If you’re looking to enhance the beauty of your patio with the help of plants, there are lots of choices available. Many people opt for trees due to their extra benefits. As opposed to simple container flowers, trees can deliver shade on the patio and create points of interest. Certain tree types can also produce tasty fruits so that’s a great bonus feature.
While there are lots of great-looking trees out there, it’s safe to say that not all of them could be considered fitting for your patio. Aside from personal preferences, it’s important to be aware of the tree’s particular characteristics to figure out if it would be a good match. Some trees can be difficult to take care of or they may come with roots that will crack the pavement.
In this article, we’ll take a close look at the best patio trees. We’ll focus on smaller trees that can be considered suitable for most yards. Not everyone has the space and patience to grow large trees. Our analysis will let you know of each tree’s essential traits to see whether it’s worth adding to the patio.
Adding a citrus tree like kumquat to the patio represents a smart decision considering the number of advantages. This is a versatile little tree that can be grown in different ways to suit multiple needs. Kumquats work when grown in containers or directly in the ground. It’s all about deciding how big you prefer your trees. The container can somewhat limit its growth while the ground allows the kumquat to reach a height of up to 8 feet.
This citrus tree can definitely stand out on your patio. It produces beautiful flowers and can bear delicious fruits. The vibrant orange of the fruit makes an appealing contrast together with the dark green foliage. The flowers are fairly fragrant as well so this is an excellent tree to incorporate in any yard. Keep in mind that due to its particular growing traits and depending on your climate, the kumquat tree may need indoor protection during the winter. Make sure the patio tree’s properly fertilized to help its tangy fruits grow as expected.
2. Palo Verde
Those who live in hot climates will probably enjoy patio trees that can provide a good amount of shade. Palo verde could be a reliable candidate in that regard. This small tree can easily adapt to desert gardens and works nicely for containers. One reason why it’s highly recommended for this area is its elegant canopy created by multiple branches with dense foliage. That should provide a satisfying level of shade.
Some palo verde varieties can also bear little yellow flowers that work as pollinator magnets. It’s often recommended to plant multiple trees to take full advantage of palo verde’s garden benefits. As this is a drought-tolerant plant, it can fit nicely alongside cactus and succulent mixes. There’s no need to worry about proper water needs but make sure you choose a sunny spot to let the tree thrive. Watch out for palo verde species that come with spiny branches. They aren’t ideal for high-traffic areas.
3. Japanese Maple
An essential plant to incorporate in a Zen garden, the Japanese maple can be considered another spectacular choice to include on the patio. While many people choose to grow this type of maple in the ground when crafting beautiful Japanese-themed arrangements, it’s good to know that you can also plant the tree in a container. The beauty of the Japanese maple’s tender foliage is best admired in a sunny area on the terrace.
There are lots of Japanese maple varieties to consider. Some of the best to plant on the patio come with weeping branches and threadlike leaves. Look for the ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘Butterfly’ species. Other varieties like ‘Orangeola’ and ‘Crimson Queen’ can stand out due to their stunning fall foliage. The fact that this tree doesn’t grow very large may represent an advantage for many homeowners. That being said, make sure you select a generous pot for this tree with consistently moist soil for the best growing results.
4. Edible Fig
Anyone who wants to bring a Mediterranean flavor to their patio needs to take into account Ficus carica trees. They’re not just very attractive when well maintained, but the trees will also bear delicious figs. You can grow edible fig trees up to 25 feet tall when planted in the ground. With the help of a container, you will be able to maintain a smaller fig. You can control its size better this way but the downside is the reduced fruit yield.
To enjoy sweet and juicy figs on your patio, it’s pretty much required to grow Ficus carica trees in hot climate areas. The tree has fairly large moisture needs if you’re determined to obtain high-quality fruits. Some people will probably not like this type of fig as a patio tree because the plant has a tendency to create a mess. If you want smaller fig patio trees, there are other species to consider such as the weeping fig which is usually more flexible in its environmental needs.
5. Ornamental Cherry
Small Prunus trees like the ornamental cherry can make a spectacular visual display on any patio. There are many great Prunus varieties, but the ornamental cherry seems to be one of the most prized choices due to its delicate pink-white flowers and small size. The tree performs ideally in USDA growing zones 5 to 8. It has average water needs and is flexible enough in terms of sun exposure requirements as it’s not very negatively impacted by partial shade.
Ornamental cherry trees can be planted in containers but there’s also the option to use a raised bed. As opposed to other trees for the patio, these will require some effort to maintain them in good health. Thinning the branches from time to time is important to prevent fungal diseases or pests. Issues can appear unless the tree gets a good level of airflow. Use a pruning tool to keep your ornamental cherries in top shape so you can enjoy their stunning beauty.
The olive tree is another great contender for setting up a Mediterranean theme on the patio. The plant can look particularly refined when using containers. Despite their considerable growth potential (20 to 30 feet for mature trees), olive trees can perform surprisingly well in pots. The secret is the presence of shallow roots. You just need to ensure that your olive trees meet the proper care requirements.
If you want to craft a dignified display of olive trees on the patio, it’s essential to take into account the size of the containers. This plant will grow nicely in generously-sized pots with well-draining soil. Unless you live in colder areas, it’s safe to say that olive plants don’t need sheltering during the winter. There are different olive tree species out there. Stick to a fruitless variety if you want to keep your patio clean from messy olive drops.
7. Sweet Bay
Laurus nobilis is the name of the plant that gives you those aromatic bay leaves frequently used for cooking purposes. The sweet bay tree has beautiful foliage so it makes sense that it would be recommended as a great patio tree choice. You can shape its appearance through pruning while the dark green leaves can add a nice visual touch to your sunny terrace. This slender evergreen tree works nicely for container planting.
Sweet bay can also perform great in gardens. The tree is known for its reliable tolerance of drought. Keep in mind that selecting a spot with proper sun exposure is vital for the health of this plant. While sweet bay trees don’t have fussy maintenance requirements, it’s still important to supply them with moisture during prolonged periods of dry weather. Pruning isn’t only recommended for giving the tree a nice-looking shape. It could also make a difference in terms of keeping the sweet bay’s size small and dense.
If you wish to enjoy the presence of greenery on the patio for the entire year, opt for a small pine tree. These evergreens are perfect to keep your garden or pool area shaded and protected from prying eyes. While pine trees can grow quite large, you can keep them small through controlled pruning. It’s also worth selecting a small variety that’s a better match for patios or deck areas. The Japanese red pine is a recommended choice together with the lacebark pine.
Those feeling more adventurous could try growing a larger variety like the evergreen Mugo pine but it’s important to provide it with a large enough container. Pine trees can deliver good shade and improve the aesthetics of any area while requiring minimal effort to care for them. The only times when you need to be careful about the health of the pine tree is during extended dry spells. Poor soil quality conditions might also prevent this tree from properly thriving so we recommend annual fertilization in that case.
9. Chaste Tree
Native to Asia and Mediterranean regions, the chaste tree is one excellent addition to any patio in need of shade. You can easily shape this tree to become a reliable companion for your sunny patio. Besides providing good shade, the chaste tree can also deliver in terms of improving the general atmosphere. The multiple trunks bear small flowers but the main highlight is the enjoyable fragrance of the leaves. Depending on the variety of chaste tree, flowers can be white, purple or pink.
One nice advantage of this small tree for the patio is its flexibility. You can tone it down to the size of a shrub with the help of some pruning shears. This may be necessary after a while as the chaste tree can reach considerable heights and widths. It can feel too sprawling without pruning. Whether full sun or part shade, the chaste tree doesn’t have very stringent growth requirements. It has good disease resistance and great drought tolerance.
10. European Fan Palm
Adding some tropical vibes to the patio can be easily done with the help of a palm tree. Not all varieties are suitable for growing in this area though. One recommended species is called the European fan palm. It has an eye-catching silhouette that can instantly put you in a great mood when relaxing on the patio. Similar to other palm trees, this small variety prefers rich soil and full sun exposure conditions.
As long as you pay attention to avoid overwatering, keeping the European fan palm healthy should be a breeze. It may require some fertilization during the growing season, depending on the quality of the soil used. Other great palm varieties to consider for the patio include the Chinese fan palm and pygmy date palm. The latter shows off exquisitely feathery fronds with a rough trunk texture. Make sure you’re mindful of the pygmy date palm’s sharp spines on the leaf stem. They’re dangerous to the skin similar to cactus stings.
11. Witch Hazel
The witch hazel tree can be easily planted in a small patio. Similar to other plants on this list, witch hazels tend to grow fairly large but the size can be controlled easily with the help of a container. These trees are highly recommended for growing along walkways due to their beautiful blooms that show off a distinctive fragrance. The interesting appearance of small buds on bare branches represents one important reason for the witch hazel’s popularity.
The yellow flowers of this tree appear in the fall and can last until the beginning of winter. In the rest of the seasons, the witch hazel shows off attractive foliage. Caring for it involves relying on moist soils. The witch hazel tree can handle different weather conditions so it’s a flexible solution for any patio or garden. As long as you live in USDA zones 5 to 8, it’s safe to say that you can let this tree thrive quite nicely.
12. Ornamental Crabapple
Although their blooming period is quite short, the ornamental crabapple deserves some attention if you wish to decorate your patio with fresh greenery. While regular varieties need to be planted directly in the ground, small ornamental crabapples work well for containers. This is also a nice climbing plant if you train it against walls or fences. When in bloom, this tree shows a collection of pretty flowers. There’s a wide variety of colors available such as white, red, or pink.
Crabapple trees grow without issues even in areas affected by drought. As long as the tree can establish itself well, you don’t need to bother with special care requirements. There’s minimal pruning needed for this tree. The best ornamental crabapple varieties to try are ‘Sargent’ and ‘Indian Magic’. Make sure you select a very sunny spot for this tree as it doesn’t grow easily in the shade. It’s recommended to opt for a large pot if you want to keep this plant neatly contained on the patio.
13. Bougainvillea Tree
There are many great patio-friendly trees out there. One of them is the bougainvillea tree that grows best in warm and sunny climates. With its eye-catching shape and colorful flowers, this is an excellent choice. The tree’s leaves are almost fully concealed when the bougainvillea is in full bloom. Growing this plant from scratch can be difficult as the plant isn’t easily trained to create a tree-like shape. For this reason, it’s recommended to buy a bougainvillea tree that’s already ready to display.
This plant has a tendency to bloom throughout the year in a wide range of colors such as red, pink, and orange. A nice advantage of the bougainvillea is the way it doesn’t affect allergy sufferers that much. The real flowers are actually tiny and concealed while the colorful bracts take the spotlight. Growing a bougainvillea tree successful isn’t difficult. The plant is tolerant of intense heat but requires well-drained soil. It can reach tall heights but it’s recommended to keep it at around 5 feet through trimmings to suit the patio.
With a stunning look in any season, the oleander tree works amazingly for crafting a beautiful patio display. This is an ornamental flowering tree that starts off as a shrub. By taking good care of it, the oleander can grow quite big with multiple trunks. It’s also possible to let it develop in a single-trunk fashion but it takes more training effort. The blooms of oleander are seen more often in the warm months of the year. Expect different hues of white, red, and pink.
The secret to growing beautiful oleanders lies in finding a good planting spot. You can grow it in containers or in the ground but make sure you select a place where it can get an adequate dose of sunlight. Some pruning could be required in the spring, particularly if you want to keep the tree smaller. Overall, oleanders are easy to grow and are recommended for patios or small yards. There are some disadvantages to keep in mind though. Oleander plants can attract caterpillars and are toxic if ingested.
15. Smoke Tree
As its name suggests, this tree’s aesthetic can easily remind you of smoke puffs. It’s a very textural tree for the patio that doesn’t compromise in terms of visuals. We recommend growing it in a large container to benefit from its stylistic effect. The dark purple leaves of the smoke tree form a beautiful pairing with the silky hairs. The tree doesn’t really produce impressive flowers but the hairs have a captivating color progression during the summer period.
To enjoy the maximum blooming beauty of the smoke tree, it’s essential to incorporate some pruning in the regular maintenance routine. Dealing with this process in the early spring can have many benefits for the appearance of the smoke tree. Smoke trees are also known as smoke bushes due to their characteristic look. If left to grow to a mature size, this plant can reach heights of up to 15 feet. Make sure you plant this tree in a patio spot where it can benefit from full sun exposure. There are no special considerations in terms of soil conditions as long as there’s decent draining performance.
16. Southern Magnolia
A good looking vertical tree that can be grown on the patio, the southern magnolia tree brings quite the visual punch. One of the most interesting features of this plant is the look of its leaves. One side is usually glossy green while the other shows off a sleek bronze appearance. The color combination makes this plant stand out on any patio. Southern magnolia trees work nicely for containers but you will need ample space if you wish to let the plant reach its maximum growth potential.
The tree grows vertically in containers up to around 10 feet in height. It needs consistent levels of moisture for the soil to be able to thrive. Another important aspect is to regularly prune it to prevent the plant from growing too tall. It depends on the southern magnolia variety, but some of them can become 80 feet tall in the landscape. When it comes to light requirements, this tree prefers full sun but it can handle partial shade as well.
17. Ornamental Pear
There are various pear tree varieties that can work nicely for ornamental purposes. Some of the best options for the patio are the edgedell pear, snow pear, and ‘Jack’ flowering pear. You will need to deal with a cross-pollination process using two trees in some cases but you can also opt for self-pollination varieties. This kind of pear tree prefers moist and humusy soil while being able to thrive in any sun conditions from full sun to part shade.
The biggest issue to expect when growing an ornamental pear is the susceptibility to diseases. This tree can be particularly vulnerable to the appearance of fire blight. Careful pruning will help to stave off the worst effects of the disease. Most ornamental tree cultivars produce little fruit and they’re prized due to being less messier compared to regular fruiting pears. An ornamental tree is generally appreciated for the showy flowers that bloom in the spring. When the autumn chill arrives, the tree’s leaves become very colorful in mesmerizing hues of red and purple.
18. Croton Tree
Croton plants can perform well as patio trees. This is thanks to the colorful appearance of the leaves. In terms of height, this can be considered a small tree as it only reaches around 4-5 feet. It’s essential to take good care of the croton’s needs to be able to enjoy the vibrant rainbow created by its leaves. Different varieties don’t just show off a varied range of colors but also more distinctive leaf shapes. Your deck or terrace can definitely benefit from a splash of fun color with the help of a croton tree.
While croton plants produce some small flowers, they pale in comparison with the aesthetically-pleasing style of the leaves. The toxicity of the croton plant is well-known. It has a poisonous oil but many people still enjoy planting crotons for their attractive appearance. They have a festive air about them which makes crotons ideal for theme parks. A secluded spot on the patio can also be a good place for a small croton tree in a container.
19. Dwarf Lilac Tree
With the help of a dwarf lilac tree, it’s easy to spruce up the appearance of any patio. Aside from enhancing the look of any area, this type of small tree is also suitable for those who like fragrant flowers. Turning the patio into a relaxing sanctuary is possible if you add a dwarf lilac tree. This shrub doesn’t grow very fast so you can keep it into containers without worries. The tree starts flowering from the end of the spring to the beginning of the summer season.
While it’s not a particularly fussy plant to grow, the dwarf lilac still has some important care requirements to be aware of. It can only thrive with adequate amounts of water and prefers alkaline soils. There’s no need to focus too much on pruning as light trimming can keep a desirable shape for this small tree. The delightful fragrance of the dwarf lilac is a pleasure to experience on any sunny patio.
20. Italian Cypress Tree
If you’re looking to create a traditional look for your patio, perhaps getting some Italian cypress trees represents a smart solution. With its distinctive shape, this tree crafts a timeless appearance thanks to the way the foliage can be easily sculpted to fit your personal aesthetic. Make sure you select a variety that’s precisely intended for growing on patios. They’re usually easier to shape and don’t have high maintenance needs.
Italian cypress trees need plenty of water to grow healthy, especially if you plan on growing them in containers. That’s usually the best method for planting this type of small tree because it’s more convenient to control the size. Just pick a reasonably-large pot and the tree will limit its growth to it. Pruning might be necessary more often compared to other patio trees but it’s worth the effort considering the elegant look obtained. The Italian cypress tree tends to deliver an air of sophistication that’s very appreciated on patios.