July 12, 2024


Making a New Home

9 Trees for Small Yards

4 min read

Camellia japonica

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Trees come in all sizes, from towering oaks to small fruit trees you can grow on your patio fruit trees you can grow on your patio. And if you’re looking for something justttt right for a small yard, the choices may seem endless. To pick the perfect species for your garden, first measure out exactly how much space you have.

“A good rule is to plant a tree away from the house at a distance equal to one-half of the maximum tree height,” says Kate Karam, a landscape architect with Monrovia. “For a 20-foot tree [at maturity], plant no less than 10 feet from the house. Tree roots can grow beyond the canopy of a tree, so a bit of wiggle room is a very good idea.”

When selecting a tree for a small space, consider ornamental trees, which are often slower growing, as well as trees that come in dwarf varieties, advises Missy Henriksen, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Different species can suit different needs — shade, privacy, color — depending on the shape of the tree and its canopy, not to mention potential maintenance. Pretty fall foliage can also mean more raking is in your future! These nine species — including crowd-pleasers like dogwoods, crepe myrtle, and crabapples — picked by landscape professionals offer the best of the best when it comes to beauty, size, shade, privacy, and hardiness. Find out if they’ll grow in your garden by checking the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map here.

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Prairifire Crabapple

Zones 4 – 8


This deciduous tree develops deep-pink flowers in the spring and small, purplish fruits in the fall and winter for a year-round show. “It’s an excellent choice to feed and shelter wildlife, who love the fruits which sweeten as they freeze and thaw,” Karam says. “Grow as a single specimen in the front yard for curb appeal, or use a pair to flank a gate.” Plant in a full-sun spot with room for the tree to grow up to 20 feet tall and wide.

Camellia Japonica

Zones 7 – 9


“My all-time favorite tree for a compact yard is the camellia, an evergreen tree that has beautiful, bright flowers and as a double-bloomer, brings year-round color to your landscape,” says Gary McCoy, a store manager for Lowe’s in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“They’re low maintenance and easy to prune.” These white, pink, or red-flowered beauties typically grow up up to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide.

Royal Star Magnolia

Zones 4 – 9


Maxing out at 15 feet tall and wide, this variety tolerates cold and heat better than your average magnolia, Karam says. The flowers — bright white, fragrant, and huge — bloom before the foliage emerges in the spring, but expect a leafy green backdrop afterwards. Gorgeous!

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Ribbon-Leaf Japanese Maple

Zones 5 – 9


“One of the best trees for a small space has to be a Japanese maple,” Karam says. “The striking foliage, the graceful shape, the architecture of the branches in winter. It’s a killer!” This particular variety features textured leaves that start red in spring, go bronze in summer, and then turn brilliant orange in fall. Full to partial sun spots in cooler climates and dappled or afternoon shade in extremely hot areas work best. Expect to see this showstopper grow up to 12 feet tall and wide.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

Zones 4 – 9


“A popular choice throughout the South and Midwest, Autumn Brilliance serviceberry matures to 25 feet tall,” Henriksen says. “The white flowers, copper red leaves, purplish fruits, and light gray bark make it the perfect accent plant or privacy screen for small yards.” According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the fruit tastes similar to blueberries and you can use it in jams, jellies, and pies!

Zuni Crape Myrtle

Zones 6 – 10


“Zuni is the consummate small tree for city gardens,” Karam says. “Use as an accent or to cover unattractive views.” The pink flowers bloom in the late summer, but you can admire the multicolored bark and greenery during the growing months. A single trunk can grow up to 12 feet tall and wide in full sun, and you can plant more together for a bigger canopy.

RELATED: The 10 Best Indoor Trees for a Happier Home

Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle

Zones 7 – 10


McCoy also recommends this dwarf varietal of crape myrtle for its vibrant flower and classic, smooth bark. Intense black foliage makes the blooms pop even more. Each shrub can grow up to 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide with enough room and light — full sun is best.

Venus® Dogwood Tree

Zones 5 – 9


Dogwoods produce large, flower-like bracts each spring and red foliage and berries by autumn. “This particular cultivar is a vigorous selection from Rutgers University with notable winter hardiness, good drought tolerance, and excellent disease resistance,” Karam says. This deciduous tree prefers partial to full sun and can grow up to 20 feet tall and wide.

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