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What Tree Species Grows Best In Full Sunlight

Trees help define a landscape. They’re often the centerpiece of your lawn or garden. Not to mention that the extra shade can be a boon in hot summers. Plus, planting trees is a powerful way to help fight climate change and sequester carbon in your lawn.

But, if you don’t already have trees, especially if you live somewhere with intense sunlight, it can be hard to find a variety that will survive the bright sunlight.

If you’ve ever bought a sapling just to see the leaves sunburn and die, you know how difficult it can be to keep trees meant for shade alive in full sunlight.

The good news is that many trees grow well in full sunlight, and there are almost certainly trees that will grow well on your property.

Once your full sunlight trees provide shaded areas after a few years of growth, you can try some partial sun or partial shade trees again.

Examples Of Trees That Grow Well In Full Sunlight

Here are some examples of trees that grow well in full sunlight. We’ve tried to include a variety of trees that thrive in different conditions, reach different heights, and look different to suit a wide variety of environments, gardens, and lawns.

The following isn’t an exhaustive list; there are a lot of trees that grow well in full sunlight. However, you should also look into how well these trees tolerate drought, wet conditions, heavy wind, and any other growing challenges in your area.

There are a lot of different things that go into creating good growing conditions for certain trees. So it’s a good idea to research the exact conditions each tree needs before you buy one.

Your local garden center or tree nursery may also be able to help you select the right tree for your area.

Oregon White Oak

Oregon White Oaks are beautiful large trees that can reach 60 ft in height when they reach maturity. Young trees tolerate the shade from other Oregon White Oaks but don’t do well in other shade.

That’s good for lawns and yards that need a tall tree that provides some shade and thrives in full sun.

The main drawback to the Oregon White Oak is that they have a minimal natural range, entirely on the West Coast. They’re considered hardy to USDA Zone 6.

These trees are fairly hardy and are used to growth cycles that allow for a severe summer drought without damaging the trees. However, if you live too far from their natural range, you might not be able to get saplings for your yard.

Crab Apple Trees

Crab Apple Trees are almost everywhere, thanks to the wide varieties of crab apple that grow in the United States and elsewhere.

There are an estimated 40-50 different varieties of crab apples, each of which has a slightly different height, width, flowering color, and even bark color.

These trees are hardy in USDA zones 4-8. Your local nursery should be able to give you information about which varieties are successful in your area.

One of the significant advantages of having a crab apple tree is that it will help you pollinate any apple trees you’re growing simultaneously. However, one of the drawbacks is that the tallest of these trees are still only 20-25 ft tall. So, while they provide some shade, they won’t offer much shade for other trees.

Northern Red Oak

Northern Red Oak trees are a fantastic addition to most landscapes. These trees are at their flashiest in autumn when the brilliant scarlet colors of their leaves stand out even surrounded by other autumn trees.

The Northern Red Oak fits the bill if you’re looking for tall, low-maintenance, and hardy trees. They can grow up to 80 ft tall, prefer growing somewhere they get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day and are hardy in USDA zones 3-8.

These are also relatively fast-growing trees. You can expect 1-2 feet of growth yearly for the first ten years of the tree’s life. It will slow down a bit from there, so only the most mature trees reach the full 80 feet the species boasts, but you can expect them to reach a respectable height relatively quickly.

Well, quickly for a tree.

Ginko Trees

Ginko Trees are another moderately fast grower and are considered both ornamental and shade trees.

Native in China, Ginko trees are fairly hardy and grow well in many different kinds of soil. They are hardy in USDA zones 3-8, meaning many different areas can expect a Ginko tree to thrive.

The unique shape of their leaves, almost like a folding fan, stands out in any crowd.

Ginko trees grow between 25-50ft tall and spread 25-35ft when fully mature.

Pin Oak or Spanish Oak

Want a fast-growing tree that lives well in moist soils (important if you want to regularly water the grass or plants around the tree)? The Pin Oak might be a good choice.

These trees are some of the tallest on our list. They grow to between 60-70ft tall and spread between 20-40ft when fully mature. Shape-wise, this oak starts pyramid-shaped but eventually will round out into a more oval shape.

Dogwood Trees

Dogwood is another tree with many different varieties, which is good because they have a wide range and are compatible with a wider range of soil and moisture conditions.

However, it’s important to remember that Dogwood ranges from a shrub to a tree depending on the variety and how you trim them, so not all Dogwoods will be good trees. However, they’re always impressive in their spring flowers, whether they’re a tree or not.

Dogwood trees do relatively well in Full Sun, but they can also benefit from some shade. So, these are good trees for planting in areas that get full sun with just a little shade from other shade trees or the edges of your home’s shadow.

With flower colors ranging from white to pink, Dogwood trees are some of the most beautiful full sun trees you can get.

Hardy in USDA zones 5-9, Dogwoods might be beautiful, but they can be picky. This is a good tree for an owner who doesn’t mind doing some maintenance work, especially pruning and trimming and ensuring the tree has plenty of water.

The tallest Dogwood trees reach about 40ft in height.

American Sycamore

Want a Tall tree to help define your landscape and offer a lot of shade? It doesn’t get much better than the American Sycamore.

These trees reach a maximum height of around 100ft and have the widest trunk width of any American hardwood tree. These trees start with rough bark, but mature trees see the rough sections slough off, leaving a smooth, attractive-looking bark on the main trunk.

American Sycamore trees are suitable for zones 4-9. They prefer moist, well-drained soil but are highly adaptable and can thrive in almost any soil.

Ponderosa Pine

Ponderosa Pines grow with wide-set branches that carry evergreen needles year-round. They aren’t a traditional shade tree only because the wide gaps between branches keep them from offering anything more than partial shade as individuals. However, Ponderosa Pines can be planted relatively close together and can provide more complete shade in groups.

These trees reach 60-100ft tall in cultivation and usually spread between 20-30ft. Suitable for mountainous areas where deciduous trees won’t grow, Ponderosa Pines are also noted for the pleasant scent of their resinous sap.

These trees are also a good option for areas with no other tall plants. They don’t tolerate shade but can help create better environments for less hardy plants.

Grand Fir

If you live in USDA zone 6, Grand Firs are another good option for a tall shade tree that likes full sunlight and reaches impressive heights. They are also one of the few true fir trees that grow well at lower elevations, meaning you don’t have to live in the mountains to invite this pine into your yard.

Grand Firs can also tolerate partial to full shade, though they grow much slower in those conditions than in the full sun.

These are also popular Christmas trees, making them an incredible addition if you want a living Christmas tree on your lawn.

Do Japanese Maple Trees Grow In Full Sunlight?

Japanese Maples are considered ornamental thanks to their beautiful decorative leaves. They’re a popular tree in most places and grow well in USDA zones 5-8.

Japanese Maples will tolerate full sun well unless you live in the most Southern parts of their hardiness zone. However, the more southern you live, the more likely your Japanese Maple will appreciate at least partial shade in the afternoon.

That makes Japanese Maple trees a good planting option in the shade of taller shade trees and ornamentals throughout their hardiness zone. That’s a very good thing because this tree also doesn’t deal well with high wind conditions, so having another tree or two around them to provide a windbreak can keep them healthier.

Other Growing Conditions To Consider

When you’re trying to select a good tree for your home, there are many different things you might want to consider. The more factors you consider before choosing trees, the more successful you will be with each planting.

Not all trees care about all of these conditions, but it’s still important to do your research to know which factors matter to your favorite trees.

Tree Spread

Tree spread is one of the most important factors to consider if you want healthy trees. The spread of a tree should help you decide where to plant it, remembering that you don’t want the branches to overhang your home’s roof or interfere with any hanging utility lines in the area.

You should also consider tree spread when planting along the roads next to your property. Unless the tree’s bottom branches are taller than the tallest vehicles allowed in your area, you may be required to trim overhanging branches to make room for passing vehicles.

Wind

The wind is an important consideration for deciduous trees but can also be important for some pine species.

The wind is drying and can destroy branches if the tree isn’t strong enough or flexible enough to withstand gusts. If you live in an area prone to high winds, thunderstorms, and especially tornadoes, you should look for trees that usually handle windy conditions well.

Soil Depth

Soil depth isn’t something many people consider when they are planting, but the taller a tree is, the more likely it is to be deeply rooted.

If you live on the plains, you likely have deep soil and don’t need to worry about this when selecting trees. But if you live at elevation, especially in the foothills or a mountainous region, you may have as little as a foot of soil for the tree to grow in before the dirt turns into rock.

Thin soil depth may mean you’re better off planting pine trees and shallow-rooted trees that can tolerate living with relatively little soil or working their roots into cracks and crevices in rock.