How to Create More Shade in Your Backyard

Umbrellas and gazebos aren't your only shady options.

Trendy outdoor patio pergola. garden lounge, chairs, metal grill surrounded by landscaping
Photo: Mathilde Receveur/Getty Images

Throwing shade isn't always a bad thing—and your backyard probably needs some cover, whether it's a respite from a scorching hot summer day, or a place where you can still hang out and enjoy the outdoors during a rainfall. But creating the best shade-producing setup for your backyard may require a mix of options to keep you undercover when you want—and leave your yard open when you don't.

Here's what to consider as you're planning your backyard shade, and the shelter options you can choose from to create your perfect space.

Determining Your Backyard Shade Needs

There's no one-size-fits all option for creating backyard shade. Depending on your backyard setup and your needs, you may opt for multiple shade options, from planting trees to umbrellas to permanent shady structures. Consider these questions before you shop.

Why do you want shade?

Do you just want a little shady corner for reading or relaxing in a hammock? Or are you hoping to get shelter from the rain and sun for outdoor parties? You may need different types of structures to achieve each of these needs.

Do you want something temporary or permanent?

Permanent structures or trees are perfect for spaces you always want to be in the shade. But temporary options like umbrellas and pop-up tents may be a more versatile option, which allows you to easily install and remove the shade as you need it. They can also be easily shifted around your yard to cover different spaces.

"Semipermanent shade options are usually best for outdoor spaces," says HGTV designer Breegan Jane. "Just a shade umbrella can do wonders. At the most luxurious hotels in the world, that's what they use to create shade—you can shimmy it this way or that way, based on a person's personal needs—whether they're looking for full sun or want to be covered up."

Where (and when) do you need coverage?

Check out your space at different times of day and in different seasons to see when and where the light hits. You may find that your needs change as the day goes on or the seasons change. "The sun moves all the time, and can come in through the sides in your spaces," Jane says. "You may need to look for options like curtains, greenery, or faux greenery to help provide shade."

What's your budget?

Shade options can run from under $100 for a basic umbrella or sunshade to thousands of dollars for a permanently shaded pergola, retractable awning, or gazebo.

What's the weather like where you live?

Your shade needs may vary greatly if you're in the deep South vs. the Pacific Northwest. "In very hot climates, certain patio and deck materials will get hotter than others, so permanent shade structures may be a better option so you can use the space more readily," says Blythe Yost, CEO and co-founder of online landscape design company Tilly. "Does it rain frequently, and a more permanent structure you can dine below during showers will be a better fit?"

What fits your backyard design?

You'll want something very different if you have a spare, modern backyard, vs. a lush Victorian garden. "Think about the style of your backyard and garden and what works with your personal style," Yost says. "A shade sail can be the perfect addition to an eclectic garden. A cantilever umbrella can be the perfect complement near hydrangeas by a pool deck."

Backyard Shade Options

You'll probably need more than one shade option to create your perfect backyard setup. Take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each option to help you choose just what you need the first time.

Illuminated gazebo at poolside
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Pergola, Trellis, or Gazebo

Freestanding structures like pergolas, trellises, and gazebos can be constructed to fit many budgets, from DIY kits for a few hundred dollars to more elaborate and sturdier versions that cost thousands. For these, you can opt for a permanent roof, a fabric roof of canvas, nylon, or heavy-duty plastic fabric, or even growing vines to create the shade.

Because these structures are semi-permanent or permanent, you can't shift them to suit your needs, and they can be one of the more expensive shade options for your backyard.

Yellow striped awning against a blue sky
mbbirdy/Getty Images

Awning or Roof

For a deck or patio, an awning or roof can be installed over the space to create shade. If you don't want permanent cover, opt for a retractable awning that can be pulled in and out as needed.

With these structures, it can be easy to install curtains or mosquito netting to create side shade or protection from nuisance insects.

Low Angle View Of Red And Blue Sun Sail Against Clear Sky
Ryan Mcgurl / EyeEm / Getty Images

Shade Sail

Shade sails can provide inexpensive shade that's easily removable and can be shaped to cover exactly what you need—you'll find them in squares, rectangles, and triangles. Shade sails are made of plastics like high-density polyethylene fabric (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or nylon, and can come in a rainbow of different colors to suit your space and style.

These simple shade options won't be as protective against rain and inclement weather as some other options, and they will require a little DIY prowess (or a handyperson) to install properly.

A cantilevered ivory-colored umbrella over a seating space on a patio
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Patio Umbrella

The basic umbrella is a great way to create temporary, easily moveable shade for your backyard—and it's generally relatively easy on the budget, with the most deluxe versions running a few hundred dollars, and budget options available for under $50.

You can get simple patio umbrellas that have a center pole that the umbrella spreads out around, or opt for a cantilevered option, which allows you to place the pole behind the shaded area, and have the umbrella stretch out over your space.

"We love cantilevered umbrellas," Yost says. "They're perfect for positioning over a lounge area or a table, and many will pivot so they can be used in multiple locations. While they are heavy and not super easy to move, they do offer more flexibility than a fixed shade structure."

Instant Outdoor Canopy

Pop-up Tent

If you need temporary shade or rain protection, a pop-up shade structure can be a great option. The newest ones often can be installed or taken down by one person, with just a few minutes of assembly.

Patio outdoor spring garden in backyard of home with lantern lamps lights hanging from pergola canopy wooden gazebo and plants white flowers

Trees, Vines, and Other Natural Shade

When you're in the great outdoors, why not take advantage of that to create your shade? "Trees add an element of shade that allows natural light to come through it—it filters the light, but doesn't block it entirely," Jane says.

Yost suggests shade trees like maple or oak, or even training vines like clematis or grapes. "Vines offer a beautiful, whimsical look over a pergola, on a trellis or a fence and create great shade." Consider leaf size and density and whether you want a pop of color from flowers when choosing your vines.

Keep in mind that you'll probably need to source another shade option for a few years while you wait for your vine or tree to start throwing shade.

Chillout lounge on wooden terrace

Outdoor Curtains

If you like to enjoy your patio or backyard in the early morning or late afternoon, you might have to contend with glare, based on the sun's angle. Installing curtains could help you soften that light when you need to—or tie them back when you want to enjoy the view.

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