13 Shade Trees for Small Landscapes

Just because you have a small space doesn't mean you can't have an attractive shade tree. Learn how to pick the right one to fit your space and style.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.

Japanese Maple

Japanese maples offer lots of fantastic colors and textures in upright forms that provide good shade and structure. Many will attain 10 to 20 feet in height, not quite as wide, depending on the specific variety.

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) joins azaleas and magnolias as Southern staples. The small- to medium-sized tree, growing to 15 to 35 feet depending on the variety, comes in numerous cultivars, which feature flowers in lavender, pink, purple, red or white. The crape myrtles that bloom in mid to late summer are especially valuable for the landscape’s “dog days,” but there are also some that bloom in early summer. The fast-growers are also prized for their beautiful, shedding bark during winter.

American Hornbeam

American hornbeam is a slow grower, to around 30 feet tall and maybe as wide. Its deep green leaves turn yellow-orange in fall. The flowers and seeds are a treat for wildlife.

Washington Hawthorn

Washington hawthorn provides white flowers in late spring, glossy red fruit in late summer which persist into winter, and leaves that unfurl with a red/purple tint changing to deep green then orange, red or purple in fall. It grows 25 feet tall and wide. This tree does have thorns, so plant carefully!

Saucer Magnolia

Saucer magnolia puts on a dramatic show in late winter. On bare stems, fat fuzzy buds open to large pink and white flowers. Once the show is over, there may be an encore later in summer or even fall, though to a lesser extent. This tree grows 25-30 feet tall and 25 feet wide.

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering dogwoods offer a burst of spring color in white, pink and even yellow. They typically max out around 20 feet and prefer partial sun.

Kousa Dogwood

Kousa dogwood is a shrubby relative of the American native flowering dogwood. Kousa flowers after the leaves have emerged, providing a bright green backdrop for the creamy white, four-pointed blooms. This tree stays at or under 20 feet tall and not quite that wide.

Japanese Snowbell

Japanese snowbell grows 20-30 feet tall and wide. It’s lightly fragrant, white, bell-shaped blooms appear in late spring to early summer, hanging well below the foliage on horizontal branches.

Goldenrain Tree

Golden rain tree attains 35-40 feet tall and 35 feet wide. Its large clusters of yellow blooms in early summer bear chinese lantern-like pods in late summer. 

Paperbark Maple

Paperbark maple offers copper-colored, exfoliating bark for year-round interest, as well as tiny, yellow spring flowers and fiery fall foliage. It grows extremely slowly to 30 feet, not quite as wide.

Serviceberry Tree

Native serviceberry tree brings multi-season interest to any yard. Watch for fragrant white blooms that appear before leaves in spring, followed by tasty, blue-hued berries in June. Fall color features shades of red and orange. Depending on the variety, serviceberries typically grow to 20 feet tall and wide.

Chinese Pistache

Chinese pistache grows 25-35 feet tall and wide at a moderate rate. This is the most rugged tree on the list, proudly withstanding withering heat and drought once established. Lustrous deep green leaves turn a beautiful red-orange in fall.

White-Flowering Redbud

Eastern redbud grows to 30 feet tall and wide. This eastern North American native tree has red buds which open to pink, pea-like flowers, but varieties are available in shades of pink, purple, red and even white. The dark green, heart-shaped leaves turn yellow in autumn.