Owning a house means putting down roots, and nothing underscores that notion like planting a large tree whose leafy embrace will shade your home and yard. We're talking about oaks, elms, maples, beeches—trees that can live for a century and whose names conjure small-town streetscapes and backyard picnics. Such a tree is an investment in the future: It may go in as a twig, but as you watch it grow, its canopy spreading and its trunk thickening as it rises toward a full height of 50 feet or more, it will start to feel like a member of the family.
There are practical reasons to put in one of these trees, too. Their deeper roots reduce the likelihood of buckling pavement, and their strong branches are less prone than spindlier specimens' to break under stress from wind or snow. Properly placed, they can keep a home cooler in summer and warmer in winter, taking as much as 25 percent off utility bills. Plus, when it comes to curb appeal, a mature shade tree can boost property values by as much as 20 percent.
We've narrowed the choices down to six species, all beloved for their looks, longevity, and low maintenance. And spring is an ideal time to plant. The key to success? Putting the right type of tree in the right spot, where it can spread out unimpeded. Read on for our guide to selecting, planting, and caring for a shade tree that will grow straight and tall—and enrich the landscape for generations to come.
Shown: A large deciduous shade tree, such as this ash, which can reach a height of 120 feet, provides a focal point in the landscape.