Easy Ways To Create Shade In Your Backyard

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Shade is an essential element to keeping cool while spending time out in the yard or on the patio. Not only does shade make it more comfortable to spend time outdoors on hot, sunny days, well-placed shade can help improve a home’s cooling efficiency.­ Shade can be created in a number of ways. Trees and shrubs can add beauty to a yard and make it easier to keep a home cool in the hot summer months. Garden structures, such as gazebos and arbors, create cool and comfortable seating and entertaining areas. Depending on the need for shade, budget considerations and landscape design, there is nearly always a way to create shaded areas in every yard or garden.

Arranging Shade Plants In Your Yard

When planting trees or shrubs for shade, don’t just think about the big picture. Shade does not have to encompass an entire yard or cover the entire house, shade can be more selective. Pick small areas that can be shaded. Frame a corner with a few short trees to create a secluded and cool area. Evergreens and redbuds work well for this type of planting.

how to create shade plants trees ideal home garden

Trees are a natural way to add shade to a yard. Trees can be used to shade a house or a patio. Trees can also do double duty. Trees create cool and shaded areas in the summer. In the winter, they lose their leaves to let the winter sun warm a home or patio. When selecting a shade tree:

  • Consider the mature height and spread of the tree
  • Place trees so that roots do not interfere with driveways, sidewalks and buildings.
  • Build pockets of trees around the landscape.
  • Fruit trees and flowering trees provide beauty, food and shade.

Hedges For Shade

Tall hedges can also be used to create small areas of shade in select areas. A hedge makes the perfect shade for smaller plants that cannot tolerate the summer heat. Hedges can also protect smaller plants from wind and other harsh weather elements. When selecting a hedge, look for one that is adapted to the local climate and matures at the desired height. Hedges can be evergreen, providing shade all year long, or a flowering shrub that loses leaves during the winter and provides colorful flowers during the summer.

For more information on shade gardens, see Shade Garden Design Ideas.

how to create shade plants trees ideal home garden

How To Create Shade On A Patio

Patios and balconies are natural gathering places when the weather turns warm. During certain parts of the day, a patio may be shaded by buildings or trees. During those times of the day when the sun beats down on that favorite gathering place, there are many ways to create some artificial shade:

  • Umbrellas create movable shade and can be put away when not needed. Umbrellas come in a variety of sizes and colors, making them much more adaptable and controllable than plants.
  • Awnings attach to the side of the house and work best when the patio is adjacent to the house. Awnings are retractable and can be rolled up when not needed, providing shade like an umbrella but with a more permanent, structural feel.
  • Fabric sails can be stretched over the top of a patio area. All that is needed is a wall or pole to attach each of the four corners of the sail.
  • Hanging plants and vines make a unique shade element on a patio or balcony. These creeping plants block the sun but let the breeze filter through.
  • Large plants, such as palm trees and pine trees, can be planted in large containers. Container plants can be moved to adjust which areas receive shade, and which feel the heat of the sun. Set your potted plants and trees on wheeled platforms to easily move them whenever wanted.

Building Shade Structures

Plants and umbrellas are not the only way to create shade. Permanent structures can be built around your property to create shady rest and entertainment spots. Gazebos, cabanas, pergolas and arbors provide cool and quaint getaway spots. With a little imagination and some muscle, an attractive garden shade structure can be quickly constructed. Here are a few ideas:

  • Canopies: Temporary canopies work well for larger gatherings where shade is needed to cover a large outdoor area. These canopies can be set up with a top only, or sides can be added to block the sun and wind from all angles.
  • Lattice: To create shade without completely blocking the view, consider using lattice as an alternative to regular fencing. In addition to providing shade, lattice can create privacy, can be used as a trellis for climbing vines or roses, and is less expensive than fencing.
  • Fencing: Save money on fencing by placing just one or two panels where needed. There’s no need to fence the entire yard. Short section of fences can be dressed up with a vine, espalier tree or planter boxes filled with colorful annuals.
  • Arbors & Pergolas: Arbors and pergolas are usually used as supporting structures for vine type plants. These decorative shade structures have supporting beams with attached rafters. They can be freestanding or attached to a house.
  • Cabanas & Gazebos: Cabanas and gazebos are permanent structures with walls and a solid roof. These garden buildings can be used to host parties or intimate dinners for two. Cabanas and gazebos have the extra benefit of providing cover from rain and other stormy weather.

Creating shade in a yard can be a creative process. Don’t just think about shading the house from the summer sun. Also think about shading tender plants and creating shaded sitting areas. Shade can come from a variety of sources, including trees and fences, which are commonly used with arbors and umbrellas. Add a few tables and chairs to make the garden an enjoyable living space in the summertime.

Last Updated: August 14, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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