How to Select the Best Trees & Shrubs for Shade or Sun

Image of two stone benches in front of a hedge and lush bushes

Mindy Charron headshot

Fragrant summer blooms. Beautiful fall color. Cooling shade for backyard entertaining. There are lots of great reasons to add new trees and shrubs to your yard. But how do you know what to plant? Don’t worry—Perficut has the expert advice you need. Board Certified Master Arborist Mindy Charron shares her know-how so you can make the best choice and get growing!

How to Pick a Winning Tree or Shrub

Get Sun & Shade Sorted

When you shop for new plants and trees, the tags are designed to help you know what’s best for your yard. But what exactly is full sun or partial shade? “If the spot where you want to put it gets six hours or less of sun a day, look for a tree or shrub that can tolerate part shade,” Mindy says. Anything more than six hours of sun counts as “full sun.”

Most trees enjoy lots of sunshine. Mindy’s favorite is the good old oak: “There are a ton of varieties, and it’s a nice native tree so it’s designed to live in Iowa,” she says. She also has a soft spot for the showy tulip tree, which has pretty foliage and is spectacular when it flowers.

If your house faces north or the spot where you want to plant gets less direct daylight, consider an under-story tree that is labeled for partial shade. “These can be smaller-stature trees like redbuds and certain evergreens, such as hemlock,” she says.

Shrubs that like a little less sun include yews, boxwood, and hydrangeas. For bright, sunny spots, Mindy suggests choosing from the viburnum family: “There are so many choices that you can get a lot of variations in foliage and flowers.”

Provide Good Hydration

Once you make your choice, it’s time to get watering. New trees and shrubs need a lot of water for the first few weeks after planting, and then consistent, adequate water for the first couple of years. If you have a shady spot, you can worry a little less about watering, Mindy says. “You have to be more concerned with a location that’s in full sun all day long, especially when the tree or shrub is getting established,” she says. It can take a tree or shrub two years to develop a strong root system.

Remember Feeding Time

Perficut team member treating tree

“Fertilization is especially important for a young tree or shrub,” Mindy says. During the first couple of years, the tree or plant is sending roots into the soil seeking nourishment. With proper nutrition, it can get established and then direct its energies to the canopy. “Good soil will provide the nutrition it needs, but you should get your soil tested to know its quality,” Mindy says. “Our Perficut arborists will have your soil tested in a laboratory and give advice on the best blend of fertilizer for your specific plants, trees, and conditions.”

Time to Trim

Pruning is particularly important for young trees and shrubs because you have a chance to shape it and encourage the right kind of growth. “You want the tree to have good structure long-term,” Mindy says. And that starts when the tree is getting established. Then, Mindy says, you should trim it every two to five years, depending on the species.

Our Perficut team members have all the knowledge and just the right touch to keep your trees and shrubs growing healthy. From plant recommendations to soil evaluation to proper long-term care, our team can help. So if you’ve just picked a new tree or shrub or have mature ones that need some attention, contact one of our certified arborists today.

Want to learn more about tree selection & care? Contact the Perficut team today!

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