Other than its use as a shade tree the sweetgum can be used as a specimen, focal point, lawn tree, or even a wildlife tree as it provides food and shelter for many types of birds, and makes a good host tree for caterpillars.

Again, its signature spiky seed balls can be unsightly in fall, but a local arborist can treat it to prevent annual fruiting. It also has a shallow root system so make sure not to plant the sweetgum near concrete or important infrastructure.

Other Common Names: Sweetgum, Satin-Walnut, American Storax, Hazel Pine, Bilsted, Redgum, Alligatorwood, Star-Leaved Gum, Gumball Tree

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 60-70 feet tall, with a 40-50 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

4. Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) Fall Color and Flowers
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

Another easy shade tree that will grow well in zone 8, the tulip tree is an iconic wildlife fixture of the Eastern United States. It is a unique flowering ornamental that can grow to over 100 feet tall in the right conditions and is covered in large green, orange, and yellow tulip-shaped flowers in spring.

Its fall display is even more impressive, as its foliage will turn a blazing combination of red, gold, and orange. With an upright, stately form and beautifully balanced growth habit, the tulip tree casts considerable dense shade in summer.

It grows quickly, and with considerable pest and disease resistance, it is fairly low maintenance once established. One of its very few flaws is its wood, which can become brittle with age – but as long as it is not grown in a place with high wind exposure this shouldn’t be an issue.

Other Common Names: Tulip Poplar, Tuliptree, Yellow Poplar, Canoewood, Lyre Tree, Canary Whitehood, Western Poplar, Whitewood, North American Whitewood, Fiddletree, Hickory-Poplar, Lynn-Tree

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 70-130 feet tall, with a 30-60 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

5. London Planetree (Platanus × acerifolia)

Bloodgood london planetree
Image via Nature Hills

A good shade tree for city gardeners in zone 8, the London planetree is a hybrid of the American sycamore and the Asian planetree. It is tolerant of urban pollution and adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions, including some soil compaction, acidic and alkaline soil, and most other soil types. Maybe these are the reasons it is the most common tree in an analysis of urban forests in 63 US cities!

These trees grow tall and wide, with dense foliage that casts perfect shade in hot weather. It has a straight habit with drooping branches that lend it extra ornamental appeal. Its textured, flaky bark also adds year-long color and visual interest.

The London planetree will grow best in deep, rich, moist, and well-draining soil. Despite its adaptability, it is relatively high maintenance: pruning is needed to keep it from growing too large and regular fertilization is highly recommended.

According to the Bartlett Tree Expert Report it faces a number of pest and disease issues, such as the sycamore lace bug, anthracnose, and powdery mildew, which require monitoring and treatment to keep in check.

Other Common Names: London Plane, Hybrid Plane, Maple Leaved Plane Tree

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 75-100 feet tall, with a 60-75 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Honey Locust Tree
Image by Plant Image Library via Flickr

Fast-growing and naturally tolerant to a wide range of harsh weather conditions (such as drought, heat, and wind), the Honey locust is a popular medium-sized shade tree that is especially effective in urban gardens. It has an attractive branching habit and tiny compound leaves that turn bright yellow in fall, and lend a graceful air to the tree.

Outside of landscaping the honey locust has a number of practical uses – its fruit is used to feed livestock, its wood for fence and furniture-making, and it has a long history of medicinal use in Native American culture.

This tree is highly adaptable and can grow in most soil types. Keep in mind that it is susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. Growing this tree will require careful monitoring and upkeep.

The Honey locust is also known for the sharp thorns that sprout from its trunk. If this is an issue for you, or you have small children, consider planting the Sunburst honey locust, a thornless cultivar.

Other Common Names: Thorny Locust, Thorny Honeylocust, Sweet Locust

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 30-75 feet tall, with a 50-foot spread

Flowering Season: Late Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

North America’s largest native tree species is the American sycamore, which grows up to 100 feet tall and with an equally wide spread. No surprise that this enormous tree is one of the pre-eminent shade trees in the US, able to cast cool shade over your home throughout the year.

With its large, maple-shaped leaves and jigsaw-patterned bark that add visual appeal, the American sycamore can also be used as a focal point in a larger landscape. Naturally, you will need to make sure you have enough space on your property to accommodate both the considerable size of the tree and its sprawling root system, which can become exposed or invasive, damaging infrastructure and sidewalks/driveways.

Though able to grow in a variety of soil types and pH ranges, the American sycamore grows best in loamy, evenly moist, and well-draining soil with full sun exposure.

Other Common Names: Sycamore, Buttonball Tree, Button Tree, Buttonwood, Eastern Sycamore, American Plane Tree, Planetree

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 75-100 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Mid-Fall to Early Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Easy Shade For Long Summers

Have a large estate that can accommodate an enormous legacy shade tree? Choose the majestic American sycamore or the tall ornamental tulip tree. Looking for something a little more compact that can fit into an urban landscape? The hardy hackberry may be better suited.

Whichever species you choose, you’ll find a shade tree that will work for your zone 8 property. Summers in zone 8 are some of the hottest in the country, and these trees are one of the best options for mitigating any harsh heat waves.

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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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