The 15 Best Small Trees for Your Yard (No Matter Where You Live)

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Not every yard has room for a stately 80-foot-tall oak tree (*sigh*). But there are plenty of small trees that add beauty to your garden, provide shade and support pollinators and wildlife. Plus, planting a tree adds value to your property, and it’s an investment in the future (it may live long after you’ve moved on to a new home).

Our Top 5 Picks, At a Glance

What Should You Know Before Planting a Tree?

Small trees range from 8 to 15 feet tall, so read the description to learn the tree’s mature height and spread before buying. Of course, your tree’s grown-up size will vary depending on the specific variety and the growing conditions. Also, make sure you choose a tree that can survive winters in your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here).

What’s the Ideal Spot to Plant a Tree?

Nearly every tree needs full sun, so find a spot with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Look overhead, too, so you don’t plant in a spot under power lines, gutters or roof overhangs.

How Do I Plant a Small Tree so It Doesn’t Die on Me?

When planting, dig a hole about twice as wide as your container. Then ease the tree out of the pot, making sure it’s at the correct depth. If the roots were circling around in the pot, you can unfurl them and stretch them out in the hole. Use your gloved hand to rough up the root ball a little, too (that sounds unsettling, we know, but it actually stimulates the tree to grow new roots).

Most importantly, make sure the root flare, where the trunk widens slightly at the bottom, is above ground; no tree should look stick-straight like a telephone pole after planting. That’s a common mistake that causes trees to die a few years down the road. Now, backfill your soil, tamp down and water well. And keep watering regularly as your baby tree is getting established the first year.

12 Messy Trees You Should Avoid Planting in Your Yard

What Are the Best Small Trees to Plant?

1. Chaste Tree

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: Beautiful purple-blue flower spikes from summer to fall
  • Size at Maturity: 8 to 15 feet tall

This tree isn’t well known, but it should be. With lovely purple flowers you can enjoy for months, Chaste trees are known for attracting pollinators of all sorts. It’s a real showstopper when in full bloom.

2. Japanese Maple

Home Depot

  • Why We Love It: Multiple forms including cascading or mounding, beautiful foliage in shades of red, green or burgundy
  • Size at Maturity: 6 to 10 feet tall

Japanese maples come in a variety of sizes and forms, so there’s one that will work in your garden’s setting. These also make lovely container plants with their delicate foliage and beautiful fall color. (One thing worth noting: Some types can reach 25 feet tall, so always read the description before choosing.)

3. Redbud

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: Tiny bright pink-purple flowers in spring before the foliage appears
  • Size at Maturity: 20 to 25 feet tall

Redbuds mean spring is coming. The tiny flowers appear before the tree leafs out, and they also offer beautiful autumn color. There are many different types with weeping or upright forms.

4. Crape Myrtle

Woodies Garden Goods

  • Why We Love It: Long bloom season, tons of flower power
  • Size at Maturity: 5 to 10 feet tall

Crape myrtle (also spelled crepe myrtle) make lovely accent trees with their profuse white, pink, or purple blooms. They do especially well in hot and humid areas of the country.

5. Seven Son Flower

Great Garden Plants

  • Why We Love It: Striking leaves, fragrant flowers, pretty peeling bark
  • Size at Maturity: 10 to 12 feet

This is another lesser-known tree, but it has so much personality. With such a striking look and gorgeous scent, seven son flower will become a conversation piece in your garden. Pollinators and hummingbirds love the late summer flowers.

6. Dappled Willow

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: Colorful mottled pink, white and green foliage, graceful branching
  • Size at Maturity: 8 to 10 feet tall

This type of willow shrub can be trained into tree form to make a striking small tree. Its long, arching branches sway beautifully in the wind, and the foliage emerges dark pink then turns light pink, white and green. As it grows, trim it all around on top to maintain its tree-like shape.

7. Japanese Snowbell

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: Waxy pink blooms in profusion in late spring
  • Size at Maturity: 8 to 10 feet tall

This charming tree has a beautiful weeping form with oodles of pink or white flowers that have a delightful cotton-candy scent. Japanese snowbell is a stunning specimen tree that also works in containers.

8. Fringe Tree

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: fragrant spring flowers
  • Size at Maturity: 15 to 20 feet tall

This handsome shrub can be trained into tree form. Fringe tree’s large spikes of white flowers in spring have a lovely fragrance, and it’s another tree that will wow the neighborhood when in bloom.

  • Why We Love It: glossy foliage and lush blooms in fall to early spring, depending on the variety
  • Size at Maturity: 8 to 10 feet tall

Technically, this is a large evergreen shrub, which offers screening and shade as it matures. Its gorgeous blooms don’t even look real! Plant camellias where you can enjoy its lush flowers up close.

10.  Crabapple

Fast Growing Trees

  • Why We Love It: gorgeous springtime flowers, some types have reddish foliage
  • Size at maturity: 7 to 20 feet tall

Depending on the variety, crabapples will stay petite or become a nice small to medium-sized specimen. Pollinators love the spring blooms, while birds love the berries in winter.

11. Weeping Cherry

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: Lovely weeping form with spring flowers
  • Size at Maturity: 8 to 15 feet tall

Elegant branches loaded with flowers in spring make this an appealing specimen tree. Pollinators love the blooms of weeping cherry, and you’ll love its year-round graceful form.

12. Hydrangea

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: showy blooms
  • Size at Maturity: 6 to 10 feet tall

While hydrangeas actually are shrubs, many types can be trained into tree form. They make a beautiful statement tree in the summer garden. Pollinators love hydrangea’s pretty, papery blooms, which often remain intact until spring, providing winter interest.

13. Japanese Holly

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: evergreen with pretty pyramidal shape
  • Size at Maturity: 6 to 8 feet tall

If you’re looking for an evergreen with style, this attractive holly makes an excellent accent plant, especially the tall, cylindrical types. Japanese holly can also be planted in groups for privacy screening.

14. Serviceberry

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: spring blooms, summer fruit, fall color
  • Size at Maturity: 15 to 25 feet tall

This beautiful shrub can be trained into tree form to make a small ornamental tree. It’s on the taller side, but you will love the spring flowers, and you can make jam with the summer fruit (if the birds don’t get it all). Serviceberry also boasts stunning fall color.

15. Arborvitae

Nature Hills

  • Why We Love It: evergreen, incredible variety of size and shape
  • Size at Maturity: various heights

Arbs are evergreen shrubs that come in every shape and size you can imagine. The upright varieties make a great privacy screen; look for smaller varieties that reach 10 to 15 feet in height if space is an issue.

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Arricca Elin SanSone is a gardener with more than 15 years of experience. She writes for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, The Spruce and many other national publications. She also trials new plant cultivars and field tests garden products to evaluate practicality and durability.

purewow author

Freelance Gardening Editor

Arricca Elin SanSone is a gardener with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to PureWow, she writes for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, The Spruce and many other...