Tree Shapes for Landscaping

Weeping cherry tree blooming with light-pink blossoms.

masahiro Makino / Getty Images 

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

    A set of columnar trees
    sanderl/flickr/CC By 2.0

    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

    Irish Yew Fastigiate
    Tree Shape Gallery Irish Yew - Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata'. Photo © Flickr user shimgray

    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

    Honeylocust - Gleditsia tricanthos
    Tree Shape Gallery Honeylocust - Gleditsia tricanthos. Photo © Flickr GeorgSlickers

    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

    Sugar maple - Acer saccharum
    Tree Shape Gallery Sugar maple - Acer saccharum. Photo © Wikimedia Bruce Marlin

    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

    Pyramidal - Tilia cordata 'Greenspire'
    Tree Shape Gallery Greenspire littleleaf linden - Tilia cordata 'Greenspire'. Photo © Bailey Nurseries

    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

    A strawberry tree with fruit
    Tassos Sakalis/flickr/CC By SA 2.0

    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

    An Eastern Redbud in the woods
    National Park Service

    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

    A weeping willow by a lake
    Flickr digitalART2/flickr/CC by 2.0

    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: