The 10 Best Backyard Shade Trees for South Florida

living color garden center shade trees south florida landscape royal poinciana tree

A lush canopied backyard tree casting shade onto your home makes the South Florida heat much more bearable. Planting one isn’t a big expense—it’s actually a super worthwhile investment! A cooler home has less need for A/C, resulting in a lower utility bill. Shade trees also increase your home’s value, and they make backyard lounging all the more enjoyable.

Keep It Cool With These Backyard Shade Trees

Spring is the perfect time to plant a new shade tree. Temperatures are milder, making for an easy transition from the container to the ground. Pick from our top 10 list of shade trees to find the best match for your backyard! 

living color garden center shade trees south florida landscape bald cypress

Bald Cypress

A native of the swamps and bayous, and all across the Everglades, this familiar shade tree has practically become a symbol of South Florida. It gets its name because, unlike most coniferous trees, it drops all its needles in winter! Luckily, its needles grow thick and lush during the warmer months, providing shade when it really counts! Plant it somewhere with ample space—these slow-growing trees can become giants over their very long lifespans. 

living color garden center shade trees south florida landscape live oak tree

Southern Live Oak 

You gotta love the unique beauty and architectural qualities of this Southern giant. Its branches swoop downward before growing up toward the sky, resulting in twisting, curving branches that no kid could ever resist climbing. It’s one of the fastest-growing oak trees, though it does tend to slow down with age. It’s also one of the few trees that likes shade. So, if you plant your young sapling in a spot that gets some shade in your yard, it will still grow well with little maintenance required.

Mahoe

The white and red variegated leaves of this spectacular shade tree are truly best in show. And who can resist its color-changing blossoms that open yellow and magically turn bright red before sunset? It’s quite tolerant of salt spray, so if you live on the coast, the mahoe is a worthy contender to add to your backyard. The branches tend to start right at the base of the trunk, growing outward like a shrub, so if you want your mahoe to have a traditional shade tree look, you’ll need to do some extra pruning those first few years.  

living color garden center shade trees south florida landscape maple tree

Florida Maple

The blazing orange and gold tones of this SoFlo tree in autumn are absolutely spellbinding. Everybody loves a classic maple shade tree, and the Florida maple is one of the best, fastest-growing maple trees around. It’s a bit smaller than your typical maple, so it’s great for more modestly sized yards. Avoid planting grass and mowing the lawn around the trunk region because this tree has roots right up at the surface that could get injured. 

Mahogany

This stunning Southern belle is prized for its beautiful hardwood timber, but unfortunately, that’s resulted in it ending up on Florida’s endangered species list. Plant one in your yard to help this historic tree continue to thrive in the South! Its lovely flowers and pear-shaped fruits add color and flair in spring and summer. They tend to grow quite large—between 40 and 60 feet in height with a canopy that spreads about 50 feet wide—so you won’t always have to duck when you cross underneath. 

Gumbo Limbo

Its name is peculiar, and so is its appearance, but that’s why we love the gumbo limbo! This quirky shade tree has peeling charcoal grey bark that reveals a smooth, rust-colored layer underneath. The branches twist and contort into unique shapes, giving this tree plenty of personality. While it’s considered deciduous, its new leaves appear right when it loses its old leaves so it will provide consistent shade all year. 

living color garden center shade trees south florida landscape royal poinciana blooms

Royal Poinciana

This lush evergreen shade tree has some of the most vibrant blossoms you’ll ever see! Your backyard will be set ablaze with fiery red blooms that truly illuminate the landscape. It can grow pretty large—about 40 feet tall, and 40–60 feet wide at maturity, so it needs plenty of space to spread out. That being said, it’s a bit sensitive to the wind, so if it’s situated by a wall or fence that acts as a windbreak, it will be less susceptible to broken branches.

Japanese Fern Tree

A well-manicured Japanese fern tree brings a whimsical air to your backyard, with a satisfyingly spherical ball of greenery sitting atop its slender stem. The fern-like foliage makes it especially lush and textured, providing solid shade with minimal light peeking through. Their uniform shape makes them particularly lovely in a border planting on larger properties, and their skinny trunks allow them to be comfortably nestled among lower-growing shrubs.

Weeping Podocarpus 

There’s a dark, slightly silver-blue tint to this tree’s foliage that gives it a cool, understated appeal when it reaches maturity. New growth comes in a bit more of a vibrant lime shade. The fern-like leaves are quite fine and have a typical weeping growth habit. However, they grow in dense clusters, so the crown will resemble billowing clouds of smoke at full size. And with foliage that remains all year round, the weeping podocarpus is easily one of the best evergreens for shade. 

living color garden center shade trees south florida landscape bulnesia arborea tree

Bulnesia Arborea

Also known as the verawood tree, this compact tropical evergreen is perfect for casting shade in smaller backyard areas. It usually only reaches about 15 feet high, but it still has plenty of visual impact, with distinctive fern-like leaves that flutter like feathers. Sunny golden blooms appear in summer, sometimes with rich orange centers, and last for up to 3 months! Young bulnesia trees may have multiple trunks, but if you prune it to a single trunk, it will grow faster and stronger. 


Ready to add a shade tree or two to your backyard this spring? Living Color has the best selection of good shade trees in South Florida for yards big and small. Visit us soon and chat with one of our staff members—we can help you find the best shade tree to suit your landscaping needs!

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