Trees are a great addition to any yard or landscape. They can add texture and levels to an otherwise flat space, and they can draw the eye in with shape and color. Keep reading to learn more about the best trees for small lawns.
Here are some good trees for a small yard:
Star Magnolia – Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8, this tree tops out at 20 feet in height and reaches a spread of 10 to 15 feet. It produces fragrant, white, star-shaped flowers in early spring. It is deciduous, and its dark green leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Loquat – Hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10, this tree reaches 10 to 20 feet in height and 10 to 15 feet in width. It is an evergreen with dark green foliage. Its buds form in the summer and then bloom in the winter, usually from November to January. Its tasty, pear-like fruits are ready for harvest in late spring to early summer.
Japanese Maple – Hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, these trees come in a wide range of sizes but tend not to pass 20 feet in height and can be as small as 6 feet. Many varieties have red or pink foliage all through spring and summer, though virtually all have stunning fall foliage.
Redbud – Growing to 20 feet high and 20 feet wide, this fast growing tree usually only lives for 20 years. It produces stunning white and pink flowers in the spring, and its foliage turns bright yellow before dropping in the fall.
Crape Myrtle – These trees grow to a height of 15 to 35 feet, depending upon the variety. In high summer they produce stunning flowers in shades of red, pink, purple, and white.
American Hornbeam – This tree eventually tops out at 30 feet high and wide, but it is a very slow grower. Its leaves turn bright orange and yellow in the fall before dropping.
Japanese Snowbell – Reaching 20 to 30 feet in height and width, this tree produces faintly fragrant, bell-shaped white flowers in late spring and early summer.
When choosing small trees, be sure to check not only their hardiness zone to ensure they will grow well in your area, but also pay attention to the size at maturity. While a tree may be small when you first plant it, over time it has the ability to grow into a much larger than expected size.
You also want to take note of the area in which you’ll be planting the tree to make certain its growing conditions will be compatible with regards to lighting, soil, etc.
Got a yard on the small side? Discover tiny trees for tight spaces that boast multi-season interest.
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a native tree known for its towering size (70 to 100 feet) and yellow, tulip-like blooms that open in summer. ‘Little Volunteer’ brings that stately beauty down to a size that fits modern gardens. Leaves offer an unusual shape and shimmer in the wind. Look for gold fall color and cup-like fruits made of seeds. It’s a medium-fast grower, reaching a size of 12 feet tall by 6 feet wide in 4 years (starting with a 3- to 5-foot sapling). The strong pyramidal shape looks elegant in winter, especially when wet snows stick to branches. This is one tree you won’t regret planting. Size: to 20 feet tall by 9 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Flowering crabapples are a classic yard tree, beloved for their spring blossoms, fall fruits and fall color, if they have disease resistance. Ruby Tears is a weeping crabapple that blends disease resistance with pretty pink blooms. Red fruits form in late summer that beckon birds. If you don’t want a weeping tree, look for dwarf flowering crabapples, such as ‘Red Jewel’ (white blooms, 14 to 18 feet tall and 9 to 12 feet wide) or ‘Sugar Tyme’ (pink buds open to white blooms, 12 to 18 feet tall and wide). Ruby Tears—Size: 8 to 10 feet tall by 12 to 15 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7.
Discover a native tree that’s perfect for any size yard. This beauty delivers white, fringe-like flowers in late spring to early summer, followed by blue-black fruits that are favorites among birds. Fall color delivers with leaves that shift from bright green to shades of yellow-gold. This tree has no pests and stands up to pollution. It also doesn’t need pruned. The shape is rounded (like those lollipop trees you drew in elementary school). It often forms multiple trunks, which is not a problem. Size: Plants grow 12 to 20 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
Meet a dogwood that blends disease resistance with small stature (no pruning required!). Venus dogwood is the result of a cross between Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) and Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa). The resulting beauty features 6-inch-wide spring flowers, red berry-like fruits in autumn and red fall color. Birds flock to this dogwood to gobble the fruit, making it a must-have in a wildlife or bird garden. Size: Up to 15 to 20 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
For the longest time, seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) has been a plant grown by garden geeks, but it’s now entering the common marketplace. It’s about time. This stunning small tree offers strong four-season interest. Leaves are beautiful as they emerge in spring and develop a twisting appearance in summer. White flowers appear in late summer, beckoning hummingbirds. Blossoms fade to reveal deep rose bracts that linger on the plant well into autumn. Winter showcases peeling, tan bark on the multiple trunks. This is a great choice for a specimen front yard tree or an addition to a planting bed. Size: 6-10 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
Consider native red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) for a small tree that looks good through many seasons. It unfurls red flower spikes that are a hummingbird magnet. Typical chestnut-type fruits form in fall with three nuts per hull. Give red buckeye full sun in all zones, with afternoon shade in the South. It will also grow and flower in part shade. Plants need consistent moisture for healthiest leaves. Red buckeye often forms multiple trunks. Prune it to one for a more tree-like appearance. Size: 12 to 15 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Purple flower clusters (8 inches long) cover this small tree all summer long. Blooms beckon pollinators of all kinds—it’s a great plant for a bee or butterfly garden. Gray-green leaves have purple undersides that complement blooms. Look for other chaste tree varieties with flowers in shades of pink or white. The branch structure is very architectural and adds good winter interest to a landscape. If your chaste tree develops lots of twiggy growth and starts looking more shrub-like, prune it in late winter. Remove all smaller twigs along five or six major trunks to create a tree-looking plant. Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 6-9.
Crape myrtle is a Southern classic, beloved for its endless show. Summer flowers, fall color and beautiful winter bark earn this beauty a place in every Southern yard. Flower colors vary, including ruby red, pastel lavender and snowy white. New varieties also offer wine-red foliage. Look for semi-dwarf varieties to find ones that qualify as small tree size. Examples include ‘Acoma’ (white, to 10 feet), ‘Delta Jazz’ (ruby red, to 10 feet), ‘Rhapsody in Pink’ (pink, to 12 feet), ‘Zuni’ (lavender, 6 to 10 feet) and Early Bird Lavender (6 feet). Semi-dwarf size: 6 to 12 feet tall by 3 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 7-10.
Native trees are often trouble-free beauties, and serviceberry is no exception. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ (Amelanchier x grandiflora) is the result of a cross between two native serviceberries. It delivers white flowers in spring that fade to form edible blue-black fruits (terrific in jams and pies). Birds also love the fruits. Fall color is outstanding with shades of orange-red. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ typically has multiple trunks and a pretty structure that’s especially visible when snow lies on branches. Size: 15 to 25 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Chokecherrry is a beloved native tree known for its black cherries that beckon birds—and make good jelly, too. Goldspur amur chokecherry (Prunus maackii ‘Jefspur’) is a dwarf form of the classic native, bringing the multi-season beauty of this tree to a size that fits any yard. White flowers appear in spring, followed by black cherry fruits in summer. Leaves shift to yellow tones in autumn, but the best show occurs in winter, when the gold peeling bark is visible. Size: 10 to 15 feet tall by 6 to 9 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 2-9.
These small but mighty trees are perfect for a petite front or backyard, patio space or small garden.
All trees marked with an asterisk are excellent options to plant near a house! But remember to provide enough space for your tree’s canopy to grow. To do that, look up the expected mature crown width, and half it! Plan to place your tree that far away from your home. For example, a tree with an expected 30-foot crown spread should be planted at least 15 feet away from your home.
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Even the smallest yards can accommodate a crabapple tree. On average, crabapples stop growing at around 12 to 15 feet tall. They provide a month of spring flowers that attract native pollinators, including honeybees. Then, the flowers are followed by dangling clusters of fruits that are popular with birds. Pruning isn’t always necessary but can be done as needed in late winter.
Asking this question will help you figure out what kind of tree you'd most like to plant. But know that almost any tree you choose will add value to your home, among other benefits. Here’s why you should invest time and money in planting trees:
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Tree roots want all the water they can get! Sometimes that causes trees to prod underground structures, like water tanks and sewer lines. Homes, sidewalks and driveways are also in danger of becoming puckered or injured when roots tunnel under them.
Luckily, non-invasive root systems are less likely to interfere with sidewalks, sewers or your home. Plant a tree with non-invasive roots to solve problems brought on by protruding roots. Remember: Choose a plant in your zone for best results, and plant at the right time of year.