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12 Great Patio Trees

By: Marie Hofer
When you look up at the canopy of your shade-giving tree, do you see a monster in the making? Here are ideas for little trees that won't take over your yard.
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Fernleaf Fullmoon Maple

With its dense foliage of medium-green, deeply lobed leaves, fullmoon maple (Acer japonicum) adds a lot of texture to the landscape; fall color is usually brilliant red, red-orange or orange-yellow, depending on the cultivar. Maturing to a height of about 20 to 30 feet, it can be grown as either a small tree or large shrub. Smaller cultivars are available. Fullmoon maple is native to Japan, a cousin to the commonly named Japanese maple that's actually Acer palmatum. Not heat-tolerant; USDA Zones 5 to 7

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Crape Myrtle

The mid- to late-summer flowers — when few other shrubs or trees are blooming — is one of crape myrtle's best features. Its bark, shown off on a multi-trunked form, varies from creamy white to gray to sandy brown to cinnamon, depending on the species and cultivar. Lagerstroemia sp. comes in a wide range of sizes, from dwarf (a few feet tall) to the typical tree, which averages 20 to 30 feet tall. Flowers can be pink, lavender, rose, almost-red and white. USDA Zones (6) 7 to 9

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Amur Maple

A lovely little tree with a wide-spreading canopy, the amur maple (Amur ginnala) can either be a large shrub or a small tree, but it's more often limbed up to show off its strong sculptural form. One of the first maples to leaf out in the spring, the amur maple later offers reddish winged fruits (samara). Mature size is usually 15 to 18 feet high and wide. USDA Zones 3 to 8

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Dwarf Poinciana Tree

Also called Mexican bird-of-paradise, the dwarf poinciana (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) blooms from spring to early winter. In Florida, this plant can grow to a 10- to 20-foot tree; in drier climates, it's usually a shrub up to 10 feet tall. Prune in early to mid-fall, removing only 18 to 24 inches of growth; this will get rid of the seedpods and rejuvenate the tree for its next season of flowering. USDA Zone 9a

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