5 ways to create shade in your yard

Purple Leaf patio umbrella
(Image credit: Amazon)

If you have a south-facing garden or balcony, it can often be difficult to enjoy outdoors without the sun's blinding glare in your eyes. But, while you can’t control the sun's rays, there are ways you can create shade in your space. 

Creating shady spots is essential for every backyard, especially when heatwaves can make it stifling hot and unbearable to sit outdoors, or when gardening. This is especially the case if you have young children, or are hosting backyard gatherings and want your guests to stay comfortable. In addition, having shade can shield you from harmful UVA rays, as well as protect your outdoor furniture.

“Sitting in direct sun for hours on end isn’t good for us and can also feel a bit unbearable,” says Chris Bonnett, Founder of GardeningExpress, “Creating shady spots is a great way to still be able to enjoy the warm outdoors without sitting in the sun.”

Luckily, there are some practical and stylish ways to create shade, and keep you cool. So, if you want to dine or relax outdoors comfortably, check out one of these 5 ways to create shade in your yard. 

1. Practical patio umbrella 

Cantilever umbrella providing shade by a table and chairs

Purple Leaf patio umbrella (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Parasols or patio umbrellas are a popular way of creating instant shade, and usually hang over patio tables and chairs. These giant umbrellas come in all different designs and sizes to suit your outdoor space. 

Typically, there are three types of patio umbrellas. The most common are those with a static pole that will fit right in the center of your patio table; crank and tilt umbrellas allow you to change the angle, while cantilever umbrellas are freestanding and can be placed to the side. These are the best option for covering a larger area, and allows more space to move around underneath. 

Alternatively, if you have a compact space, you can invest in a wall-mounted umbrella that can be easily mounted against a wall to offer shade in your small patio or balcony. These also come with a flexible arm support, so you can adjust it to your preference and enjoy the sun! 

2. Float a shade sail 

Sun sail shade canopy

Sun sail shade canopy (Image credit: Amazon)

If you have a larger space to cover, or lack floor space, opt for a shade sail canopy to offer sun protection. Like the name suggests, this type of material is designed to create a shade based on the same textile technology found in a ship's sail. It's usually hooked to the wall or onto sturdy posts.

“Shade sails get hooked onto your home, trees or posts and allow a sheet to sit on top in order to block out any direct sunlight,” says Bonnett, “The good thing about this option is that the sides are left open which will bring in a nice breeze”.

Typically, you can find different sizes and colors of shade sails available like this Shade&Beyond 8' x 10' Sun Shade Sail Canopy ($29, Amazon), that are easy to install and clean with mild detergent or water. Not only do they offer excellent sunshade and UV protection, but also make an attractive feature in any backyard.  

3. Install a retractable awning 

Striped awning over patio

Striped awning over patio (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Awnings may seem rather outdated, but contemporary ones are now more durable, versatile and stylish. Just install this canopy to the rear exterior wall of the house, and simply retract it over your patio or outdoor space to provide suitable shade cover. 

Designed to be weather-proof, this roof-like cover provides reliable shelter from the elements. Best of all, you can retract it back to the wall once you’ve finished

Retractable awnings are either manual, motorized or remote-controlled if you want a fuss-free operation. What’s more, this is a great way to extend your living space outdoors, and enjoy dining or entertaining any time of the year.  

4. Strategically place tall plants 

Tall plants

Tall plants (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you enjoy gardening, why not create shade with plants? Make the most out of trees in your yard, especially ones that have thick leaves and large branches. Alternatively, you can plant tall shrubs and fast-growing plants to enhance cover in shady spots, as well as create more privacy in your backyard.

“Positioning tall plants and trees will create a dappled shade, which will be enough for those who are looking to get away from the sun,” suggests Bonnett, “You may not have space in your garden to grow plants and trees to create shade, but the good thing is you can replicate this with hanging plants. Plants like English Ivy and Ferns are great for this because they’re full and leafy, look good and will continue to grow in the shade which is a bonus.”

In addition, you can grow climbing roses on pillars, and around arches to make a stunning garden feature. Just be sure to keep roses pruned for them to stay in good condition and shape.  

5. Entertain in a gazebo 

White gazebo

White gazebo in garden (Image credit: Amazon)

For those who enjoy hosting backyard parties, a gazebo or pergola can offer excellent shade and a touch of glamor. Gazebos are sturdy, and usually feature a polycarbonate double-roof to protect you from harmful UV rays, harsh weather and maintain good ventilation. Most of them also come with side panels or curtains that you can keep open or close once the sun goes down.  

Depending on the dimensions, these can often accommodate up to 15 people or more, which is ideal for large gatherings. What’s more, you can even find pop-up gazebos like the Leedor Gazebos for Patios ($299, Amazon), which are also portable and can be taken on camping/outdoor trips. 

In any case, gazebos come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and tend to be easier to install than pergolas — another option. “Depending on the size of your garden and your budget you may want to consider a pergola,” says Bonnett, “These are great long term investments for those who do spend a lot of time outside. Their build provides relief from harsh sun but doesn’t completely block it out.”

What’s more, gazebos won’t cost you a fortune either, and you can easily find ones online like this MASTERCANOPY Patio Gazebo Mosquito Netting Screen Walls ($ 43, Amazon), that comes in various colors. 

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Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!