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Creative Ways to Add Shade to Your Backyard

Spending time outside is one of the most enjoyable parts of Chicago spring and summer. As much as we love the sun, there are times when we need a little bit of shade. Creating shade in your backyard helps keep you and guests cool, as well as provides protection from the sun for children and pets. But don’t feel like you’re limited in outdoor shade solutions. There are many creative ways to add shade to your backyard and we’ll share some of our favorites here!

Plant Trees

One of the most obvious outdoor shade ideas is to plant trees. They are often eco-friendly and inexpensive. Unfortunately, it can take many years for a young tree to get large enough to provide the amount of shade that you are looking for. That is why some of the following options might be more suitable if you are looking for an immediate outdoor shade solution. An added bonus of shade trees is that when planted in strategic places, they can actually lower your home’s use of energy when heating and cooling your home.

Add a Gazebo

Even a small gazebo can create a coveted, intimate seating area that guests will love to hang out in. It essentially adds a “room” outside that provides shade and protection from the elements. In addition, areas around the gazebo will become shaded as the sun moves through the sky. These additional pieces of shade are ideal for letting your children or dogs play outside without the harmful sun rays.

Invest in a Patio Umbrella

An outdoor umbrella is one of the fastest ways to create shade in your backyard. You can choose a simple umbrella with a pole you insert in a hole found in the middle of most patio tables. Or, you can choose a standalone option. While there are many different price points available for patio umbrellas, this is not something you want to go cheap on. Inexpensive umbrellas and bases often don’t function as well as better-made options. You might end up spending much more replacing the pieces than you would have if you had purchased a sturdier option from the beginning.

Install a Marquee

A marquee is an outdoor shade solution that is used to provide protection as people approach an entryway or make their way between structures. For example, you might have a covered porch attached to your home and a covered patio in your backyard. A marquee might be a great way to provide shade over the walkway that connects the porch to the patio. A marquee does not have to be made out of wood and fabric. You can also create a natural marquee by growing vines over an arched trellis.

Build a Pergola

Pergolas are a more permanent structure that features an open roof system. Pergolas are very versatile, complementing just about any architectural style. They can also significantly improve the visual appeal of your backyard. An appealing aspect of adding a pergola to your backyard is that there are options for just about any budget. Pergolas offer broken shade, but if you want more complete shade, you can supplement it or fill it in by adding a fabric covering. You can also add a couple of wall panels surrounding your pergola to further create shade in your backyard and create more privacy.

A Fence or Wall

A fence or wall doesn’t provide protection from the sun when it is overhead, but can still offer valuable shade. When they are positioned properly, they can create shade earlier in the day and later in the day. They often are a great addition to a covered patio or a canopy to offer even more shade throughout the day.

Triangle Shade Sail

When you’re looking to provide shade over a tight space, a triangle shade sail can be an ideal solution. The shape is typically very accommodating when you don’t have as much room to work with. And it will still provide you with the shade you are looking for. These UV-resistant shade sails come in all kinds of colors and sizes. When choosing a color for your home, you might want one that matches your home’s facade or trim or contrasts with it.

Plant Taller Plants and Bushes

If you don’t want to plant a large tree, another way to create shade in your backyard is to plant tall plants and bushes. They can provide shade throughout the day as well as much-needed privacy from neighbors as well. You can also choose a flowering plant that will increase the visual appeal of your backyard. The plants or bushes can act as a border near your patio or deck or you can plant them in containers. If planting in containers, you can place them on wheeled plant stands to make it easy and convenient to move them around as the sun moves.

Add an Awning

When you think of an awning, you might think of your grandparents’ house from the 1950s. But, they’ve come a long way since then! Awnings made today are softer, made of better, longer-lasting materials, and put simply, are better looking. Awnings even post the ability to reduce your energy costs by keeping your home cooler even on hot days.

Create a Loggia

For another upscale outdoor shade idea, you can create a loggia in your backyard. A loggia is a covered space that usually stretches along the length of a building. They typically include columns and/or arches of some sort. This is definitely one of the more expensive options, but it can add a significant feeling of elegance and luxury to your space. Within the loggia, many people choose to install a firepit or TV, as you will likely never want to leave the area!


While it can be relaxing and restorative to spend time outside, you might not want to expose yourself to the sun’s rays. Or, it just might be too hot in the full sun. So when you want to create shade in your backyard, consider one of these creative options.


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