Gardens and Outdoors Plants

The 18 Best Trees for Small Gardens

This post may contain references and links to products from our advertisers. We may receive commissions from certain links you click on our website. As an Amazon Associate Rhythm of the Home earns revenues from qualifying purchases.

Share this article:

There are lots of flowers or shrubs that bring some colorful touches to your small garden. Due to size limitations, many people will steer clear from planting trees but there are actually some great options that can fit in your little yard. It’s all about selecting the correct tree type that doesn’t grow large enough to overwhelm the entire area. Flowering trees can definitely stand out in any small garden. Aside from beautiful blooms, there are other benefits to consider as well.

With the help of the right tree, your small yard will be screened for extra privacy. You can also protect your home from noise and pollution. There are advantages to keep in mind when it comes to good insects in the garden as the trees will sustain pollinators. Depending on the tree type, its branches can provide shelter for birds. It’s safe to say that a tree can be a valuable resource for wildlife and the natural habitat. The aesthetics of your garden will be significantly improved thanks to the ability of a tree to give a sense of structure.

Take a look at our varied selection of trees that can easily suit those gardens where space comes at a premium.

1. Amelanchier

With its brilliant white blooms and many small varieties, the Amelanchier tree is one of the best choices to include in your small garden. This tree is quite popular in the South and Midwest US regions. It creates an impressive visual display not just thanks to its blossoms. The tree also has beautiful bronze-tinged leaves that become fiery red in the fall season. You will also appreciate the sweet purple fruits that are edible fresh and work great for jellies.

The Amelanchier is part of the Rosaceae family of plants and is often called juneberry because its fruits are ready to eat around that time. The tart fruits are quite popular with birds so this is a great tree if you wish to attract them to your yard. One of the most popular Amelanchier species to consider is called Amelanchier lamarckii. This variety is highly recommended due to its ability to deliver year-round interest. The tree is quite attractive even in the winter season. It thrives in well-drained soil with either full sun or partial shade.

2. Saucer Magnolia

Although there are many magnolia trees that could be considered too big for small gardens, you won’t be disappointed if you choose the right variety to fit your yard. A good example is the saucer magnolia that gets its name from the shape of the flowers. This type of magnolia blooms quite early in the spring season. It will enhance the look of the garden with the help of its delicate purple-white flowers that show off a pleasant fragrance.

The saucer magnolia tends to grow as a multi-stemmed shrub but you can train it as a little tree to fit any garden. Unless you employ a regular pruning routine, this magnolia tree can grow quite large as many specimens can reach 25 feet. To enjoy the maximum potential of its blooms, it’s recommended to select a sunny spot for the saucer magnolia tree. Organically rich soils with consistent water levels seem to work ideally for growing this tree.

3. Japanese Maple

Few trees can match the compact beauty and Zen vibes of the Japanese maple. This represents a solid choice for any garden with space limitations. You don’t need to worry about it growing quickly to a huge size. The Japanese maple can tolerate shade and has great potential to create a vibrant fall display. Its delicate foliage will captivate the attention in any garden but the tree also shows off other aesthetically-pleasing features like the arching limbs and texturized bark.

To enjoy the beauty of this small tree in your garden, it’s important to meet its growing requirements. The Japanese maple doesn’t really need a thorough maintenance routine but it benefits a lot from rich and well-draining soil with good mulching. It’s recommended to plant this tree if you live in zones 6 to 8 though some varieties can also handle different conditions. If you’re looking for a particularly beautiful cultivar, the ‘Ribbon Leaf’ Japanese maple can truly stand out.

4. Red Buckeye

Known by its scientific name Aesculus Pavia, the red buckeye tree is one of the best trees to brighten up the gloomy look of a small garden. This tree offers a spectacular show in its blooming period as it produces vibrant red flowers that attract beneficial insects and hummingbirds. Both its height and canopy spread are fairly reduced compared to other trees so even people with small yards can successfully incorporate a red buckeye. It can reach a maximum of 15 feet when mature.

The red buckeye grows quite slowly and can be quite vulnerable to hot temperatures. It has to be properly watered during extended dry spells. Consider growing this small tree if you live in USDA areas 4 to 8. While the red buckeye can draw all the attention in the spring when it flowers, it will usually start dropping its leaves right before the first signs of the fall season. Due to this tree’s pest-free features and ability to tolerate pretty much all soil textures, it’s safe to say that it’s a relatively low-maintenance addition to any small yard.

5. Dogwood

Dogwood trees will often bloom in early spring so they can add a splash of fresh color in your garden. They tend to grow small enough to be easily integrated into areas with reduced available space. While there are many varieties of flowering trees and shrubs in its genus, the simplest way to recognize a dogwood is to check the leaves. They usually have smooth edges with veins that follow them in parallel style. Most flowering varieties come with large bracts that bear fruits called drupes.

Dogwood trees have opposite branching and the wood has some special qualities appreciated by many woodworkers and carving enthusiasts. To plant this tree successfully, make sure you choose a species that’s recommended for your location. Dogwoods can be grown without problems in hardiness zones 3 to 8. Moist and well-draining soils are preferred while the trees tend to perform best in full sun. The Japanese dogwood is a recommended variety which blooms in early summer and produces vibrant crimson fruits in the fall.

6. Mimosa

If you want to add an exotic touch to your small yard, the mimosa tree could be the perfect solution. While its fern-like leaves can quickly draw a lot of attention, this tree will mainly stand out due to its unusual flowers. Mimosas are popular in the South because they can tolerate drought and are known for attracting hummingbirds. The downside of this tree is that it tends to live a short life. It’s also considered invasive for certain areas.

Despite the solid tolerance to drought and heat, mimosa performs ideally if you irrigate it in a consistent manner. It favors well-draining soil and can usually thrive in either full sun or part shade. The mimosa tree grows fast so you don’t have to wait a lot to enjoy the beautiful texture of its foliage and the unique thread-like flowers. It’s not surprising to find out that the mimosa tree is often called the silk tree. The maximum size of this tree should rarely reach more than 20 feet tall and wide.

7. Loquat

A native of China, the loquat tree is a glossy evergreen that’s often grown in urban gardens. One important reason for its popularity is the distinctive fragrance of the plant’s flowers. It also produces bronze-tinted leaves and attractive foliage. The tree can serve an important ornamental purpose in a garden but it can also be considered fairly practical. The maximum height reached by the loquat is 25 feet with a similar spread of its canopy.

The fruits of the loquat tree are delicious when eaten fresh or they can be incorporated in preserves or jams. Mature trees bear clusters of small round fruits that look exotic against the dark green leaves. As long as you don’t live in a very cold area, you shouldn’t have too many issues growing loquat trees. Sunny locations are strongly recommended for planting this tree. Growing from seed isn’t really practical so it’s best to get a grafted seedling which can bear fruit after a few years.

8. Snow Gum

The snow gum is a small to medium-sized tree with lots of great properties to enhance the look of your tiny garden. The beauty of this tree doesn’t really have to do with a flowering display as the snow gum stands out due to other features. It has a smooth, peeling bark that brings a lot of visual interest with its gray and green color mix. Once the tree starts to mature, you will be able to admire its twisted branches that deliver a unique scent through its glossy gray-green foliage.

The snow gum is a type of Eucalyptus tree that’s very easy to grow and care for. It’s a native of Queensland and can become a year-round attraction in the garden. There are some small white flowers blooming in the summer season but they’re not really the highlight of the tree. When it comes to height, the snow gum’s size can vary a lot from 12 to 50 feet. This is a fairly hardy tree that can handle more extreme temperatures. It can be vulnerable to cold, drying winds though.

9. Apple Tree

Apple trees can thrive in small gardens without too many issues. Just make sure you select a suitable variety to match the size of the yard. Some dwarf species can even be grown in containers. Aside from the scented spring blossoms, the apple tree can provide a bountiful harvest in the fall. It’s safe to say that you can’t really beat the aroma of apples grown by yourself. Most apple tree cultivars can be categorized as either for eating or cooking.

A nice variety to consider is the ‘Spartan’ apple tree. It can produce enchanting dark red apples with a tasty white flesh. The variety seems to withstand common apple tree diseases better compared to others. To enjoy the full flavor of this apple tree’s fruits, it’s recommended to choose a sheltered spot in the garden that gets adequate sunlight. Good sun exposure is required to help ripen the fruit. Make sure you protect your apple tree from drought by regular watering. Periodic mulching can also make a difference for the health of the tree.

10. Silver Birch

With a bark that remains attractive during the winter, the silver birch shouldn’t be missed if you’re searching for trees to include in a small garden. Also known as the European white birch, this graceful tree develops a smooth bark when young. As the tree matures, the bark’s texture starts to become rougher at the base. The ovate leaves feature a glossy green appearance that contributes to the overall attractiveness of the tree.

The silver birch tree flowers in the spring but it’s safe to say that you can admire its beauty in all seasons. It’s a particularly great choice for cooler northern climates. Small cottage gardens can benefit from the visual punch provided by the silver birch. The tree can be ideal as a specimen plant as well. As long as the soil has well-draining properties, silver birches won’t be too fussy about the specific type. They can even tolerate certain dry soils. The tree can thrive in full sun but performs nicely in part shade too.

11. Crepe Myrtle

Another favorite for small gardens, the crepe myrtle tree can provide a rewarding flowering experience. Its frilly blooms come in a wide range of colors such as pink, purple, and white. The foliage is quite impressive in the fall as it becomes more vibrant in shades of red and yellow. Crepe myrtle trees are very appreciated for their peeling bark as well. Varieties of this tree range from 6 to 25 feet in terms of height and width.

Stick to a smaller type of crepe myrtle tree that can be successfully accommodated to a small yard. Those living in the South should definitely consider this tree as it seems to perform well in warmer regions. Caring for this tree involves a bit of pruning in winter or early spring. It’s worth eliminating some of the side branches to let the bark of the tree get in the spotlight. There are many notable crepe myrtle tree varieties to plant in your garden but those with really small yards should focus on dwarf cultivars like ‘Black Diamond’.

12. Crabapple Tree

This is an excellent tree for a small garden. Most varieties of crabapple trees don’t grow taller than 14-15 feet. They’re known for their ability to create a delightful display of blooms in the spring. The flowers act like magnets for diverse pollinators while fruits can become great snacks for birds. The crabapple tree can bring some fresh color to your tiny garden year-round. Aside from fruits and flowers, the tree can impress with its fall foliage as well.

Most varieties of crabapple trees require full sun to thrive but some can grow in partial shade without problems. There’s a good selection in terms of bloom color as there are crabapples with white, red, or pink flowers. The fruits aren’t like regular apples as they’re small and not edible in their raw state. You can still use them in jellies though. Overall, the crabapple tree is worth growing for its beautiful qualities, wildlife value, and reliable productivity.

13. Japanese Lilac Tree

Fans of lilac shrubs will be pleased to find out that there are some wonderful tree-form lilacs you can plant in the garden. One of the most impressive ones to consider is the Japanese lilac tree. It blooms in early summer so a bit later compared to the flowering period of classic lilacs. This deciduous tree can produce panicles of white flowers that provide a pleasant scent. While the visual display is slightly different compared to other lilacs, the Japanese tree variety is worth a shot for its unique beauty.

Even if the tree’s fall foliage won’t draw a lot of attention, you will definitely appreciate the glossy copper-color bark in the winter season. When mature, the Japanese lilac can reach around 20 to 30 feet in terms of height and slightly less when it comes to its spread. The rounded shape and tendency to grow upright are some notable qualities of this tree. It prefers full sun to partial sun and can be grown well in hardiness areas 3 to 7. Pruning maintenance has to be performed from time to time to prevent the risk of pest or disease infestations.

14. Carolina Silverbell

Known to bloom in early spring and to offer a spectacularly bright fall foliage display, the Carolina silverbell is another great small tree to bring in a tiny yard. It’s a versatile plant as you can train it either as a large shrub or small tree without too many difficulties. In terms of flowering, this tree shows off bell-shape blooms packed in white clusters. The plant can be found growing in the wild in creek-banks and coves. Woodland gardens, in particular, can take advantage of the beauty of a Carolina silverbell specimen.

The crown of this tree doesn’t have a well-defined shape but the visual style can be improved by planting it together with rhododendrons and azaleas. To grow this tree or multi-trunked shrub, it’s recommended to set aside a full sun spot in the garden. Carolina silverbells can perform in partially shaded areas but they require rich soils with consistent moisture. The tree can be vulnerable to drought and heat while soil compaction can also have a negative impact.

15. Hawthorn

A reliable choice to enhance the aesthetics of any small garden, the hawthorn tree has a very wildlife-friendly profile. All the important parts of the tree such as the leaves, flowers, fruit, and even bark have great value for wild animals. The thorny habit of the tree is preferred by nesting birds. Its fragrant white flowers are attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects. The hawthorn tree bears dark red fruits called haws that many birds enjoy as snacks.

It’s safe to say that this tree has lots of extra benefits besides just improving the look of the yard. You can also count on this tree as a security hedge thanks to the thorny style of its stems. It’s recommended to plant multiple trees if you want to use it for this purpose. The showy hawthorn performs best in well-drained soils and needs full sun to grow as expected. There’s no need to bother with pruning on a regular basis, except for special reasons like controlling a pest or disease infestation. Amelanchier and crabapple are some excellent companion trees for the hawthorn.

16. Golden Chain Tree

The golden chain tree gets its name from the hanging clusters of bright-yellow flowers. It’s a member of the pea family of plants and its appearance can remind you of wisterias. While this showy tree can stand out in any small garden due to its magnificent blooms and fine-textured foliage, it’s not the easiest tree to grow. Golden chain trees are a bit fussy about extreme temperatures. Without a balanced climate that’s suited to their needs, it’s safe to say that you won’t be enjoying the showy floral display.

Despite some downsides, it could be a rewarding experience to grow golden chain trees. They don’t grow very large so they could work well for small yards. Although this tree can thrive in both full sun and partial shade, it’s essential to select a good spot according to where you live. For example, if you live in the South, it’s recommended to plant the golden chain tree in partial sun so it’s somewhat protected from the intense heat. There are no special soil and water considerations but the golden chain tree can be susceptible to many diseases like leaf spot and blight without regular care.

17. Pawpaw

Native to North America, the pawpaw tree is somewhat underrated but it has lots of great features to consider it for planting in small gardens. The main highlight of the tree is the pawpaw fruit which gives off some tropical vibes as it resembles an avocado with the aroma of mango. The maximum height of the pawpaw tree is around 30 feet. Make sure you reserve a sunny place in the garden to let this tree develop as expected.

If you wish to grow pawpaw for its fruits, it’s required to get a pair of trees for cross-pollination. Pawpaw fruits can be eaten raw or turned into tasty desserts. While the fruit is highly appreciated, the pawpaw is worth growing for more than that. You can also rely on the huge leaves to add to the tropical feel of the garden. The pawpaw tree blooms flowers with a red-brown color but the smell of the blossoms represents a potential downside. The scent is really unpleasant due to the dependence on blowflies for pollination.

18. Japanese Stewartia

Here’s another excellent small ornamental tree that can be successfully grown in gardens where space comes at a premium. This is the Japanese stewartia tree which provides a brilliant visual display with its mix of white flowers and peeling bark. The multi-stemmed tree also comes with serrated foliage that appears purple in spring and then turns to green in the summer. The leaves will appear quite striking in the fall season as well as their color develops into red and orange hues.

The Japanese stewartia tree doesn’t grow very fast but it can reach a respectable size of 30 feet unless you put in some effort to shape it through pruning. Compared to other ornamental trees, this one has many advantages in terms of maintenance. It’s rarely affected by pests or diseases and grows happily in full sun to part shade conditions. Consider growing the tree in USDA zones 5 to 8. The only downside of the Japanese stewartia is that it produces pointed seed pods that some people don’t consider that attractive.

By Stefan Bucur

Stefan is the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. He has 6 years of experience in home improvement, interior design, cleaning and organizing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *