5 Best Shade Trees for Austin

Best Shade Trees for Austin Texas

Here are 5 of the best shade trees in Austin and Central Texas. It is hard to say that one is better than another, it really depends on the micro-climate and your specific needs. This is meant to be a quick overview. If you want more information, we are happy to help. 

1. Mexican Sycamore

This is a nearly native Sycamore tree that can often be seen growing wild near stream beds in our area. This is a very fast growing tree, and can easily outstrip oaks with its rapid growth.  2-3 feet of growth in a year is normal, but 4-5+ feet isn’t unusual.  In addition to its rapid growth, this tree is popular in landscapes because it develops beautiful textures and colors on its bark.  The interesting bark takes time to develop, but as the tree ages it typically gets more and more beautiful.  It does have fall color, with its leaves turning yellow before dropping.  This is a hearty tree well adapted to our location.  It is considered a moderate water use tree, but it also is drought tolerant.  Basically this means it grows best with a moderate amount of water, but it can survive without water if it needs to.

2. Monterrey Oak

Also known as Mexican White Oak, this is a great shade tree, and very easy to grow and maintain.  Technically a native tree, but only found in landscapes in our part of Texas.  It is a relatively fast growing oak, typically growing 1-2 feet per year with little care, but sometimes grow 3-4 feet on a particularly wet years or when given good water and fertilizer.  This is a deciduous oak that typically drops it’s leaves very late in the year, usually near the end of December, and leafs out again in early February.  On mild winters it is not uncommon for this tree to keep it’s canopy all winter long.  It is resistant to many diseases, including Oak Wilt.  It is a low water use tree, able to withstand drought and heat easily.

3. Red Oak

This is a common native oak tree that is a very popular shade tree. It is named for its brilliant red fall leaves.  Also a relatively fast growing oak, it’s growth rate is similar to the Monterrey Oak.  It’s biggest draw as a landscape tree is adding fall color.  The leaves change color as our weather changes in the fall.  The slower our transition from summer to winter, the better the fall colors.  This tree is very susceptible to Oak Wilt, and Borer beetles.  Though this is a hearty tree, in our experience it is slightly less hearty than the Monterrey Oak.  It is a low water use tree, able to deal with local weather and drought.

4. Live Oak

This is an Austin classic. If you know nothing about the Treaty oak, we recommend you look it up, but the short version is that it is the last remaining tree when the Comanche and Tonkawa met for councils. And it is in downtown Austin. It is about 500 years old. More recently, the live oak has become the symbol of the Austin FC. Despite, our obvious bias toward this tree, it is one of the best shade trees in Austin – magnificent. Live oaks don’t grow quite as quick as the previous trees in this list and that’s why they generally last longer. Just like all of these trees you should think about how large they can and will get (40 to 80 feet tall with up to an 80 foot spread). But, that could be well after you are gone – they do live to be 500 years after all. 

5. Cedar Elm or Texas Elm

These trees can grow to be giants – 50 to 70 feet tall. In the fall their beautiful little green leaves turn golden yellow. They are deciduous (meaning they drop their leaves in winter) and the little yellow leaves drop. I have several of these in my front yard and they are gorgeous – especially in the early spring when they first push out leaves. They are drought tolerant, but just like most trees, they grow more in wet years. It is popular across the southwest due to its ability to thrive in a multitude of difficult soil conditions and the hot southern sun. It is rumored to have strange magical powers (kidding). 

Honorable mentions include: Lacebark Elms and Chinquapin Oaks.

Interested in Tree Trimming? Please visit our Tree Trimming page. There is a lot of detailed information that we hope you find useful.

We get a lot of our information and pictures from the Austin Tree Expert site.

Looking to landscape under your new shade trees? You’ll need specific plants that do well in partial sun. Check out our guide to designing a shade garden.

We got all of our pictures from the work of Robert O’Brien…Robert if you read this…we love you.  

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