5 Small Trees to Make Your Landscape Stand Out - Backyard Boss
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5 Small Trees to Make Your Landscape Stand Out

We all love the majesty of a giant redwood, but the size isn’t everything. Small trees are a popular way to add variety, texture, and a bit of height to a yard without overwhelming your space.

If you love trees but have limited room, are aiming to preserve your view, or don’t want to deal with massive root networks, these five small trees could be the perfect fit.

Star Magnolia

Star magnolia
Image credits: Larisa Birta via Unsplash

Maxing out at around 15 to 20 feet tall, this small tree produces sweet-smelling white flowers that bloom in late winter or early spring before giving way to lush green foliage. It can tolerate a greater temperature range than most magnolias, though the full sun will help the flowers grow larger.

Try planting a row of star magnolias along your garden wall or fence for an elegant backdrop. For a more compact effect, you can easily train this magnolia to grow as a shrub.

Crabapple

Crabapple
Image credits: Jael Coon via Unsplash

The picturesque crabapple is available in many shapes and sizes, from dwarf (shrub) varieties, averaging around 8 feet tall, to trees over 20 feet tall. After blooming with pink, white, or red flowers in the spring, these small trees produce fruit that can potentially stay on the branch through winter, adding a much-needed hit of color to your garden during the colder seasons. They prefer sunny but temperate climates and enjoy cold winters.

Narrow, straight crabapple trees are perfect for lining driveways or fences, while bushier types will accent the corner of a garden beautifully. Some rounded varieties are naturally symmetrical, making them ideal for a more polished garden. As a bonus, crabapple fruit is attractive to many birds, including cardinals.

Redbud

Redbud Tree
Image credits: epantha via Canva

The redbud explodes into long-lasting rosy blooms each April, and its heart-shaped leaves, which start red and turn green in summer, only add to the romance. This tree begins flowering at a young age, usually at around four years old.

Most redbuds can reach between 20 and 30 feet, but dwarf varieties are available, such as the “Ace of Hearts,” reaching 12 feet. Lucky for you, you don’t need to prune it to shape.

The sprawling branches of their crowns make redbuds ideal for filling bare garden spaces or as canopy trees to protect and shade young plants. For best results, plant these small trees where they will get around four hours of sun a day. However, they are fairly unfussy regarding sun exposure and soil type.

Golden Chain Tree

Golden chain tree
Image credits: Mario Mendez via Unsplash

Reminiscent of wisteria when it blooms in late spring, this relative of the pea family produces hanging clusters of bright, fragrant yellow flowers. When left to their own devices, golden chain trees can grow anywhere from 15 to 25 feet tall, but yearly pruning after the blooming period will keep them at their desired size. They prefer sunny locations with partial shade in the afternoon.

With its cascading blossoms, the golden chain tree will complement a romantic landscape. Just be cautious with this tree if you have children or pets running freely in your yard. All parts of the tree, including the pea-like seed pods it produces in fall, contain the toxic chemical quinolizidine alkaloid cystine. 

Crepe Myrtle

Crepe myrtle
Image credits: Susanne Alexander via Unsplash

The crepe myrtle is a small tree that makes a big splash and is a great choice in locations with long, sunny summers. Choose a dwarf or semi-dwarf variety for a bright pop of color without bulk.

When it comes to color, there’s no shortage of options. You’ll find crepe myrtles blooming in all kinds of shades, from subtle white to vibrant fuchsia. These flowers appear in early to mid-summer. Crepe myrtle leaves can be colorful, too, with some varieties featuring red or dark purple leaves year-round.

Plant dwarf (shrub-sized) crepe myrtles if you want to accent the corners of flower beds or planter boxes. Semi-dwarf types grow into small trees, reaching up to 12 feet tall.

The Best Things Come In Small Packages

When choosing a small tree, think about how you will landscape around it. Remember that even short trees can have roots that extend some distance outward.

Consider how much work you want to invest in your tree. If you want to keep the tree small but aren’t interested in pruning it to size each year, focus on species that come in dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties.

Small trees can make a big impression. Even with limited space at your disposal, you can enjoy blooming branches, fall foliage, and the pleasure of watching your tree develop year after year.

So, do you have experience with any of these small tree varieties? Let us know how your process went in the comments below! And, make sure to share this article if you enjoyed it.

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