Small trees are the ideal solution for landscaping a small yard. Ornamental trees that don’t grow taller than 15 ft. (4.5 m) look stunning in a front yard where space is limited, and you can boost curb appeal at the same time. Also small evergreen trees and deciduous trees can help landscape a compact backyard. Finally, you can add a splash of color and floral scents to your garden landscape by planting compact decorative flowering trees.
Small ornamental trees are ideal for landscaping tight spaces in a front or backyard. For example, many compact evergreen conifers like Lawson cypress or white spruce have a low footprint and columnar habit. Additionally, dwarf flowering trees like crabapple, cherry blossom, dogwood, and redbud have masses of spectacular blooms in spring and summer.
What are the best small trees suitable for a compact garden landscape? The article identifies 18 of the best trees that do not take up much space in a front or backyard.
What Are Small Trees for Compact Yards?
Compact yards can benefit from planting small trees to provide vertical accent, shade, leafy foliage, and colorful flowers to boost aesthetics. The best small trees for small yards mature at 10 to 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) tall. These trees with limited height ensure they never encroach on your property or your neighbor’s yard.
Dwarf tree varieties such as Japanese maples, flowering dogwoods, redbuds, and crape myrtles are all good options for small yards. By carefully selecting types of trees suited to your space and USDA growing zone, you can help create an attractive and inviting atmosphere in your compact front or backyard.
How to Choose Small Trees For Small Front or Backyards
Apart from height, several factors affect the species of small trees suitable for a front yard or backyard. Before planting a decorative tree, check its growing zone, sunlight levels, and water requirements. Additionally, consider the tree’s spread. Some dwarf trees, like flowering fruit trees, have a widely spreading canopy.
Small Trees For Small Yards (With Pictures)
What are the best small trees for compact front and backyards? Please read on to learn about 18 trees that look beautiful in a garden without taking up too much room. Many of these trees are ideal lawn trees or decorative trees for planting in a flower bed.
Small Crabapple Trees (Malus)
Choose a dwarf type of crabapple tree that will add stunning floral display in a small garden
Dwarf crabapple trees are the perfect choice for small yards and gardens. These small trees blossom with abundant clusters of white and pink spring flowers. The small flowers emit strong floral aromas as they blossom before the leaves appear. After flowering, small pomes or crabapples appear before the foliage turns red, burgundy, and orange in the fall.
Many varieties of crabapple trees have a compact size, making them easy to maintain. Dwarf crabapple trees grow 8 to 10 ft. (2.4 – 3 m) tall and wide. The fruit-bearing flowering trees thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. They are an ideal choice of tree to beautify a backyard in zones 4 to 8.
Not all crabapple trees are small, compact trees for growing in limited space. The varieties that have a mature height under 15 ft. (4.5 m) tall are the following:
- Crabapple Malus ‘Adams’
- Crabapple Malus ‘Sargentii’
Related reading: Varieties of crabapple trees.
Dwarf Flowering Cherry Tree (Prunus)
Dwarf flowering Fuji cherry tree (Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-No-Mai’) matures to around 8 ft. (2.4 m) tall and wide and is small enough to be grown in a container
Dwarf flowering cherry trees are highly ornamental trees that grow in limited spaces. ldeal for small gardens, decorative cherry trees have pink or vibrant white saucer-shaped flowers growing in dense clusters. The ovate leaves emerge coppery-bronze before turning dark green, then orange and red in the fall.
Depending on the species, some small cherry blossom trees have showy pink double flowers blooming in drooping clusters. Other dwarf cherry trees have weeping branches with white star-shaped flowers. Additionally, the ornamental cherry trees produce small pea-sized drupes, adding to their decorative appeal for gardens with limited space.
Dwarf cherry trees grow 7 to 15 ft. (2.1 – 4.5 m) tall and wide. These easy-to-prune trees are perfect for a backyard, growing as a lawn tree or in a container. They are suitable for USDA zones 6 to 8.
Japanese Weeping Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Kiku-Shidare-Zakura’)
Japanese weeping cherry ‘Kiku-Shidare-Zakura’ has stunning ruffled pink flowers and is great for compact spaces
The Japanese weeping cherry tree ‘Kiku-Shidare-Zakura’ is one of the most spectacular small trees for a small garden landscape. The beautiful tree grows up to 15 ft. (4.5 m) tall. Its cascading, arching branches are covered in double, rich pink blossoms, each with 125 petals in the flower head.
This small weeping flowering tree grows 10 to 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) tall and wide. Its pendulous branches, stunning pink flowers, and luscious green foliage look spectacular in a small yard. Landscaping ideas for this small tree include a lawn specimen or a tree for flower beds.
The Japanese weeping tree thrives in USDA zones 4 to 9.
If you live in a warmer zone you can choose a small variety of frangipani tree to suit a tight space
Many varieties of frangipani trees are small enough to grow as lawn trees in a compact open space. The small deciduous tree has large, fragrant flowers with vibrant red, orange, white or yellow petals. These flowers grow 3” (7.5 cm) wide and have a strong, floral fragrance. Frangipani trees also have leathery green leaves growing spirally on woody stems.
Perfect for small yards or outdoor gardens in tropical and subtropical climates, dwarf frangipani trees grow 10 to 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) tall. These decorative trees grow well in beds and borders, containers, and they tolerate drought and salty coastal air.
Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii)
Roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) young tree (left), leaves and flowers (right)
Roughleaf dogwood is a small tree with shrub-like growth that is a great choice for smaller yards. This deciduous tree has lovely creamy-white blooms growing in flat-topped clusters. From spring through fall, dark green foliage decorates the small tree before turning shades of red and purple in the fall.
Roughleaf dogwood trees have multi-season appeal—white spring flowers, lush summer foliage, striking fall colors, and an attractive shape in winter. Suitable for USDA zones 5 to 8, this dogwood variety grows 6 to 15 ft. (1.8 – 4.5 m) tall and wide. You can plant the shrub-like tree in full sun, and it also tolerates marshy soils.
Related reading: Dogwood trees with red berries.
Pink Flowering Japanese Dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Miss Satomi’)
Japanese pink flowering dogwood tree is an attractive landscaping tree for small spaces
Japanese dogwood’ Miss Satomi’ is an outstanding, small flowering tree with a rounded crown and beautiful pink spring flowers. The ornamental value of this small deciduous tree is its deep pink flower-like bracts, rosy-pink summer fruits that look like round strawberries, and stunning red and scarlet fall colors.
Kousa dogwood’ Miss Satomi’ grows 12 to 15 ft. (3.6 – 4.5 m) tall and wide. Its compact growth, lush foliage, and pink flowers make it perfect as a specimen or lawn plant in compact front or back yards.Suitable for growing in USDA zones 5 to 8.
Dwarf Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum)
Laceleaf Japanese maple ‘Garnet’ (Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Garnet’) is a dwarf tree growing to 8 ft. (2.4 m) tall which is great for landscaping limited spaces
Small, ornamental Japanese maple trees are perfect for gardens with limited space as they grow around 10 ft. (3 m) tall. These decorative maples are renowned for their ribbon-like palmate or deeply lobed leaves. Japanese maple leaves emerge dark red and turn shades of green or red through the season, depending on the cultivar.
The best small Japanese maples for compact yards grow 6 to 12 ft. (1.8 – 3.6 m) tall and up to 12 ft. (3.6 m) wide. The low-maintenance trees thrive in full sun or partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. They perform best in USDA zones 5 to 9.
Related reading: A list of dwarf Japanese maples for small yards.
Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
The small deciduous and hardy fringe tree has white scented flowers
Growing a fringe tree in a small, compact yard will provide color, beauty, and delicate fragrances. This deciduous white-flowering tree has blooms of creamy-white blossoms that give the tree a fuzzy appearance. The ornamental tree has slender, silvery-gray leaves that turn golden yellow in the fall.
Native to the eastern United States, the eye-catching fringe tree thrives in full sun or partial shade in USDA zones 3 to 9. It grows 12 to 20 ft. (3.6 – 6 m) tall and wide and performs well in urban landscapes.
Dwarf Weeping Mulberry (Morus alba ‘Chaparral’ andMorus alba‘Pendula’)
Weeping mulberry (Morus alba ‘Pendula’) is a type of dwarf weeping mulberry that adds ornamental value to small gardens
Dwarf weeping mulberry trees are elegant landscaping trees with arching branches that droop to the ground. These small trees have a neat, rounded crown, andare suitable for small gardens or as a specimen plant.
The mulberry cultivar ‘Chaparral’ is a small flowering tree with drooping branches that reach the ground. Other ornamental features of the tree are its whitish-green flowers and heart-shaped green leaves that turn golden yellow in the fall.
The dwarf weeping mulberry ‘Chaparral’ grows 6 to 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m) tall and wide. Perfect for compact gardens or as an accent tree, the mulberry tree thrives in USDA zones 4 to 8.
The cultivar ‘Chaparral’ is the male species that is non-fruiting. However, if you want to enjoy delicious fruits in your small backyard, then choose the female treeMorus alba‘Pendula.’ This weeping mulberry tree grows 6 to 10 ft. (1.8 – 3 m) tall and up to 12 ft. (3.6 m) wide. It is also easy to maintain, and its beauty enhances a compact outdoor space.
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)
Crape myrtles are small flowering trees that grow best in full sun and are suitable for compact spaces
Crape myrtle is a group of stunning ornamental trees ideal for small front gardens. The outstanding feature of the small tree is its large clusters packed with fragrant pink, red, or white flowers. These showy blooms measure 6” to 9” (15 – 20 cm) long and appear in midsummer, covering the small tree’s vase-shaped canopy.
Crape myrtle decorative trees perform best in USDA zones 6 to 9 in full sun. Apart from growing as an ornamental tree in a small yard, they grow well as foundation plantings, privacy screens, or informal hedges. Most small crepe myrtle trees grow 8 to 15 ft. (2.4 – 4.5 m) tall.
Related reading:How to care for crape myrtle trees.
Dwarf Serviceberry(Amelanchier‘La Paloma’)
The white flowers of dwarf serviceberry tree give ornamental value to compact gardens and it grows to around 8 ft. (2.4 m) high
Serviceberry is a small deciduous flowering tree with abundant sprays of attractive white spring flowers. After the fragrant white flowers emerge on bare branches, small green oval leaves appear, followed by small red to dark purple-black edible berries. In the fall, the small tree transforms into stunning hues of red and orange.
Serviceberry trees have multi-season landscaping options for small yards. Apart from filling a compact front yard with attractive flowers and foliage, the tree has an elegant growth habit with charcoal-gray grooves in winter. Ideal for small yards, serviceberry trees grow 8 to 15 ft. (2.4 – 4.5 m) tall and wide.
Serviceberries are suitable for growing in USDA zones 4 through 8.
Saucer Magnolia ‘Lilliputian’ (Magnolia soulangeana ‘Lilliputian’)
Saucer magnolia ‘Lilliputian’ is a small tree with stunning pink flowers and is versatile enough for landscaping small yards
The saucer magnolia cultivar ‘Lilliputian’ is a slow-growing deciduous tree with large fragrant cup-shaped spring blooms. The spectacular shrub has an upright, pyramidal habit. It produces fragrant pale-pink bi-colored flowers that have a citrusy aroma. After flowers appear, large gray-green leaves emerge in late spring.
Thanks to its compact habit, ‘Lilliputian’ is the most popular magnolia dwarf tree for small front and back yards. The sun-loving trees grow 10 to 12 ft. (3 – 3.6 m) tall and up to 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide. USDA zones 5 to 9.
A dwarf saucer magnolia tree is ideal for a small landscape garden as a specimen plant, a flowering tree in a city garden, or to create a focal point in a front yard.
Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
The small flowering star magnolia tree is a beautiful ornamental tree with white fragrant flowers
Star magnolia is an ideal ornamental tree with showy white or pink star-shaped flowers. The small shrub-like tree looks stunning in a compact front yard with its pink flower buds that open into masses of pure white, showy blooms with ruffled, linear petals. In winter, the bare branches are covered with furry buds, adding to its ornamental appeal.
Dwarf star magnolias, like the cultivars’ King Rose Star,’ ‘Centennial Bush,’ and ‘Royal Star,’ grow 10 to 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) tall. They thrive in full sun or partial shade in USDA zones 4 to 9.
Eastern Redbud ‘Ace of Hearts’ (Cercis canadensis ‘Ace of Hearts’)
The Eastern redbud trees include several small cultivars for landscaping small gardens
Growing an eastern redbud tree adds a touch of natural beauty to a yard that doesn’t have much room. The outstanding small flowering tree blooms in early spring with abundant clusters of deep purple pea-like flowers on bare branches. After blooming for three weeks, heart-shaped leaves appear that turn yellow in the fall.
The ornamental value in winter to a small yard is enhanced by the redbud’s attractive vase-shaped branching habit. Native to the eastern US, eastern redbuds grow 12 ft. (3.6 m) tall and 15 ft. (4.5 m) wide. They perform best in USDA zones 5 to 9.
Weeping Eastern Redbuds (Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ and ‘Lavender Twist’)
These images show Eastern redbud ‘Lavender Twist’ (also called ‘Covey’) which is a dwarf weeping cultivar
Weeping eastern redbuds add stunning visual focal points in a small front yard. These ornamental weepers are famous for their outstanding spring blooms consisting of dark rose or red-rose flowers. Additionally, they have heart-shaped dark red leaves. But the unique weeping habit makes these redbuds stars in compact landscapes.
Ornamental weeping redbud trees grow 5 to 6 ft. (1.5 – 1.8 m) tall and up to 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide. For best results, plant the tree in full sun in a front or back garden, ensuring it gets some shade on the hottest summer days. They thrive in USDA zones 5 to 9.
Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’)
Dwarf Alberta spruce is a small evergreen conifer tree with a conical shape that can be grown in a container
The dwarf Alberta spruce (also called dwarf white spruce) is a small evergreen hardy conifer with a dense, cone-shaped habit. This dwarf tree features soft green aromatic needles that remain throughout the year. Thanks to its hardiness and compact size, the white spruce is ideal for yards where larger trees would grow too tall.
Suitable for USDA zones 2 through 6, the white spruce thrives in full sun. This dwarf coniferous landscaping tree grows 10 to 13 ft. (3 – 4 m) tall and 10 ft. (3 m) wide. You can use the small tree as a foundation plant or evergreen screen or grow in planters in a container garden.
Dwarf White Fir (Abies concolor ‘Compacta’)
Dwarf white fir looks beautiful in a small landscaped garden with its gray bluish-green foliage
One of the most popular small conifers for compact landscapes is the dwarf white fir tree. The evergreen conifer has a dense, pyramidal shape and attractive blue-green needles. It’s an ideal ornamental tree for small yards in regions with long winters and cool summers.
Dwarf white fir trees grow slowly and reach a mature height of 2 to 5 ft. (0.6 – 1.5 m) tall and 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide. This cold hardy tree is suitable for growing in garden landscapes in USDA zones 4 to 7. In addition, its powder-blue, long slender needles will brighten a compact residential landscape throughout the year.
Lawson Cypress ‘Minima Aurea’ (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Minima Aurea’)
Lawson cypress ‘Minima Aurea’ has attractive golden green foliage and has a compact size
Suppose you are looking for bright evergreen foliage for a small backyard. In that case, the Lawson cypress cultivar ‘Minima Aurea’ is an ideal choice. This dwarf conifer has a dense, pyramidal shape and soft, bright golden-yellow feathery sprays. Lawson cypress dwarf conifers can help to decorate a sunny border or container garden, or you can grow them as a specimen plant.
Lawson cypress ‘Minima Aurea’ is a slow-grower and grows 1 to 5 ft. (0.3 – 1.5 m) tall and only 2 ft. (0.6 m) wide. The small landscaping evergreen tree thrives in USDA zones 5 to 8.
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