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15 Best Shade Trees for Florida To Improve Your Landscape

15 Best Shade Trees for Florida To Improve Your Landscape

If you are a resident of Florida, you are familiar with the difficulties caused by the extreme heat and humidity, especially in the summer months.

If you’re on the hunt for a tree or two to add some shade to your yard, it can be tough to know where to even begin your search. 

Fortunately for you, we’ve performed exhaustive research and compiled this list of 15 beautiful and large shade trees to improve your Florida landscape.

1. American Sycamore

A large American sycamore tree with the sun's rays shining through the canopy.

The American sycamore is a vast shade tree characterized by its multicolored bark. With green, maple-like leaves, the sycamore grows best when it has access to full or, at least, partial sun. 

This tree would provide your yard with ample shade in the spring through fall, but it’s essential to make sure that there’s enough room for it to grow, as sycamores grow to be both tall and wide when they reach full maturity.

  • Botanical name: Platanus occidentalis
  • Average size: 75-100 ft.
  • Popular varieties: California sycamore, Arizona sycamore

2. Maho 

A large maho tree growing near the ocean.

The maho tree would be a great addition to your yard if you’re a little tighter on space and looking for a mid-sized, dense, beautiful tree.

This evergreen tree loves full sun, and when it flowers, the maho tree features large, yellow flowers that adjust the color based on the time of day and resemble hibiscus flowers.

  • Botanical name: Hibiscus tiliaceus 
  • Average size: Up to 40 ft.
  • Popular varieties: Maho tree, variegated maho tree

3. Florida Elm

A large elm tree with pretty fall foliage.

The Florida elm is an excellent option for a mid-sized tree that features multi-season appeal. Before losing its leaves in the winter, the Florida elm features gorgeous orange foliage in the fall. 

They are an excellent choice for those living on the coastline as these elms love full sunlight and tolerate moderate drought and ocean spray.

  • Botanical name: Ulmus americana var. floridana
  • Average size: 60-70 ft. tall
  • Popular varieties: Florida elm, American elm

4. Dahoon Holly 

Bright red berries on a dahoon holly tree.

The Dahoon holly tree is a popular choice for people looking for a mid-sized tree with year-round appeal. The holly features dark, waxy, evergreen leaves and tiny, delicate flowers in the springtime.

The flowers eventually turn into the bright red berries that people associate with hollies, giving the tree a beautiful color contrast. 

  • Botanical name: Ilex cassine
  • Average size: 20-30 ft.
  • Popular varieties: Alabama holly, myrtle leaf holly

5. Trumpet Tree 

A blooming pink trumpet tree with a carpet of petals on the ground.

The trumpet tree is a truly spectacular flowering tree that would make an excellent addition to your yard and function both as a shade tree and an attractive feature. 

There are several common types of trumpet trees that all have slightly different leaves and grow to different sizes, but all trumpet trees have one thing in common: their stunning flowers.

If you’re looking for a small to mid-sized tree, consider a golden or pink trumpet tree to add some springtime appeal to your yard.

  • Botanical name: Tabebuia spp.
  • Average size: Depends on the variety, typically 20-50 ft.
  • Popular varieties: Golden trumpet tree, pink trumpet tree, pink ipe tree

6. Weeping Willow

The graceful branches of a weeping willow tree overhanging into a lake.

The weeping willow is a classically beautiful tree and would make an excellent shade tree in your yard. This giant beauty can grow to be about 40 feet tall and nearly as broad.

Once it reaches full maturity, you can sit at the base of the tree and be enveloped in its weeping branches. 

Consider this tree if you have a large, empty space with access to full sunlight that you’re looking to fill. 

  • Botanical name: Salix babylonica
  • Average size: 30-40 ft.
  • Popular varieties: White willow, corkscrew willow

7. Tulip Tree 

Up-close look at the branches and blooms of a tulip tree.

The tulip tree is a green giant with unique leaves and flowers. Both the flowers and the leaves themselves are shaped like a tulip and give the tree its name.

The delicate flowers of the tulip tree bloom in the springtime and are shaped like small yellow cups that are golden on the inside.

  • Botanical name: Liriodendron tulipifera
  • Average size: 70-90 ft.
  • Popular varieties: American tulip tree, Chinese tulip tree

8. Southern Live Oak 

Southern live oak trees lining a dirt road.

Southern live oaks are one of the jewels of the American South; these sprawling beauties are seen all over the southern states and would be a wonderful addition to your yard, assuming it’s given enough space to thrive. 

The Southern live oak can surpass 75 feet in height, and its canopy can extend well beyond that.

So, if you have a huge yard that you’re looking to fill, this is one of the most spectacular shade trees on the list. 

  • Botanical name: Quercus virginiana
  • Average size: 50-75 ft.
  • Popular varieties: Standard live oak, cathedral live oak, millennium live oak

9. Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple Trees in Landscaping

The Japanese maple is a delicate and beautiful tree that would be a great addition to your yard and can fit in significantly smaller areas than many of the other trees on this list.

Japanese maples feature gorgeous fall colors and are a real eyecatcher. However, they’re slow growers, so consider planting fewer, more mature trees to enjoy the benefits right away. 

  • Botanical name: Acer palmatum
  • Average size: 15-25 ft.
  • Popular varieties: Golden Full Moon, Green Cascade, Beni Kawa

10. Cherry Tree 

Cherry trees in full bloom lining a path.

There are many varieties of cherry trees, many of which thrive in Florida. The exact characteristics and size of the tree depend on the variety.

However, cherry trees typically feature large, beautiful canopies with white or pink flowers in the springtime and small (sometimes edible) fruits in the summer. 

  • Botanical name: Prunus spp.
  • Average size: Height depends on tree variety
  • Popular varieties: Sargent cherry, black cherry, Barbados cherry

11. Florida Maple 

Several Florida maples or sugar maple trees in a row changing to their fall colors.

The Florida maple can reach heights of up to 60 feet but is typically seen growing to around 30 feet, making it a great larger mid-sized tree for your yard.

It has a distinct oval growing pattern that makes it an excellent option for a shade tree in your yard because while the trunk itself isn’t huge, the tree has a wide and generous canopy.

  • Botanical name: Acer floridanum
  • Average size: 50-60 ft.
  • Popular varieties: other maple varieties in Florida include silver maple, sugar maple, chalk maple

12. Crabapple 

A mature crabapple tree covered in pink blossoms.

There are hundreds of varieties of crabapple trees, all with their own gorgeous ornamental appeal. 

The type of crabapple you choose should be based on what will thrive in your yard and what color flower appeals to you.

Regardless of the variety, crabapples make great trees that provide shade without growing to take up too much space. 

  • Botanical name: Malus spp.
  • Average size: 15-20 ft.
  • Popular varieties: Snowdrift, Prairie Fire, Brandywine

13. Chinese Pistache 

A Chinese pistache tree with lovely red fall foliage.

The Chinese pistache or Chinese pistachio tree is a beautiful and an excellent choice for a shade tree in your Florida yard, regardless of where you live.

These trees are incredibly low-maintenance and can withstand a fair amount of neglect and various conditions. They have a sprawling canopy when they reach full maturity and feature gorgeous fall colors. 

Growing only a foot or two a year, these trees aren’t fast growers but typically transplant without issue, so consider buying a more mature tree rather than a sapling.

Buying an older tree will also allow you to bypass the tree’s more awkward-looking adolescence. 

  • Botanical name: Pistacia chinensis
  • Average size: 25-40 ft.
  • Popular varieties: Keith Davey, Red Push

14. Southern Magnolia

The pure white flower of the Southern magnolia tree.

The southern magnolia is one of the quintessential trees in the American South, and it’s not hard to understand why.

These gorgeous trees offer year-round appeal with their dark, waxy evergreen leaves.

However, springtime allows this magnolia to truly show off with its gorgeous display of large, white, sweet-smelling flowers. 

These trees can grow extremely tall, and their sprawling canopy makes them ideal shade trees that you can curl up at the base of and enjoy a good book.

  • Botanical name: Magnolia grandiflora
  • Average size: 60-80 ft.
  • Popular varieties: Little Gem, Greenback, Blanchard

15. Gumbo Limbo

A large gumbo limbo tree with mountains in the background.

The gumbo limbo tree is special because it is native to southern Florida.

This unique tree is characterized by its peeling red bark, which has earned it the “tourist tree” nickname because of its similarity with Floridian tourists’ peeling sunburned skin.

This tree would make a great addition to your yard because while it can grow to be 40 feet, it usually stops around 25-30 feet.

This means that while it doesn’t have a great deal of height, its sprawling, beautiful canopy provides plenty of shade and makes it an excellent climbing tree

In addition to this, its berries will attract birds to your yard. 

  • Botanical name: Bursera simaruba
  • Average size: 25-30 ft.
  • Popular varieties: N/A

Final Thoughts

If you live in Florida and you’re looking to add a little more shade to your yard, any one of the above 15 trees is sure to thrive and provide you with shade for years to come. 

Consider your yard’s specific needs, such as how much room the tree has to grow or how tall of a tree you want, to make sure you end up finding the right tree to improve your landscape.

You can also consider what unique features appeal to you, such as gorgeous flowers in the springtime or attractive bark for year-round appeal.