Selecting Trees for Small Space Landscaping

Selecting Trees for Small Space Landscaping

Feb 6, 2020

Creating new landscape plans for your home can be overwhelming, especially when your yard is smaller than most. However, a small amount of yard space doesn’t mean you are automatically limited in your landscaping selection; it doesn’t mean that you can’t plant trees, for example, it just means you have to be careful in your tree selection. There are many trees suitable for sprucing up small yards while retaining appealing and functionality.

Benefits of Trees in Small Yards

There are many species of small trees fit for urban gardens, each one offering their own advantage. Some offer fruit and nuts, others are intended for shade, and some have the ability to create more privacy. Other benefits of trees in small yards include:

  • Creating habitats for animals;
  • Providing feeding opportunities for birds and other pollinators;
  • Supplying firewood or lumber used for other building projects;
  • Leading the way for other landscaping opportunities.

Small Trees for Landscaping Any Space

Not all trees are tall in stature. In fact, there are many tree species that are small enough — both height- and width-wise — to accommodate limited-space needs. Prior to tree shopping, it is recommended the gardener do a quick survey of the area to determine what type of tree they will need. Take notes about the amount of preexisting shade, climate, soil/ground type, and animals that may be in the area, and select tree species accordingly

Small Shade Trees

Shaded areas are great for cooling off on sunny days and can create a relaxing space for you and the family. They may also be necessary to accommodate plants that need shaded areas to thrive. If you find yourself with little space to work in, there are still small shade-creating trees you can purchase to benefit yourself and your small garden. 

  • Crape Myrtle Tree: With over 100 different variations ranging in size and color, each Crape Myrtle tree offers some amount of shade. These trees are known for producing colorful flowers in summer and fall shades, as well as bark on the trunk that is pleasing to the eye. In terms of a small shade garden, the Red Rocket, Pink Velour, and Tuscarora are all variations of the Crape Myrtle tree that would compliment the space given. With a large variety of Crape Myrtle trees, researching specific zone areas and mature height and width is recommended before making any purchases. This helps to ensure you have the right climate for the tree you choose.
  • October Glory Maple Tree: From green leaves in the summer to reddish-orange in the fall, this color-changing tree is great for shading surrounding areas. At its most mature point, the October Glory can grow 35 to 40 feet high and 25 to 30 feet wide. This type of shade tree does best in gardening zones 3 through 9. It is a fast-growing tree, so planting in a spot that is easy to tend to (especially in the fall due to leaf foliage) is best. 
  • Redbud Tree: Each type of Redbud tree is known for its beautiful spring colors that can be seen almost all year round. Depending on the type of Redbud tree, its size can range anywhere from 8 to 30 feet tall and 8 to 15 feet wide. The preferred planting climate is growing zones 4 through 6, however, these aren’t picky trees when it comes to taking care of them. Redbuds are perfect for small gardening sites and can be planted near patios, providing shade and privacy. 

Dwarf Trees

Planting dwarf trees is a simple way to fit many trees in a small space. Some (particularly evergreen varieties) can also create the perfect privacy screen for areas that may be exposed to the public. There are many dwarf trees and shrubs that could compliment a small garden:

  • Dwarf Alberta Spruce: This densely-branched, cone-shaped dwarf evergreen can grow between 6 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is best used when planted in mass around borders and foundations and does well in growing zones 2 through 8. This tree also does well in container form and would make for simple yet functional porch pot decor. 
  • Tamukeyama Japanese Maple: The Tamukeyama Japanese Maple is a little pickier when it comes to planting in the right growing zones. They do best in growing zones 5 through 8 and in partial to full sun. These low-branch dwarf trees can grow up to 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide. 
  • Weeping Blue Spruce: The Weeping Blue Spruce is another example of a dwarf evergreen tree that is ideal for those wanting to add attractive trees to their small garden. The mature height for this tree is between 8 and 10 feet and can reach between 6 and 8 feet wide. The growing zones for the Weeping Blue Spruce are zones 3 through 8 or wherever there is well-drained soil. 

Small Fruit or Flowering Trees

Small fruit and flowering trees add curbside appeal and functionality to small gardens. What some gardeners may not know is that you can actually create small fruit trees by using a specific pruning method. This pruning method may seem harsh, especially since you are cutting off about ⅔ of your growing tree, but allows the plant to create new scaffolding branches, ultimately giving it more strength to hold the fruit. Planting dwarf fruit trees in a container is a great alternative for those who want the advantage of a fruit tree, without the commitment of planting them in the yard. Small fruit or flowering trees that would be a beautiful addition to any yard include:

  • Jane Magnolia Tree: This type of magnolia tree tends to bloom later than most magnolias, making it ideal for areas that fall victim to a late spring frost. The Jane Magnolia is made up of beautiful pinkish-purple flowers, adding vibrant color to any yard. It can grow up to 15 feet high and 12 feet wide and does best in growing zones 4 through 8, or in Northern areas where it is normal to have a late frost. 
  • Sweet Southern Cherry Tree: The Sweet Southern Cherry, also referred to as the Barbados Cherry tree, will start to produce cherries after one to two years of planting. This cherry tree can grow up to 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide.  If chosen as a tree to permanently plant outdoors, the Sweet Southern Cherry will do best in growing zones 9 through 11. However if utilized as an indoor or patio tree, then growing zones 4 through 11 are most ideal. 

Narrow Evergreen Trees

Narrow evergreen trees are perfect for building that privacy barrier that some open-concept yards often desire. Aside from them being the best evergreen trees for privacy, narrow trees make for a great accent piece to any yard or garden, big or small. There are many narrow plants and trees to choose from, a few being:

  • Emerald Green Arborvitae Trees are excellent for small space privacy, since they can be planted within 3 to 4 feet of each other and only grow to 15 feet tall. The thick, lush green foliage will keep eyes, noise, and wind at bay all year. 
  • Emerald Petite Arborvitae is a new cultivar that only grows to 6 feet tall. These handsome trees sport all the features we love about Emerald Greens and Green giants, but they are the only arborvitae to truly by considered small enough for container gardens at their mature height. 
  • Dragon Lady Holly Tree: The Dragon Lady Holly is made up of dark glossy leaves and small, bright-red berries. This tree stays in an upright, narrow pyramid throughout its life and requires no pruning. The ideal growing zones for this tree are zones 6 through 8 and they can grow upwards of 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. A special feature of this tree is that they are very tolerant of most soil types and can add a great sense of privacy to any garden.
  • Italian Cypress Tree: This simple, yet functional tree is ideal for those who are wanting to add structure and privacy to their small yards. It is worth noting that the Italian Cypress, also known as the Mediterranean Cypress, is a fast growing tree. In fact, it can grow up to 2.5 feet per year, with a mature height of up to 80 feet tall and 6 feet wide. The Italian Cypress does best in growing zones 7 through 10 and is very tolerant of various soil conditions.

Choosing the right tree for your garden can be intimidating, especially when you have many to choose from. Being aware of your yard/garden size and determining what your goals are with your yard prior to creating your landscape plan can help you figure out exactly what types of trees and shrubs you are looking for. These plans may include creating shaded areas or even privacy barriers. Whatever your landscape plan is, there is a tree out there that will meet your gardening needs.