Small Trees for Homeowners with Small Lots

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A list of trees that have a compact to medium size that will fit in small areas or small yards.

For homeowners with smaller lots or people who own townhouses, small trees are an excellent way to add some height to your yard, but not so much that you crowd everything else out.

Here is a list of trees that you can add to your property that provide some interesting color and shape. To see what trees can grow in your part of the country check out the National Arboretum "Web Version" of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, or The Arbor Day Foundation at .


Common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

The common witch hazel is a native small tree or large shrub with fantastic fall attributes. Yellow, fragrant flowers bloom from October through December. Attractive foliage in all growing seasons with leaves bright green in spring followed by yellow to yellowish-orange colors in fall. A great tree to plant as an understory or for a shrub border in large areas. Prefers moist soils, but is tolerant of a variety of conditions. Expose to full sun or partial shade. Grows 15' to 30' high with a similar spread in Zones 3 to 6. Does well in urban areas where pollution levels are high.

Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)

Peeling bark reveals itself on a tall, narrow form that doesn't steal all the sunlight from surrounding plants. Its cold tolerance makes this a good selection in far-northern climates, although it will also do well in alkaline soils further south. Grows in Zones 2 to 7.

Weeping Birch (Betula pendula)

Graceful weeping birches grow shorter and wider than the species, making them well suited to the smallest yards. Their yellow autumn foliage adds late-season interest. Grows to about 15’ with a spread of 20’ in Zones 3 to 9.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

One of my favorites, the redbub is tolerant of winter cold, but likes the warm summers of its native Appalachian habitat. Its magenta spring flowers, heart-shaped leaves, and compact form translate well to suburban settings in Zones 4 to 9. Partial shade preferred in windy, dry areas. Grows to 20' to 30', 30' spread.

Eastern Redbud

Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana)

This native of the Canadian Rockies thrives in tight spaces and even in containers. Their pyramidal form enhances the garden's geometry. This spruce will stay under 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide and is cold hardy to -30 degrees F. If the tree is planted too close to fences, walls, or structures, it will become noticeably bare on that side.

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)

A common sight in California, these feathery, pink-flowering trees like it hot and dry, with free-draining soil. Place away from the wind. Hummingbirds love this tree and the foliage and flowers add a tropical look to your yard. They grow quickly to their full size of 20’ to 25’ and prefer Zones 6 to 10.

Smoke Tree (Cotinus obovatus)

Flowers appear in cloudlike puffs against dark bronze or purple foliage in summer. This southeastern native tolerates dry, acidic soil. Does well in Zones 5 to 8. Grows to 10' to 15', 12' spread.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

White flowers in spring and purple-red berries in fall distinguish this small multi-stemmed or single-trunk tree, which thrives in a wide range of conditions. Songbirds, as well as unwelcomed visitors like deer and bears love the edible fruits. Grows 15’ to 25’ with a similar spread. Zones 4 to 9.

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Clusters of red or coral flowers appear on this Southern native in late summer. A small-scale relative of the giant horse chestnut, its leaves are toxic to deer, a quality many landscapers in the Northeast may enjoy. This tall shrub or small tree is quite a delight to many hummingbirds. Drooping, large 3"-6" dark green leaves emerge in early spring before oaks and maples show any sign of life. This plant has a tendency to bloom when it is just 3 feet tall. Likes moist, well-drained soil and full sun. Grows 10'-20' high with an equal or larger spread and oval shape. Makes a great specimen tree. Zones 6 to 9.

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa var. chinensis)

With a bushier growth habit than its elegantly branching American cousin, this Asian native wins fans for its star-shaped summer flowers, good fall color, and large, dangly red late-season fruits. White flowers in May and June give a milky way effect; purple and scarlet fall leaves add intense color. Has horizontal branching and prefers partial shade to full sun. Grows to 15' - 25' with a 25' spread. Zones 5-8.

Kousa Dogwood

Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata)

This tree which is also called "Yoshino Cherry", has attractive bark, pale-pink spring blossoms, and serrated leaves that turn orange and red fall, this tree is easily pruned to manageable proportions. Cold hardy to -10 degrees F. Can grow to 40’ with a 25’ to 40’ spread and prefers Zones 5 to 8 and full sun.

Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Few spring-flowering trees are more shade tolerant than this native American species. The elliptical leaves turn red in fall, when the tree bears small, bright-red fruits. The slow-growing trees favor free-draining neutral or acid soil and a temperate climate; hardy to -20 degrees F. More than 20 species are available in nurseries and most varieties grow in Zones 5 to 9.

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum)

Nurseries carry hundreds of varieties, including many bushy or mounding trees that grow no larger than a standard shrub. A very showy, versatile species. Use as a single specimen or in borders or groupings. Can be a single-stemmed small tree or multi-stemmed shrub. The deeply lobed leaves are red or reddish-purple especially in spring and fall. Can grow to 15' to 25' and a 20' spread. Ever Red Laceleaf Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum 'Ever Red') is a popular dark-leafed Japanese maple that has deep purple-bronze leaves that turn fiery red in autumn. Cold hardy to -10 degrees F or Zones 5 to 8.

Globe blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Globosa')

Conifers classified as "dwarf" in nursery terms, have the same genetic makeup as their more full-sized cousins: They just grow more slowly and, therefore, stay compact longer, making them well suited to small lots. According to the American Conifer Society, dwarf varieties grow about three to six inches a year, while their large relatives sprout up and out at twice that rate. Grows in Zones 2 to 8.

Globe Blue Spruce


Daniel Snyder
Posted on Mar 25, 2010
Melissa Murphy
Posted on Mar 14, 2010
Daniel Snyder
Posted on Mar 11, 2010
Posted on Mar 11, 2010