How to Grow and Care for Little-Leaf Linden

little leaf linden tree

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Little-leaf linden (Tilia cordata) trees can be charming additions to your garden. As the name suggests, these trees have smaller leaves than others in their genus, also making them ideal to be trained for bonsais. Though purely ornamental, they are also known as "small-leaved lime trees" in honor of their distinctly lime-yellow blooms, small nutlets upon which are attached 3-inch long leafy wings. Glossy dark green leaves, each 3 inches long, have tips, serrate margins, and cordate bases.

As autumn approaches, leaves remain green longer than many other trees, continuing to produce lush shade even in the cooler months. Petite round seeds are produced in autumn along with intense gold-green foliage atop this graceful, pyramidal-shaped plant. For best results, plant this low-maintenance tree in the fall after its leaves drop. It will grow at a medium rate of between 1 to 2 feet a year and requires little to no pruning throughout the seasons.

Common Name Little-leaf linden, small-leaved lime
Botanical Name Tilia cordata
Family Malvaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 50-80 ft. tall, 20-50 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained, loamy
Soil pH Acidic, alkaline, neutral
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color Green, yellow
Hardiness Zones 4-7 (USDA)
Native Area Asia, Europe
closeup of little leaf linden

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

little leaf linden tree

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

little leaf linden in the winter

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Little-Leaf Linden Care

Little-leaf linden grows 50 to 80 feet tall and 20 to 50 feet wide. Space accordingly since they grow large. Plant this linden species for shade, for flowers, and along the street but away from salt spray.


Little-leaf linden thrives in full sun, but it will grow in part shade where it can receive direct sunlight for two to six hours of the day.


Little-leaf linden thrives in well-draining, loamy soil with organic matter mixed in.


Water this tree a moderately because it prefers moist conditions but does not like boggy areas. This tree is somewhat drought tolerant, but it is not tolerant of severe drought conditions, especially when the tree is young.

Temperature and Humidity

Little-leaf linden does not like humid or boggy conditions. Though it can withstand cold and freezing temperatures, it does not like searing heat.


To support growth and keep insects at back, feed young trees with a balanced fertilizer in late winter or early spring. For the amount to use, follow product label directions. Established mature trees do not need fertilizer.

Types of Little-Leaf Lindens

You can find many species of linden trees, plus numerous cultivars of little-leaf lindens for your landscape.

  • 'Greenspire' is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution and grows a bit shorter between 40 to 50 feet high.
  • 'Baileyi' offers open branching resulting in less shade and is known to be very cold hardy to -20 and -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 'Bicentennial' has a dense conical form and is also cold hardy to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 'Winter Orange' features winter branches of burnt orange color.
  • 'Corzani' grows narrow 15 feet wide and is favored for its resistance to the Japanese beetle.

Propagating Little-Leaf Linden

Cuttings taken from younger lindens can be a more efficient way of propagation. Take these steps:

  1. In the summer, find a branch that has new growth on it. Find the part of the branch that's semi-hardwood, meaning it's not green, but not fully brown, either.
  2. With a sterile cutting tool, take a 6- to 8-inch long cutting.
  3. Remove the leaves except for two at the top of the cutting.
  4. Cut two vertical lines on the base of the cutting and dip the cutting into rooting hormone.
  5. Plant the cuttings into sandy beds outdoors or in gallon pots with drainage holes.
  6. Keep the medium moist.
  7. Roots should form within six weeks.

How to Grow Little-Leaf Linden From Seed

If you have only older little-leaf lindens, they may not be ideal for cuttings, so you may want to propagate with seeds. You'll need lots of patience to propagate little-leaf linden from seeds and you may not find many to harvest. If you choose to go this route, take these steps:

  1. Collect seeds in the fall from the nutty fruits the tree drops.
  2. Remove seeds from inside nuts. These nuts can be very tough to crack to extract the seed.
  3. Scarification and stratification of the seeds is necessary. Start by soaking the seeds in hot water for 24 hours.
  4. Stratify the seeds for three months in baggies with sand.
  5. Either sow the seeds in small pots with potting mix and wait for the seeds to germinate, which can take nearly two years.
  6. Or sow the stratified seeds in the ground fall, winter, or early spring. Sow a group of 10 seeds every 20 to 30 feet.

Common Pests & Diseases

Fortunately, this low-maintenance tree presents no serious insect or disease problems. Verticillium wilt is infrequent, though when this wilt does happen it can be fatal. Other diseases to keep an eye out for are powdery mildew, leaf spots, blight, canker, anthracnose, and Phytophthora.

In hot, dry periods spider mites may appear. Other pests that may feed on little-leaf linden trees include the following:

Common Problems With Little-Leaf Linden

This low-maintenance shade tree poses very few problems. However, it can show signs when it's experiencing a couple of problems.

Browning Leaves

Browning around the leaf's margins is a result of leaf scorch. Leaf scorch is caused by drought conditions, which means that not enough water has made it to the leaves during hot summer months, but this condition typically resolves over time and does not kill the tree.

Stunted Growth

The tree is likely stressed. It may be planted where it is experiencing too much urban pollution, wind, and road salt spray.

  • Are little-leaf linden trees messy?

    They can be messy. For example, if aphids are having a field day with your little-leaf linden, that will cause the tree to excrete excess sap, a condition that requires insecticidal soap to get rid of the pests.

  • Is the little-leaf linden a good tree?

    Little-leaf linden is a great low-maintenance shade tree with beautiful yellow flowers and pretty foliage. It's well-appreciated because it flowers in the summer after other trees have already bloomed in the spring.

  • Is a linden tree good for a front yard?

    If you are looking for trees to plant in your front yard, linden trees, especially small-leaf lindens, offer good curb appeal thanks to their predictable pyramid shape. Little-leaf linden trees can be sensitive to road salt and heavy pollution, however, so be mindful of this when planting.