The Best Small Trees for Patios

  • 01 of 14

    What to Look for When Choosing Trees for Patios and Decks

    friends laughing on patio
    Friends laughing and relaxing on patio under a tree. Hero Images/Getty Images

    When landscaping a small area, like a patio or deck, it helps to simplify things if you choose plants that have proven to perform well. Depending on where you want to locate them within the boundaries of your outdoor living space, small trees can serve as natural focal points, offer privacy, emphasize height, frame views, provide shade or bear fruit.

    Because of the limited space, it's important to select trees that are suited to patios—either growing near them or on them—in containers or...MORE raised beds. That's why it's critical to research before buying and planting a tree. Things to think about:

    • Ultimate height and width.
    • Disease resistance.
    • Special features, like fruit, flowers, fall color or attractive bark.
    • Root systems that are not known to crack or lift up pavement.
    • The mess factors: the potential for dropping nuts, pods, seeds, spent flowers, or fruits.
    • Suitability to climate and soil conditions.

    Consult our handy guide to the best trees for decks and patios. Make sure the specimen grows in your region and is the wisest choice for the given space before digging a hole or buying an oversized planter. Check with your local nursery, master gardeners' program, or botanical gardens for information on what will grow best in your area.

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  • 02 of 14

    Chaste Tree

    chaste tree
    Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus). Mark Turner/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Vitex agnus-castus

    Size: In warmer areas, up to 25 feet tall and wide; in colder areas, up to 10 feet tall and wide.

    Why it Works for Patios: A Mediterranean and Asian native with multiple trunks that can be trained to make a nice shade tree. Leaves of the chaste are aromatic and it produces small, fragrant lavender-blue flowers on spikes during the summer and fall. Varieties 'Silver Spire' and 'Alba' have white blossoms, while 'Latifolia' and...MORE 'Rosea' have pink flowers. Can also be pruned into a shrub. Tolerates heat and is resistant to oak root fungus.

    Care: Likes full sun and moderate to regular water.

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  • 03 of 14

    Citrus Trees

    lemons and poppies in pots
    Pots on patio filled with lemon trees, poppies and jasmine. Getty Images

    Species: A dwarf, container, or patio variety works well for decks and patios (not surprisingly). Meyer lemon, Bearss lime, Fukushu and Negami kumquat, Satsuma 'Orange Frost', Rio Red and Henderson grapefruit, 'Moro Blood', 'Sanguinelli Blood' and 'Ruby Blood' oranges, Fremont and Algerian tangerine, 

    Sizes: 6 to 22 feet high 

    Why They Work for Patios: Dwarf, semi-dwarf, patio or container varieties are good for obvious reasons. Citrus trees are evergreen and offer...MORE year-round form, bear fragrant flowers, and showy fruit during growing season. Container trees can stay outside throughout the year in mild-winter climates, and roots should be pruned every 4 years or so and repotted in fresh soil (and maybe a larger container) to stay healthy. For added interest, plant cascading flowers or herbs at the base. Clay or ceramic pots or wooden crates are good containers--just make sure they have drainage holes at the bottom.

    Care: Full sun; bright light and regular water. Check often for suckers, which are branches that grow below the graft line, and remove them.Spray with the hose occasionally to remove mites. Fertilize every few months with a slow-release fertilizer and every month during the fruit-bearing season.

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  • 04 of 14

    Japanese Maple

    japanese maple tree
    Japanese maple growing against arbor. VWB photos/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Acer palmatum or A. japonicum

    Size: To 15 feet or so.

    Why it Works for Patios: Colorful and beautiful maple trees that are naturally small—just be ready to repot it to a larger container every other year or so. Best varieties of Japanese maples for containers are the kinds with weeping branches and finely cut, threadlike leaves, like 'Dissectum', 'Red Dragon',  'Burgundy Lace', 'Crimson Queen', 'Butterfly' and 'Mikawa Yatsubusa'.

    Care:...MORE Choose a container with a diameter at least a couple of inches wider than the plant's root ball, and wider than its height. Prefers a 10-10-10 fertilizer when first leaves appear, then monthly through the end of summer.

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  • 05 of 14


    fig tree in container
    Young fig tree in container. Brian North/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

    Species: F. auriculata (F. roxburghii), F. benjamina (Benjamin fig, weeping fig), F. diversifolia (mistletoe fig), F. elastica (rubber tree), F. lyrata (F. pandurata; fiddleleaf fig), F. crassifolia (wax fig, Taiwan fig)

    Size: Above species to 25 feet high and wide, maximum.

    Why it Works for Patios: The above-mentioned species are especially good for small spaces and containers.

    Care: Taken care of the right way, figs can survive for years in a garden. They like rich, moist soil.

    Native to western...MORE Asia, figs, ficus and banyan trees spread by human cultivation to other areas of the Mediterranean. The ancient Greeks relied heavily on figs, one of humankind’s earliest cultivated crops, as a staple food. Later their use in California was established by Franciscan missionaries, who recognized how well suited they are to California’s dry summers and wet winters. Given proper care, figs live long lives in local gardens. The large leaves and twisty, sprawling growing habit of the fig are lovely 

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  • 06 of 14

    Palm Trees

    palm trees by pool in yard
    Palms by pool deck in backyard. P. Eoche/Getty Images

    Species: Smaller palms are good container choices include Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii), paradise palm (Howea forsteriana), lady palm (Rhapis excelsa), Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis), and windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)

    Size: There are many variables here, but most stay small, especially if grown in a pot, and are under about 15 feet and slow growing if contained. When looking for a patio palm, choose one with an ultimate height...MORE that is considered small-to-medium for your region.

    Why it Works for Patios: The striking silhouettes of palm trees are perfect for instantly adding a look of paradise and the tropics to your patio or deck. They are also easy to maintain if adaptable to your climate.

    Care: Use soil that offers good drainage, like a palm and cactus mix. Don't let it sit in water. Apply a fertilizer with magnesium during the summer.

    11 Fascinating Facts About Palm Trees

    Top Pinnate Palms for Your Yard

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  • 07 of 14

    Ornamental Crabapple

    crabapple tree on patio
    A crabapple tree on a circular patio. Gary Whitmont/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Malus

    Species: Also known as flowering crabapple trees, the species suitable for large containers include centurion, Indian magic, Japanese and Sargent.

    Size: Up to 20 feet.

    Why it Works for Patios: Ornamental crabapples are admired for their brief but lovely display of red, pink or white flowers and not for edible fruits (which is a traditional crabapple tree). The smallest varieties can be planted in containers, while other types can be trained against a wall or fence as an...MORE espalier (pictured).

    Care: Prefers full sun; likes moderate to regular water and fertile, well-drained soil.

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  • 08 of 14

    Ornamental Cherry or Plum Trees

    chinese garden with cherry tree
    A Chinese garden with espaliered cherry tree. sandsun/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Prunus

    Species: Also known as flowering plum or cherry trees. Small varieties of plums include purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera), Krauter Vesuvius purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Krauter Vesuvius'), and double pink flowering plum (Prunus x blireiana). Small flowering cherry trees include purple leaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena), Yoshino cherry  (Japanese flowering cherry; Prunus x yedoensis), Albertii (Prunus padus), and Okame (Prunus incisa x Prunus campanulata)

    W...MOREhy They are Good for Patios: Some of the flowering plum trees have dark purple foliage, while all have white, pink or red flowers, depending on the variety. Suitable for a large container or in a raised bed on or near a patio or deck.

    Care: Moderately heat and drought tolerant.



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  • 09 of 14


    black pine in container
    Black pine tree in container on terrace. Francois De Heel/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Pinus

    Species: Lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana), evergreen Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) evergreen Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora). Large containers: evergreen Mugo pine (Pinus mugo) evergreen Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergiana).

    Size: Varies, but make sure you select a smaller species.

    Why They are Good for Patios: In case you didn't know, pines are evergreen, meaning you'll have something green to look at on your patio throughout the year. With frequent trimming...MORE or pruning, you can keep it smaller and attractive. Another perk: it can be used as an outdoor Christmas tree, adorned with solar or LED lights. 

    Care: If the pine will be in a container, make sure the container is as wide as it is tall. Soil should be a mix for evergreens. Drought tolerant once established.

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  • 10 of 14

    Smoke Tree

    smoketree smoke bush
    Potted purple smokebush 'Purpurea' surrounded by hypericum (Hypericum), golden sedge (Carex), golden hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica) and sedum (Sedum) 'Autumn Joy' by broken concrete and crushed hazelnut shell paths. Mark Turner. Mark Turner/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Cotinus coggygria

    Also Known as: Smoketree; smokebush or smoke bush

    Size: To 15 feet high and wide

    Why it is Good for Patios: Known for its stunning dark purple/reddish leaves and silky hairs that resemble puffs of smoke; hence the name. Can be grown in a large container or near a deck or patio.

    Care: Plant or position a potted smoke tree in full sun. Likes well-draining soil. Prune when it is dormant, mostly for desired shape.

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  • 11 of 14

    Ornamental Pear

    espalier pear tree
    Children looking at an espaliered pear tree against a brick wall. Flickr members Eden, Janine and Jim

    Botanical Name: Pyrus

    Species: Snow Pear (Pyrus nivalis)Manchurian pear (Pyrus ussuriensis), Edgedell pear (fl x P. betulaefolia), Glen’s form pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Glen’s Form’), Jack dwarf (Pyrus calleryana 'Jaczam')

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  • 12 of 14

    Sweet Bay

    sweet bay tree
    A sweet bay tree clipped into a round shape. VisitBritain/Martin Brent/Getty Images

    Botanical NameLaurus nobilis

    Size: 12 to 15 feet tall and wide.

    Characteristics: This small evergreen tree is slender, with a conical form that grows into a shapely little tree. Foliage is dark green and highly aromatic; its leaves are the bay leaves popular in cooking. A good choice for containers on decks or patios, it can be pruned into a topiary or hedge. Planted in the garden, it is drought tolerant.

    Care: Once it's established, it requires little water.

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  • 13 of 14

    Crape Myrtle

    crape myrtle on pathway
    A crape myrtle blooms along a pathway. golfladi/Getty Images

    Botanical Name: Lagerstroemia

    Sizes: Smaller varieties up to 15 feet

    Why it's Good for Patios: These tree/shrubs are known especially in the southern United States for their showy pinkish blooms, gorgeous bark, and beautiful fall foliage.  Plant full-size varieties in large containers to grow to about 10 feet. Better yet, grow smaller varieties or hybrids, many of which are mildew resistant. These include 'Acoma', 'Yuma', 'Zuni', 'Catawba', Comanche',...MORE 'Hopi', 'Centennial', 'Chica Pink' or Chica Red', 'Glendora White', 'Peppermint Lace' 'Pink Velour' 'Seminole' and 'White Chocolate'. ​

    Care: Remove suckers at bottom and prune in winter of early spring. These trees like full sun and m oderate water.

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  • 14 of 14


    wisteria tree at house
    Grass path under arbor covered with japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) 'Hon beni' attached to shed. Mark Turner/Getty Images

    Species: Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Japanese wisteria (W. floribunda).

    Size: Varies according to pruning method.

    Why it is Good for Patios: Besides being absolutely gorgeous, wisteria can be trained as a vine, shrub or small tree. To train as a tree, remove all but one stem and make sure the remaining one is secure by tying to a stake. When it reaches the desired height, prune or pinch tips to force branching. It can asislso be grown to cover an arbor or pergola.

    Care: Adaptable to most...MORE soils, but requires good drainage. They also don't require fertilizer.