Shade trees are a great addition to any yard—not only are they scenic, but they can also provide shade to your lawn and your home, which can result both in a cooler outside spot during the day and lower energy bills in the summer. Not to mention, healthy Georgia trees can live to see hundreds of years.

Trees, though, as with any living substance, are susceptible to diseases and infections, and they require just as much TLC as any of your plants. If you fail to give your trees proper care, insect infestations and common diseases can result in a tree’s death or a condition so severe that you’d need to remove the tree.

The most common culprit of tree sickness in the Georgia area is Dutch Elm Disease (DED). DED is a fungus that spreads over a tree, by way of a beetle, causing it to wilt and suffer discoloration in its leaves and bark. If a diseased tree is close to others, DED can spread and cause the neighboring trees to become infected.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for DED, but there are other options, including amputating parts of the infected tree and taking preventative measures to keep the disease at bay. If the fungus has done too much damage, you may have to remove the tree entirely.

Luckily, there are a variety of disease and insect-resistant shade trees right here in Georgia, including those resistant to DED as well as other predators that make their homes in Georgia’s subtropical climate.

Keep reading for information on three kinds of shade trees you can grow in your Georgia yard that are resistant to common local diseases and insects.

1. Japanese Zelkova Tree

Japanese Zelvoka tree

The Japanese Zelkova’s unique foliage can serve both as a shade tree for your yard and as an ornamental tree, enhancing your curb appeal. The orange in its bark, its quick growth rate, and the multitude of leaf colors ranging from yellow to reddish-purple makes this tree a popular choice among Georgia homeowners.

Native to Japan, Taiwan, China, Russia, and Korea, the Japanese Zelkova is adaptable and tolerant, and it can grow in a variety of soils ranging from acidic to dry.

The Japanese Zelkova is also highly resistant to DED. In all, this tree promises a long life if maintained and kept healthy.

Characteristics of the Japanese Zelkova Tree:

  • Height: 50–80 feet
  • Bloom Time: March to April
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Watering Amount: Medium
  • Maintenance: Low
  • Tolerates: Air Pollution, Dutch Elm Disease

Planting Tips

Zelkova trees are fairly easy to plant and will grow in varying kinds of soil. This tree also does well in urban conditions and will withstand droughts depending on its age. It’s important to note that while this tree can grow well in a multitude of environments, it won’t do well in areas that get and stay extremely cold, making Georgia’s relatively mellow climate a great place for this tree.

Because of its height and nutrient needs, the Japanese Zelkova grows best when planted in large areas, but not near powerlines. This tree also does well if spaced at least 50 feet from other trees. Above all, keep in mind that young Zelkova trees need adequate hydration throughout their youth to ensure the best growth and maturation

2. Ginkgo Tree

yellow Ginko trees

The Gingko tree, native to China, eventually made its way to the United States and has graced our neighborhoods and surrounded our schools and parks ever since. Known as one of the oldest living plants, the Ginkgo tree has a lot to offer.

According to Science Mag, not only has the Ginkgo tree survived 200 million years, but it has also developed a resistance to droughts, various insects, and viruses.

Characteristics of the Gingko tree:

  • Height: 50–80 feet
  • Bloom Time: April
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Water Amount: Medium
  • Maintenance: Low
  • Tolerates: Deer, Clay Soil, and Air Pollution

Planting Tips

Ginkgo trees grow well in a multitude of conditions, including areas that are highly polluted. Many professionals advise only planting male trees, as female trees give off a bad stench similar to vomit. Still, with a little research and a lot of patience, you can count on Gingko trees to grow up to 80 feet tall.

If you want your tree to not only grow tall but strong as well, water the tree well in its infancy. Also make sure the plant is deeply set and that the soil amount is adequate and maintains a healthy PH balance.

If you follow all of these rules, you will not have a problem growing this unique shade tree in your Georgia yard. 

3. Chinese Elm

Chinese elm tree

The Chinese Elm tree is native to China, India, Taiwan, Japan, North Korea, and Vietnam. This beautiful tree has a vast history and is also beloved within the United States. The Chinese Elm tree is a good alternative to the American elm tree because it is resistant to the American elm’s mortal enemy, Dutch Elm Disease (DED).

Not only is the Chinese Elm tree resistant to DED, but it is also resistant to other deadly beetles and phloem necrosis, which makes this tree a champion survivor.

Characteristics of the Chinese Elm:

  • Height: 40–50 feet
  • Bloom Time: August to September
  • Leaf Color: Reddish-Green (and sometimes in the fall leaves turn a reddish-purple)
  • Water Amount: Medium
  • Maintenance: Medium
  • Tolerate: Drought, Clay Soil, Air Pollution

Planting Tips

Because of its Latin name, Ulmus parvifolia, it is easy to mistake this tree for the Siberian elm, whose Latin name is Ulmus pumila. Many arborists and tree enthusiasts believe the Chinese elm should be the tree you choose for your yard because of its superiority in strength and beauty. If you are planning on planting a Chinese elm, make sure you’re buying the right tree or seeds.

If you’re purchasing a sapling, the easiest way to distinguish between the two trees is to simply have the correct Latin names on hand when asking about the plant. If, however, you are trying to determine the type of a mature elm tree, examine its branches. Siberian elms have brittle branches that fall apart and can’t withstand storms.

Once you’ve obtained a Chinese elm, plant the tree where it can grow outward, as its canopy can stretch between 30 and 40 feet. Moreover, the Chinese elm will grow quickly and can grow in almost any kind of soil. This tree is also adaptable to urban conditions, and is considered by arborists and tree lovers alike the most underutilized tree, even though it is one of the most tolerant.

Bottom Line

Some shade trees are more than just pretty. Certain varieties are resourceful and can protect themselves against common local insects and diseases. Be mindful that while the Zelkova, Gingko, and Chinese Elm tree are resistant to many things, they still need some TLC to thrive and remain healthy.

Doing the work to maintain a tree’s health is imperative and will ensure it grows to its capacity and lives a long life. Just remember to do your research before investing in a tree, and reach out to a tree professional when in doubt.