The Five Best Shade Trees for North Texas

Trees add value to any landscape. They offer shade in the hot summer months and can significantly lower your air conditioning bills. And as any homeowner or business owner in North Texas knows, that can mean hundreds of dollars in savings over the summer.

Scott Geer, Master Arborist at Tree Shepherds, recommends planting cedar Elms, bur oaks, Mexican white oaks, Texas live oaks, and shumard oaks in urban areas in need of shade. All species are drought-tolerant and add value to any property.

Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa).

Bur oaks are large, slow growing trees that thrive in full sunlight. They have a thick bark and heavy branches. The leaves are large and dark green. In the fall, they turn red, bronze and yellow.

The acorns of the bur oak are very large, filling the palm of a person’s hand. While the acorns are good food for wildlife, they can do damage to cars when they drop in the fall.

The species has little trouble with disease and is tolerant of the summer heat and drought conditions.

One of the largest bur oaks in the United States is along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in Missouri. It is over 350 years old and stands over 90 feet tall.

Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia)

Cedar elm tree (Ulma crassifolia)

Cedar elms (also known as Texas elms) are large, ornamental trees that can reach 60 feet in height with a spread of 40 to 60 feet. The leaves are dark green and rough to the touch. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow.

The cedar elm is a hardy tree, capable of thriving in many different soil types and climates. It can tolerate drought and needs little care.

Cedar elms are faster growing than oak trees. With favorable conditions, a cedar elm can grow 24 inches per year.

Mexican White Oak (Quercus polymorpha)

Mexican white oak (Quercus polymorpha)
Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont / CC 3.0

Also known as the Monterrey white oak, the Mexican white oak is a fast-growing, medium-sized tree that is green almost year-round. It is drought-tolerant and adapts well to an urban setting.

At maturity, the Mexican white oak will grow to 40 feet in height with a rounded crown. New leaves can be bronze to pinkish in color. The bark is dark to light gray.

The tree has few known disease and pest problems. It is resistant to oak wilt, which is a serious problem in the Texas Hill country.

Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii)

Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii)

The Shumard oak is a large tree with brilliant fall colors. It grows at a moderate rate and prefers well-drained soils but can grow in a variety of soil types. The Shumard oak needs full sun in order to thrive.

With the right conditions, expect yearly height increases of 13 to 24 inches. At maturity, the Shumard oak should reach 40 to 60 feet in height with a spread of 40 feet.

The acorns are produced every two to four years.

Texas Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis)

Texas Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis)

Texas live oaks (not to be confused with the live oaks of the Southeastern United States) are medium trees which can live to be hundreds of years old. At maturity, the tree can reach 50 feet in height with a spread of up to 100 feet. The tree is best planted in a large space.

Live oaks grow at a medium rate. With favorable conditions, height increases can be expected at 13 to 24 inches per year until maturity.

The tree is adaptable to various soil types and conditions. It produces acorns which are well-loved by wildlife.

Krista White

Krista White

Krista is a member of the marketing and education team at Tree Shepherds. A lifelong learner, she loves writing about anything from Hemingway to Quercus macrocarpa.