Small Trees For Modern Yards

Got a yard on the small side? Discover tiny trees for tight spaces that boast multi-season interest.

Photo By: MtCubaCenter.org

Photo By: BaileyNurseries.com

Photo By: MtCubaCenter.org

Photo By: BaileyNurseries.com

Photo By: ProvenWinners.com

Photo By: MtCubaCenter.org

Photo By: BaileyNurseries.com

Photo By: SouthernLivingPlants.com

Photo By: MtCubaCenter.org

Photo By: BaileyNurseries.com

‘Little Volunteer’ Tulip Tree

Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a native tree known for its towering size (70 to 100 feet) and yellow, tulip-like blooms that open in summer. ‘Little Volunteer’ brings that stately beauty down to a size that fits modern gardens. Leaves offer an unusual shape and shimmer in the wind. Look for gold fall color and cup-like fruits made of seeds. It’s a medium-fast grower, reaching a size of 12 feet tall by 6 feet wide in 4 years (starting with a 3- to 5-foot sapling). The strong pyramidal shape looks elegant in winter, especially when wet snows stick to branches. This is one tree you won’t regret planting. Size: to 20 feet tall by 9 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.

Ruby Tears Flowering Crabapple

Flowering crabapples are a classic yard tree, beloved for their spring blossoms, fall fruits and fall color, if they have disease resistance. Ruby Tears is a weeping crabapple that blends disease resistance with pretty pink blooms. Red fruits form in late summer that beckon birds. If you don’t want a weeping tree, look for dwarf flowering crabapples, such as ‘Red Jewel’ (white blooms, 14 to 18 feet tall and 9 to 12 feet wide) or ‘Sugar Tyme’ (pink buds open to white blooms, 12 to 18 feet tall and wide). Ruby Tears—Size: 8 to 10 feet tall by 12 to 15 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7.

Fringe Tree

Discover a native tree that’s perfect for any size yard. This beauty delivers white, fringe-like flowers in late spring to early summer, followed by blue-black fruits that are favorites among birds. Fall color delivers with leaves that shift from bright green to shades of yellow-gold. This tree has no pests and stands up to pollution. It also doesn’t need pruned. The shape is rounded (like those lollipop trees you drew in elementary school). It often forms multiple trunks, which is not a problem. Size: Plants grow 12 to 20 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9.

Venus Dogwood

Meet a dogwood that blends disease resistance with small stature (no pruning required!). Venus dogwood is the result of a cross between Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) and Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa). The resulting beauty features 6-inch-wide spring flowers, red berry-like fruits in autumn and red fall color. Birds flock to this dogwood to gobble the fruit, making it a must-have in a wildlife or bird garden. Size: Up to 15 to 20 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.

Seven-Son Flower

For the longest time, seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) has been a plant grown by garden geeks, but it’s now entering the common marketplace. It’s about time. This stunning small tree offers strong four-season interest. Leaves are beautiful as they emerge in spring and develop a twisting appearance in summer. White flowers appear in late summer, beckoning hummingbirds. Blossoms fade to reveal deep rose bracts that linger on the plant well into autumn. Winter showcases peeling, tan bark on the multiple trunks. This is a great choice for a specimen front yard tree or an addition to a planting bed. Size: 6-10 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.

Red Buckeye

Consider native red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) for a small tree that looks good through many seasons. It unfurls red flower spikes that are a hummingbird magnet. Typical chestnut-type fruits form in fall with three nuts per hull. Give red buckeye full sun in all zones, with afternoon shade in the South. It will also grow and flower in part shade. Plants need consistent moisture for healthiest leaves. Red buckeye often forms multiple trunks. Prune it to one for a more tree-like appearance. Size: 12 to 15 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.

Flip Side Chaste Tree

Purple flower clusters (8 inches long) cover this small tree all summer long. Blooms beckon pollinators of all kinds—it’s a great plant for a bee or butterfly garden. Gray-green leaves have purple undersides that complement blooms. Look for other chaste tree varieties with flowers in shades of pink or white. The branch structure is very architectural and adds good winter interest to a landscape. If your chaste tree develops lots of twiggy growth and starts looking more shrub-like, prune it in late winter. Remove all smaller twigs along five or six major trunks to create a tree-looking plant. Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 6-9.

Early Bird Lavender Crape Myrtle

Crape myrtle is a Southern classic, beloved for its endless show. Summer flowers, fall color and beautiful winter bark earn this beauty a place in every Southern yard. Flower colors vary, including ruby red, pastel lavender and snowy white. New varieties also offer wine-red foliage. Look for semi-dwarf varieties to find ones that qualify as small tree size. Examples include ‘Acoma’ (white, to 10 feet), ‘Delta Jazz’ (ruby red, to 10 feet), ‘Rhapsody in Pink’ (pink, to 12 feet), ‘Zuni’ (lavender, 6 to 10 feet) and Early Bird Lavender (6 feet). Semi-dwarf size: 6 to 12 feet tall by 3 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 7-10.

'Autumn Brilliance' Serviceberry

Native trees are often trouble-free beauties, and serviceberry is no exception. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ (Amelanchier x grandiflora) is the result of a cross between two native serviceberries. It delivers white flowers in spring that fade to form edible blue-black fruits (terrific in jams and pies). Birds also love the fruits. Fall color is outstanding with shades of orange-red. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ typically has multiple trunks and a pretty structure that’s especially visible when snow lies on branches. Size: 15 to 25 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.

Dwarf Chokecherry

Chokecherrry is a beloved native tree known for its black cherries that beckon birds—and make good jelly, too. Goldspur amur chokecherry (Prunus maackii ‘Jefspur’) is a dwarf form of the classic native, bringing the multi-season beauty of this tree to a size that fits any yard. White flowers appear in spring, followed by black cherry fruits in summer. Leaves shift to yellow tones in autumn, but the best show occurs in winter, when the gold peeling bark is visible. Size: 10 to 15 feet tall by 6 to 9 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 2-9.

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