Backyard branches: The best trees for your patio

5 January, 2015

Picking trees for an outdoor living area is tough – you want one large enough to provide some shade, but you don't want it to be so massive that it completely takes over your yard. It should be pretty without needing constant cleanup (think falling fruit) and hardy enough that it will make it through the winter without growing a root system so convoluted that it cracks your pavers or pokes up through the holes in your wood.

Fernleaf full moon maple
This is a tree that's almost candy-apple green in the summer and a deep, rich quilt of red, orange and yellow in the fall. The leaves are intricate and textured, and the tree itself will grow big without becoming monstrous.

Paperback maple
This tree has many qualities that make it porch-worthy, but most notable is easily its peel-back brownish-red bark. The resulting look is eye-catching yet refined, and you'd be surprised how few leaves it litters.

Crepe myrtle
This tree is native to the Southern United States and produces gorgeous magenta or stark white flowers in the summer. The base of the tree is made of multiple twisting trunks and can grow to be 20 feet tall, although most varieties are smaller. This tree is actually very resistant to cold in the winter, meaning you'll be able to enjoy its beautiful blooms time and time again.

Japanese maple
This elegant tree stretches up and out, boasting colorful leaves during both the spring and fall. Its fanning leaves give it impressive shading power for such a small structure – Japanese maples rarely grow to be taller than 25 feet. The common green-leaf variety will tolerate the most heat, making it a better choice for warmer climates, but fancier variations will hold up just fine in northern regions.

Dogwood trees are unique for many reasons, but perhaps the most notable is their fall coloring: The usual deep reds of autumn foliage mix with bold, dark purple that makes it truly distinct. They bloom in a multitude of colors and are relatively resistant to bugs and disease.

Japanese and Korean stewartias are small trees with mottled bark and bright, tear-shaped leaves. They won't grow higher than 25 feet, meaning they won't get so large that branches bang into your upper-floor windows.

Regardless of what trees you choose to perfect your patio, make sure you keep an eye on your outdoor furniture. Any tree is easily inhabited by birds and bugs, meaning that your outdoor sofa can get doused in bird dropping, falling leaves and bark debris. In the fall, this might mean you move your outdoor furniture out from underneath your trees or cover them up once it's too cold for use. If you reside in a warmer state (lucky you!), then you don't need to take too many precautions – just make sure you clean your cushions regularly!