15 Popular Dwarf Trees for Use in Landscaping

dwarf tree cultivar

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

We don't all have room for a giant sequoia or huge oak in our yard. Fortunately, there are many dwarf trees that are suitable for small yards. Such trees generally mature at around 15 feet tall. Not only are they easy to fit into landscaping, but they are also less cumbersome to maintain than large trees. Pruning is typically a simpler task, as is training the trees to grow in a certain way. Plus, dwarf trees can even be grown in containers, which you might be able to bring inside for winter if your climate isn't suitable for them.

Here are 15 dwarf 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 growth habit, and use vertical planters to maximize your ground space.

  • 01 of 15

    Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica)

    Dwarf Japanese Cedar (cryptomeria japonica globosa)

    Jesse Stephens / Getty Images

    Cryptomeria japonica can grow as tall as 60 feet. Luckily there is a dwarf tree cultivar that’s just the right size to fit the smallest of spaces. 'Globosa Nana' grows only a little over 3 feet high with a pyramidal shape. Its blue-green foliage develops a bit of a reddish-bronze color in the winter. Make sure never to allow its soil to dry out, and plant it somewhere sheltered from harsh winter winds.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9

    Color Varieties: Nonflowering

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Moist, rich, acidic, well-drained

  • 02 of 15

    Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox)

    Wintersweet blooms

    Tetsuya Tanooka / Aflo / Getty Images

    Wintersweet is usually grown as a shrub, but it can be trained easily to grow as a small tree. It generally reaches around 10 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide when mature. The yellow blooms that arrive over the winter are quite fragrant, making this an ideal plant to situate near a deck or patio. Make sure to keep its soil moist but not soggy.

    USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9

    Color Varieties: Yellow with purple-brown centers

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Moist, rich, well-drained

  • 03 of 15

    Harlequin Gloryblower (Clerodendrum trichotomum)

    Colorful fruit of the Clerodendrum trichotomum.

    seven75 / Getty Images

    Even if you don’t have a lot of landscaping room, you can still include some wow factor. The harlequin gloryblower can achieve that with its ultra showy summer flowers and purple pearlescent fruits. The foliage on this plant also has a unique trait: When bruised it smells somewhat like peanut butter. It will take a few seasons to train your harlequin gloryblower into tree form with some easy pruning. The mature plant can reach between 10 and 20 feet high.

    USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10

    Color Varieties: White

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained

  • 04 of 15

    Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha)

    Closeup of a Franklinia flower

    The Spruce / Les Engels

    Franklinia alatamaha is a dwarf tree that can grow either with a single trunk or as a multi-stemmed shrub. It features five-petal, sweetly fragrant blooms that appear late in the summer. While it can grow up to 20 feet as a tree, that's uncommon. Its average height is around 8 to 10 feet. This plant must have sharp soil drainage, as it is not tolerant of being waterlogged.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8

    Color Varieties: White

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, medium moisture, well-drained

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Hedge Maple (Acer campestre)

    Foliage of Acer campestre 'Carnival'

    Megan Hansen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Acer campestre 'Carnival' is a hedge maple cultivar. This dwarf tree's foliage appears as a variegated silver and lime green for most of the year, though it is a cotton candy pink in the early spring. Best of all, it tops out at only around 15 feet, providing a lot of visual interest in a tiny package. It also needs relatively little maintenance besides watching out for common garden pests, such as aphids and scale.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8

    Color Varieties: Yellow-green

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained

  • 06 of 15

    'Randy' Magnolia (Magnolia 'Randy')

    Magnolia 'Randy' bloom

    David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    The ‘Randy’ magnolia cultivar is part of the Little Girl series, which were all bred to be small, low-branched deciduous trees. It grows around 10 to 15 feet tall with an oval form. And in the late spring, it blooms with reddish-purple, star-shaped flowers that have white on the inside. This dwarf tree doesn’t need much pruning besides removing dead or diseased branches as needed.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8

    Color Varieties: Red-purple

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, neutral to slightly acidic, medium moisture, well-drained

  • 07 of 15

    Hardy Orange (Poncirus trifoliata)

    Blooms and thorns of the hardy orange or Poncirus trifoliata

    Vronja_Photon / Getty Images

    A member of the citrus family, the hardy orange does produce small fruits that ripen in the fall. But unlike typical oranges, they are quite acidic and have more of a lemon flavor. Many gardeners leave them on the tree for aesthetic value rather than consuming them. This plant can grow as a shrub or small tree, reaching around 8 to 15 feet high. It can be pruned after it’s done flowering, but be careful of its sharp thorns.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9

    Color Varieties: White

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained

  • 08 of 15

    Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

    Photo of mature Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace'

    Leonora (Ellie) Enking / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    The main dawn redwood species can easily reach 100 feet. However, the cultivar ‘Miss Grace’ is an extremely slow-growing dwarf tree. It will only reach around 8 feet after 10 years. This cultivar has a weeping form that offers flexibility for those with small yards. It can be left to weep in almost a completely prostrate manner or staked to grow upright.  

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Nonflowering
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Humusy, moist, well-drained
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium)

    Yellowhorn Blooms

    William Herron / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Native to China, yellowhorn is not commonly seen in landscaping. But it is a beautiful flowering tree that’s worth a look. It matures between 8 and 25 feet high and features an abundance of star-shaped blossoms in the springtime, followed by small green fruits. Plus, it’s quite hardy and adaptable to various growing conditions. It can tolerate some shade but ideally should be planted in full sun for best flowering.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7

    Color Varieties: White with yellow or red center

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained 

  • 10 of 15

    Mountain Witch Alder (Fothergilla major)

    Mountain Witchalder side by side in its shrub (Left) and tree form (Right)

    Ron Evans / Getty Images

    Mountain witch alder is a slow-growing shrub that can be trained to grow as a dwarf tree with a single trunk. It reaches only around 6 to 10 feet high. This plant bears fragrant flowers in the spring, and in the fall the foliage turns to shades of red, orange, and yellow. In optimal growing conditions, it is prone to spreading via root suckers around the base of the plant. So these should be removed if you want to limit its spread. 

    USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8

    Color Varieties: White

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained

  • 11 of 15

    Dwarf Chestnut Oak (Quercus prinoides)

    Quercus prinoides at the Arnold Arboretum

    Daderot / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Oaks trees are one of the most ecologically important species. They host countless moths and butterflies and are a vital source of food for wildlife. The dwarf chestnut oak allows you to contribute to this even in a small yard. This dwarf tree only reaches around 12 to 25 feet high. And it will start producing acorns in a few years, benefiting wildlife. It will require some raking of fallen leaves in the fall but not nearly as much as a larger oak.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8

    Color Varieties: Yellow, green, red

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Average, acidic to neutral, medium moisture, well-drained

  • 12 of 15

    Dragon Lady Holly (Ilex × aquipernyi 'Meschick')

    Berries and Foliage of the Dragon Lady Holly

    David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Several holly varieties can work in a small space, but the Dragon Lady holly is an excellent choice for a few reasons. It is widely available. Its conical form requires little maintenance. And it only reaches around 10 to 20 feet high. However, to get the attractive berries, you need both a female plant and a male pollinator nearby.

    USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8

    Color Varieties: White

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Acidic, moist, well-drained

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo)

    Abies pinsapo close up to show how they can provide a variety of interest

    Tree-species / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    The Spanish fir's main species plant grows between 50 and 75 feet high on average. But the dwarf tree cultivar Abies pinsapo 'Fastigiata' only reaches around 10 feet tall. The short, rigid, evergreen needles are a blue-green color. And the seed cones are a pinkish-purple color that matures to brown. This tree is fairly low-maintenance, but it is important to keep an eye out for insect pests.

    USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 7

    Color Varieties: Nonflowering

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Somewhat rich, slightly acidic, medium moisture, well-drained

  • 14 of 15

    Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

    Acer palmatum 'Lemon Lime Lace'

    Bonehead / Garden.org

    Acer palmatum 'Lemon Lime Lace' is a colorful, compact Japanese maple cultivar. The leaves emerge a lemon-yellow color, turning to chartreuse in the summer, and ending up a bright orange in the fall before dropping for winter. This dwarf tree only reaches around 6 to 12 feet high with a 4- to 5-foot spread. Pruning is not typically needed, but any pruning for shape should be done in the late fall.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8

    Color Varieties: Insignificant

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, slightly acidic, well-drained

  • 15 of 15

    Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

    Witch Hazel Tree

    Justus de Cuveland / Getty Images

    Witch hazel can be grown as a shrub or dwarf tree. In landscape use, it usually reaches only around 15 to 20 feet high, though in the wild it can grow even taller. In the fall, the plant bears shaggy, citrus-scented, yellow flowers. Overall, witch hazel is low-maintenance. If you need to clean up growth, pruning in the early spring is best.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8

    Color Varieties: Yellow

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-drained