Small Trees

Small Trees for the Garden

Diospyros kaki - An excellent smaller growing tree.
Diospyros kaki

For courtyards, gardens, growing in pots or as a feature tree, small trees are much in demand.

The best small trees are those that will naturally grow to no more 3 -7 metres in height and these include both deciduous and evergreen varieties.

When looking for small tree consider the following characteristics

  • Evergreen or deciduous.
  • Upright or spreading.
  • Fruiting or not.
  • Is flowering important ?
  • Suited to the soil conditions, climate zone and aspect.

With gardens getting smaller it is sometimes difficult to find a tree that will fit. The persimmon tree is one of the most versatile small growing trees. It has attractive foliage, it fruits and has good autumn colour.

And here we are talking about the Japanese variety Diospyros kaki, pictured top right.

11 Best Small Trees

A number of the lesser known maples can be excellent choices for such situations.

  1. Siebold’s Maple is one, lets give it the correct botanical name, Acer Sieboldianum.
    This is a naturally small growing tree to around 4 – 5 m in height, often less. It is slow growing, and when first planted will show an upright habit. As it matures the crown will spread, in time it makes a wonderful specimen tree. Green foliage is attractive from spring through summer, wonderful autumn foliage with good orange and red tones.
  2. Acer palmatum ‘Rosea marginatum’ has lacy foliage, another slow to medium growing variety that will reach around 4m in height.
  3. One of the very old cultivars is Acer palmatum Okushimo, this is an ever changing plant in terms of color. New foliage emerges with bright red petioles, turning quickly to a deeper green. As the foliage ages the leaves develop a dimpled effect. In summer the foliage again takes a turn, to a deep green. As autumn comes around the foliage turns to purple and finally to a golden yellow.
  4. Acer palmatum Karasugawa is one of the more unusual cultivars with seemingly random variegation, pink, green and pale cream. A tree that will reach around 5m in height with a brad spreading crown.
  5. Acer palmatum Horizontalis is as the name suggest a low growing small tree to around 1.5 to 2m in height. New foliage is a good green, autumn foliage is gold, green and a deep red.
  6. Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’
  7. The Deciduous Magnolias, some of the best flowering small trees you can find fall into this category.
  8. The Crab Apples, another free flowering small trees that packs a punch in the springtime.
  9. Cornus varieties, the flowering dogwoods are simply beautiful in spring.
  10. Cercis canadensis’Forest Pansy’ – Lilac flowers in spring, good fall color.
  11. Prunus serrula – Just grow it for the brilliant deep crimson red bark.

Landscaping With Small Trees

Small trees are great for small gardens, this is simply a matter of whey will fit. However the smaller growing types also have other landscaping uses, even in large gardens.

  • Small Trees are Great for Containers In containers, small trees are the answer. They will grow well as they usually do not need the large root system of their larger relatives.They will fit in with the scale of the container in terms of looks.They will be easier to manage. 
  • With size variation, small trees can help to add scale to large gardens In large gardens using smaller trees as a lead in to large plantings can help add a sense of scale. Even a large garden, needs smaller trees. 
  • Smaller trees can be used to make a garden feel more open. Any garden filled with large tree can be a little claustrophobic. Smaller growing trees open up the landscape.