Tree Shapes for Landscaping

White fir trees trimmed in a pyramidal shape against blue sky

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Trees have different shapes based on natural tendencies or the environment. A gingko may be an irregular tree in some environments or have a pyramidal shape in others. Trees can also be one shape when young and change as they mature. The trees listed on each slide are commonly found in those tree shapes, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they only grow in these shapes.

  • 01 of 08

    Columnar Tree Shape

    Lombardy poplar trees
    S847 / Getty Images

    Columnar trees are tall and thin with a very narrow, upright shape and upright branches. Another term often used to describe this shape is fastigiate, though there are some subtle differences. Columnar trees usually have just one trunk and occur naturally as mutations.

    Some examples of columnar trees include:

    • Columnar apple (Malus spp.)
    • Columnar peach (Prunus persica 'Crimson Rocket')
    • Dawyck gold beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck Gold')
    • Leyland cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii)
    • Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra 'Italica')
    Continue to 2 of 8 below.
  • 02 of 08

    Fastigiate Tree Shape

    Tall yew bush Taxus baccata Fastigiata Aurea (English yew, European yew) on a blurred background of green evergreens. Selective focus. Evergreen landscaped garden. Nature concept for design.
    Alexander Denisenko / Getty Images

    This is Irish yew or Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata.' Fastigiate trees, as noted in the previous slide, are very similar to columnar trees. However, fastigiate trees are usually composed of multiple trunks and are created through nursery selection instead of natural mutation.

    Some examples of fastigiate trees include:

    • Upright European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata')
    • Fastigiate Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo biloba 'Fastigiata')
    • Upright European beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Fastigiata')
    Continue to 3 of 8 below.
  • 03 of 08

    Irregular Tree Shape

    Clump of Scots Pine Trees
    Scots Pine Trees flotsom / Getty Images

    Sometimes trees have no exact shape. This is called an irregular tree shape. Irregularly shaped trees add a unique dimension to their landscape.

    Some examples of irregular trees include:

    • Scarlet curls willow (Salix matsudana 'Scarlet Curls')
    • Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
    • Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris)
    • Tartarian maple (Acer tartaricum)
    • Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
    Continue to 4 of 8 below.
  • 04 of 08

    Oval Tree Shape

    Rural road with solitude tree with bench (Acer platanoides / Norway maple).
    Norway maple Martin Ruegner / Getty Images

    These trees are upright with a strong central trunk that branches into a thick round or oval-shaped crown. They make strong shade and may have such dense foliage that the branches are concealed.

    Some examples of oval trees include:

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Pyramidal Tree Shape

    Dawn redwood gyro / Getty Images

    Evergreens, among other trees, often have a pyramidal tree shape.

    Some examples of pyramidal trees include:

    Continue to 6 of 8 below.
  • 06 of 08

    Round Tree Shape

    Jacaranda Tree
    Jacaranda Tree Fyletto / Getty Images

    The round tree shape, as its name implies, is round and full like a sphere. Round trees can be taller or shorter, depending on the species. 

    Some examples of round trees include:

    Continue to 7 of 8 below.
  • 07 of 08

    Vase Tree Shape

    Koelreuteria paniculata
    Goldenrain tree seven75 / Getty Images

    The vase tree shape gets its name from its vase-like quality, where the branches spread out at the edges of the tree, narrowing down to the trunk. It's almost as if the branches of these vase-shaped trees were contained in their own vase.

    Some examples of vase shape trees include:

    • Goldenrain tree (Koelreuteria aniculata)
    • Common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
    • Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata)
    • Amur maple (Acer ginnala)
    • Bloodgood Japanese maple (Acer palmatum atropurpureum 'Bloodgood')
    Continue to 8 of 8 below.
  • 08 of 08

    Weeping Tree Shape

    Weeping Beech
    Weeping beech Heinz Grates / 500px / Getty Images

    A good choice for specimens are trees with a weeping shape, where the branches droop down and sweep the ground.

    Some examples of weeping trees include: