A sun-soaked backyard keeps plants growing, but all that sun leaves you and your kids drenched in sweat. Creating some shady areas in the yard gives you relief from the heat of the sun, and your kids get some protection from the sun while playing. You can create a relaxing retreat in the shade by selecting the right plants for your garden. Plant-produced shade comes in many varieties -- from fast-growing vines to towering trees that take years to mature. Incorporating different types of plants gives you shade right away, with increased shade opportunity as the plants grow.
View the backyard at various times of the day to look for natural shade that's already available. The most effective spots for planting to create shade are the southwest and west sides of the property. You create shade in those areas when the sun's rays are most intense.
Note how you use different areas of the yard and where you need more shade. For example, you might want more shade on the patio area so you have a cool place to enjoy the backyard. The shade you create also helps with the energy-efficiency of your home. Adding plants to shade the roof, windows and central air unit reduces the amount of energy needed to cool the house during the summer.
Add a trellis on the top of a fence or along a deck railing. Plant vines at the base of the trellis to provide shade and privacy. You can also plant vines along existing structures, such as fences, arbors and pergolas, to create shade. As the vines grow, the foliage fills in to increase the density of the shade. Many types of vines, such as the morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor), moonflower (Ipomoea alba), Arabella clematis (Clematis "Arabella") and trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), grow flowers to add color to the shade screen. Grow morning glory in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, moonflowers in USDA zones 9 to 11, Arabella clematis in zones 4 to 9 and the trumpet vine in zones 5 to 9.
Plant deciduous trees on the south side of the house to provide summer shade. Trees on the west side of the home also provide shade as the sun is setting in the evening. Because a deciduous tree loses its leaves in the fall, you still get sunlight in the winter to help warm the house. Buy a tree that is at least 6 feet tall from a nursery to get as much shade as possible from the beginning. Each year, your tree provides more shade in the yard.
Plant fast-growing shrubs along the perimeter of the property or in places you want small pockets of shade. Because shrubs don't grow as tall as trees, you won't have a large patch of shade, but you can create shading for a small play or seating area. Shrubs along walkways help keep the usually hotter concrete cool. Shrubs near the house or air conditioning unit help reduce energy bills.