15 Best Small Trees for Tiny Yards

dwarf cypress tree

The Spruce / Autumn Wood 

We don't all have room for a giant sequoia or huge a oak 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 around 15 feet tall and generally require minimal maintenance to look great. Here are 15 small trees that are ideal for landscaping tight spaces.

illustration of trees for small spaces
The Spruce

Tip

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

  • 01 of 15

    Cryptomeria japonica 'globosa nana'

    Dwarf Japanese Cedar (cryptomeria japonica globosa)

    Jesse Stephens / Getty Images

    Cryptomeria japonica typically grows as tall as 60 feet tall, so you wouldn’t expect it to be included in this list. Luckily there is a dwarf cultivar that’s just the right size to fit the smallest of spaces. The Cryptomeria japonica ‘globosa nana’, which grows to only 40 inches tall and has uniquely colored foliage, can be grown in even the tiniest yards. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to7
    • Color Varieties: Green in Spring becoming rusty red in fall.
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, Well-Draining
  • 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 that will provide a beautiful burst of color in the winter months. The size is perfect for a small area as it tops out at around 15 feet or so, and its width can be controlled with yearly pruning. Likely, the most beneficial aspect of placing this plant in a small space is the unforgettable aroma the pale yellow blooms unleash. Often the smell is lost in large spacious areas, but a small intimate place will hold it and allow you to enjoy it truly.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Green Foliage with yellow flowers in winter.
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, fertile, well-drained
  • 03 of 15

    Harlequin Gloryblower, Clerodendrum trichotomum

    Colorful fruit of the Clerodendrum trichotomum.

    seven75 / Getty Images

    When you don’t have a lot of room, sometimes you need to put as much wow factor into an area as possible. The Harlequin Gloryblower can achieve that quickly with its ultra showy late-blooming flowers and purple pearlescent fruit. Besides the striking and unique flowers, the foliage is famous for being nutty. Not in a strange way; it has an intense peanut butter smell. It will take a few seasons to train your Harlequin Gloryblower into tree form with some easy pruning. Once trained your tiny yard will have a unique tree that inspires conversations and cravings for PB and J sandwiches.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Green foliage, white flowers and pink calyx and purple fruit
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained
  • 04 of 15

    Franklin Tree, Franklinia alatamaha

    Closeup of a Franklinia flower

    Les Engels

    Franklinia alatamaha is a small tree that is extraordinary in so many ways. This historic tree with a storied past is a member of the tea family is sadly extinct in the wild. It has unbelievably beautiful white blooms that appear late in the summer that is deliciously fragrant in the humid late August air. While it can reach sizes up to 30 feet, this is extremely rare, with the average height being eight to ten feet.  It is known to take a bit of work to help it thrive, but the reward is worth it.  

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White flowers, green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, high-acid soil; does not tolerate clay or excess moisture
    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Carnival Japanese Maple, Acer campestre 'Carnival’

    Foliage of Acer campestre 'Carnival'

    Megan Hansen from Portland, OR, US, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

    Everyone loves Japanese Maples. It might be an unwritten rule if you like trees. Plus, there there are so many Japanese maples that are perfect for small yards. But what most people don’t realize is that there are hundreds of cultivars available, and not all of them are red. One example of unique coloration is a tiny, rare cultivar called  Acer campestre ‘Carnival.’ Carnival’s foliage appears a variegated silver and lime green most of the year and cotton candy pink the early spring. Best of all, it tops out at only 15 feet, giving you a lot of color in a tiny package. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White leaves with dark green centers
    • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade, Shade
    • Soil Needs: Adaptable, Well-Drained. Rich
  • 06 of 15

    Magnolia 'Randy'

    Magnolia 'Randy' bloom

    Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

    If you had one tree to plant in your small yard and you wanted to make a statement with its flowers, it would be a tough choice but picking Magnolia ‘Randy’ wouldn’t be a bad one. The beauty of this Magnolia goes without saying. It is famously part of the little girl series of hybrid Magnolias developed by the National Arboretum. The famous “girls” were all bred to be small deciduous low-branched trees growing only to 15 feet tall with oval habits and later spring blooming. ‘Randy’ will give you reddish purple flowers on the outside and white on the inside. The star-shaped that might pop up randomly in the middle of the summer for a second bloom.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Dark Pink Blooms and green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: organically rich, neutral to slightly acidic
  • 07 of 15

    Poncirus trifoliata, Hardy Orange

    Blooms and thorns of the hardy orange or Poncirus trifoliata

    Vronja_Photon / Getty Images

    Choosing the hardy orange for your tiny yard is a bold choice but a great choice. It is an attractive tree, and it provides year-round interest, but the intimidating thorns don’t exactly say approachable. In the citrus family, the hardy orange does produce edible fruit. However, they are incredibly acidic and don’t resemble orange in flavor at all. The taste is reminiscent of lemon more than orange, and the fruit turns yellow on maturity on the tree. Many growers use the yellow-colored fruit aesthetically instead of picking it. The fruit lasts long into winter and is attractive on defoliated trees with round fruits in contrast with the sharpness of the thorns.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White Blooms
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
    • Soil Needs: Acidic soil, medium moisture, well-drained
  • 08 of 15

    Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace'

    Photo of mature Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Miss Grace'

    Leonora (Ellie) Enking from East Preston, United Kingdom, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

    Planting a dawn redwood or Metasequoia glyptostroboides is sure to confuse some people if they know the size of your yard. The Dawn Redwood will easily reach 100 feet, but the cultivar ‘Miss Grace’ is an extremely slow-growing dwarf selection that will only reach eight feet after ten years. The dawn redwood is a deciduous conifer that offers gorgeous copper-toned needles before they are shed in the late fall. This particular 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: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Green
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
    • Soil Needs:  moist, well-drained, slightly acid soils
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Xanthoceras sorbifolium, Yellowhorn

    Yellowhorn Blooms

    William Herron

    It is nice to be different, and planting Xanthoceras sorbifolium in your yard will help you achieve that. While this beautiful Chinese native is not exactly rare, it is not common. It will be one of the most beautiful flowering trees you will have ever seen. The yellowhorn has an abundance of white blossoms with burgundy centers that emerge in the last weeks of April through the beginning of May.  A bonus? Every part of the tree is edible! 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White Blooms
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, medium, well-drained soil 
  • 10 of 15

    Fothergilla major, Mountain Witchalder

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

    Ron Evans / Getty Images

    Mountain witch alder is another plant in the category of small tree/shrub that will require a season or two of some training to get it into tree form. Witch alder is a native to the Southeastern United States and is in the same family as Witch Hazel and shares the common trait of having deliciously fragrant flowers. A sure to please feature of the witch alder is the autumn colors that the foliage displays. Your landscape will be splashed with reds, oranges, and yellows which can be a great gift if space is limited and you want a fall color change of your very own.     

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White Blooms
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
    • Soil Needs: Average Medium Well Drained Soils
  • 11 of 15

    Quercus prinoides, Dwarf Chestnut Oak

    Quercus prinoides at the Arnold Arboretum

    Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

    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 of all sizes. Planting Quercus prinoides allows you to plant even in a small yard. This comparatively tiny oak only reaches a height of 15 feet tall. It will also start producing acorns relatively young at only three to four years after planting. The acorns are tasty to both wildlife and human alike, being very sweet.

    • USDA Growing Zones:  Hardy to 5a
    • Color Varieties: Green
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
    • Soil Needs: acidic, barren soil, sandy or rocky soil
  • 12 of 15

    Dragon Lady Holly,Ilex × aquipernyi 'Meschick' DRAGON LADY

    Berries and Foliage of the Dragon Lady Holly

    Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

    A good number of holly species, cultivars, and varieties could be chosen for a small space, but the Dragon Lady Holly is an excellent choice for a few reasons. It is widely available, where often many times dwarf cultivars or uncommon varieties will require you to look online or in specialty nurseries. The Dragon Lady cultivar is a female plant that needs a male plant for pollination to produce berries. Finally, its conical form requires very little maintenance, and it only reaches heights of about 15 feet or so.  If you want a holly in your small space, this could be the one.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Green with Bright Red Berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Soil Needs: acidic, moist, well-drained soils
    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Abies pinsapo 'Fastigiata'

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

    Tree-species on Flickr, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

    Conifer lovers covet Spanish firs because of their unique foliage and beautiful color. Unfortunately, if you have a small yard, it will not fit a normal 100 foot tall Abies pinsapo.  The cultivar Abies pinsapo ‘Fastigiata’ is perfect for this situation. Slender and upright with a maximum height of ten feet, the cultivar is perfect for landscapes with small footprints. The blue-toned evergreen with its red-tipped new growth and red cones will be a great addition, especially if you are looking for something different.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Green, Blue, Red Cones
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
    • Soil Needs:  rich, slightly acidic, medium moisture
  • 14 of 15

    Acer palmatum 'Lemon Lime Lace'

    Acer palmatum 'Lemon Lime Lace'

    Bonehead / Garden.org

    Lemon Lime Lace is one of the colorful, compact Japanese maples you can find on the market. It has lemon yellow color when the leaves emerge that turn to radioactive chartreuse during the summer and finally ending up bright orange in the fall. All year round, you will get all of these colors in a tiny six-foot-tall package. If you are looking for a statement tree or a way to introduce color in a small place, this is it.  

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow and Green
    • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich well-drained soils
  • 15 of 15

    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