18 Best Small Trees for Tiny Yards

Saucer magnolia tree in bloom

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We don't all have room for a mighty oak or a weeping beech in our backyards. But there are many small trees that should suit your space. Whether you are looking for a little shade or a bit of color to brighten your property, these trees mature at under 30 feet tall and generally require minimal maintenance to look great. Here are 18 small trees that are ideal for landscaping tight spaces.

Tip

If you have a small yard, focus on your vertical space. Select plants with an upright growing habit, and use hanging baskets and other vertical planters to maximize your ground space.

  • 01 of 18

    Red Buckeye (Aesculus Pavia)

    Red buckeye tree

    Japan, Asia and other parts of the world/Getty Images

    The red buckeye puts on a dazzling spring show with vivid red flowers that last for weeks. The flowers are popular with hummingbirds and butterflies. This is a slow-growing tree that matures to a height of around 15 feet with a similar canopy spread. Hot, dry conditions can scorch the leaves. So aim to plant your tree somewhere that gets afternoon shade, especially in hot climates, and water it during dry spells.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 02 of 18

    Crabapple (Malus)

    Crabapple tree

    Simon McGill/Getty Images

    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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, medium moisture, slightly acidic, well-draining
  • 03 of 18

    Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)

    Crepe Myrtle

    Nazra Zahri/Getty Images

    Crepe myrtles require a long, warm growing season, but they reward you with stunning flowers throughout the summer and showy fall foliage. Also, removing the lower branches can expose the attractive bark. Crepe myrtles bloom on new wood and should be pruned in late winter. They can reach heights of 25 to 30 feet.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 10
    • Color Varieties: White, purple, pink, red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, neutral to slightly acidic, well-draining
  • 04 of 18

    Dogwood (Cornus)

    Kousa Dogwood

    Andrea Kamal/Getty Images

    Dogwood trees are fast growers that can handle a partially shaded site. They are one of the first trees to bloom in the spring and even look good when they are surrounded by their fallen petals. There are several dogwood species, so make sure you choose one that is suitable for your area. Most grow to only 15 to 25 feet tall. Be sure to plant them in well-draining soil. They like moisture, but soggy soil can kill them.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow, white, pink, red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
    Continue to 5 of 18 below.
  • 05 of 18

    Golden Chain Tree (Laburnum X Watereri)

    Golden Chain Tree

    Ursula Sander/Getty Images

    Golden chain trees have a distinctive green bark. The clover-like leaves allow some dappled sun to break through, but it is the long clusters of brilliant yellow flowers that make this tree a stunner. The trees bloom in late spring and grow to about 15 to 25 feet tall. Grow this tree in a location that’s sheltered from strong winds, as its branches are somewhat weak. Also, the trunks of young trees are often floppy and can benefit from staking.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium moisture, well-draining

    Warning

    Although the seed pods on this tree are ornamental, they’re also poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets. Many gardeners choose to remove the pods because they draw energy from the plant.

  • 06 of 18

    Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus Crus-Galli)

    Hawthorn Tree (Crataegus crus-galli)

    R A Kearton/Getty Images 

    Take the word "thorn" in the name of this tree seriously. While you would not want to plant a small hawthorn where children or pets will be playing, this tree offers beautiful white spring flowers, long-lasting red fruits that are popular with birds, and glowing orange fall foliage. Once it matures to 15 to 25 feet in height, the thorns should not be a problem. Prune as needed, but wear protective clothing due to the thorns. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 07 of 18

    Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum)

    Japanese Maple

    Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images 

    Japanese maples can be shrubby or small trees with weeping habits or spreading canopies. They are beloved for their delicate leaves, which can be deeply lobed, sometimes to the point of being fringed. There are green- and red-leaf varieties that turn eye-catching shades of red, orange, and purple in the fall. Their average mature height is 15 to 25 feet tall. Regular pruning typically isn’t necessary, though you can remove lower branches to create more of a tree-like canopy.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red-purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, slightly acidic, well-draining
  • 08 of 18

    Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia X Soulangeana)

    Saucer Magnolia

    Garden Photo World/Georgianna Lane/Getty Images

    The delicately fragrant purple-and-white flowers of the saucer magnolia appear before the leaves unfurl in the spring. The flowers can be 10 inches across, giving them their common name of "saucer." They cover the tree's canopy. Saucer magnolias might need a bit of shaping through pruning, but they don't grow much taller than 20 to 25 feet. Keep the soil moisture consistent, as these plants don’t do well in soil that’s too wet or too dry.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White and purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, acidic, well-draining
    Continue to 9 of 18 below.
  • 09 of 18

    Mimosa (Albizia Julibrissin)

    Mimosa Tree

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    The mimosa tree has a very tropical appearance with huge, fern-like leaves. Plus, its unusual, fragrant, thread-like flowers give the plant another common name: the silk tree. Although beautiful and popular with wildlife, it can be invasive in certain areas, so check with your local cooperative extension office before planting one in your yard. Their average height is 20 to 40 feet tall. These plants are tolerant of heat and some drought, though they grow best with consistent moisture. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 10 of 18

    Pawpaw (Asimina Triloba)

    Pawpaw Tree

    xPACIFICA/Getty Images

    Pawpaw trees have foot-long leaves and tropical-looking fruits with a flavor described as a cross between an avocado and a sweet mango. You need two pawpaw trees for cross-pollination to produce the fruits. These are smallish trees, reaching a height of around 15 to 30 feet. Plant your tree in a spot that gets enough sun, as pawpaws can get leggy in the shade. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet moisture, acidic, well-draining
  • 11 of 18

    Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)

    Eastern Redbud

    Tim Abramowitz/Getty Images

    Eastern redbuds burst into flower in the very early spring before they leaf out. The flowers are more of a hot pink than red, and there are also white flowering varieties. The plant has an attractive spreading habit that opens into a vase-like shape. Popular with early butterflies, the eastern redbud averages 20 to 30 feet in height. Good drainage is a necessity for your planting site. Also, aim to plant a young eastern redbud and then leave it in place, as these trees typically don’t do well with transplanting.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 12 of 18

    Serviceberry (Amelanchier Arborea)

    Serviceberry Tree

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    Serviceberry trees are in the rose family, and you will notice the similarities in both their white spring flowers and the fruits. Like crabapples and rose hips, the fruits are edible but tart. And they are very popular with birds. There are several species and varieties of serviceberry that make excellent landscape plants. Some grow only 8 to 10 feet tall while others will mature at around 20 feet. Remove root suckers from your serviceberry if you wish, as they will promote more of a shrub-like, spreading growth habit.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
    Continue to 13 of 18 below.
  • 13 of 18

    Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea Glauca 'Conica')

    Dwarf Spruce

    F. D. Richards/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Many evergreens make wonderful specimen plants in small yards. The dwarf Alberta spruce isn't really a dwarf tree; it just grows slowly and does not usually get larger than around 10 to 13 feet tall. Its needles are very dense, and it retains its pyramidal shape without pruning. However, it does not tolerate pollutants and salt spray very well, so plant it away from roads. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 6
    • Color Varieties: Nonflowering
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining
  • 14 of 18

    Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia Pseudocamellia)

    Stewardia

    Masahiro Nakano/Getty Images

    The showy, white flowers of the Japanese stewartia tree open over a series of weeks in midsummer. Enhancing the flowers is the peeling bark in mottled shades of orange, red, brown, and gray. This is a very ornamental specimen tree that grows slowly but can eventually reach heights of over 30 feet. It’s low-maintenance, with pruning only necessary for shaping or to remove damaged portions. Generally, it doesn’t have many problems with pests or diseases. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining
  • 15 of 18

    Chaste Tree (Vitex Agnus-Castus)

    Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

    manuel m. v./Flickr/CC BY 2.0 

    Although it's called the chaste tree, this plant is really more of a deciduous shrub. However, it is a large shrub, reaching around 8 to 20 feet tall and 5 to 20 feet wide. You can easily control its size with pruning. It is the long clusters of flowers that make this tree so enticing for both people and butterflies. It is often compared to the butterfly bush (Buddleja spp.) but blooms later and will bloom again if you deadhead it (remove spent blooms).

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Blue-violet, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loose, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 16 of 18

    Weeping Cherry (Prunus Pendula)

    Weeping Cherry

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    The branches of weeping cherry trees can be covered in flowers from their crown to the tips brushing the ground. These are spring bloomers that look best when given a prominent spot of their own in which they can spread out. There are dwarf varieties that only grow around 8 to 10 feet tall, as well as larger varieties that can reach 40 feet over time. Pruning typically isn’t necessary outside of removing dead, damaged, or diseased portions. But if you thin out branches to improve air circulation, it can help to prevent insect and fungal problems.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, rich, moist, well-draining
    Continue to 17 of 18 below.
  • 17 of 18

    Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana)

    Witch Hazel Tree

    Justus de Cuveland/Getty Images

    Witch hazel trees have shaggy, citrus-scented blossoms in rich shades of yellow, orange, and red. There are several excellent species and varieties. Some bloom in late winter before the leaves open, and others put on their show in the fall. These are small trees, averaging 10 to 20 feet tall, and they are very low maintenance. Prune in the early spring if you need to remove damaged portions or shape the plant. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 18 of 18

    Paper Birch (Betula Papyrifera)

    White Birch Trees

    Tom Narwid/Getty Images

    Birch trees tend to grow in multi-trunk clumps. Many have attractive bark, such as the white paper bark birch and river birch, along with wonderful golden fall color. Although they can reach 60 feet tall, they have a narrow spread at their base, and their canopy will still allow dappled sunlight to pass through into a small yard. Paper birches generally need minimal pruning. Just be sure to keep the soil moist, especially if you go through stretches without rain. Consider mulch around your tree to keep its roots cool.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 6
    • Color Varieties: Yellow-brown or green blooms
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, evenly moist, well-draining