Five small-to-medium trees that can fit in small spaces

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Updated Apr 17, 2023
Photo: WikipediaPhoto: Wikipedia

With more and more customers opting for smaller houses and smaller yards, the options for landscaping can become difficult.

Trees not only offer multiple benefits to the environment and to us, but they are also aesthetically pleasing when showcased in a yard. The average home consists of 2,500 square feet, almost double the house size in the 1970s, according to U.S. Census data, but that means yards are shrinking and leaving less space for trees. Here we’ve compiled a few beautiful and eye-catching smaller tree options your clients are sure to love, even if they don’t have a lot of space to work with.

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)

Photo: Rebecca Wilson/FlickrPhoto: Rebecca Wilson/Flickr

The Japanese maple is a small deciduous tree with a broadly spreading crown with a layered branching structure. This species’ leaves are hand-shaped and can range from 2 to 5 inches long and have five or seven lobes. Leaves emerge in early spring. Summer leaves are green, and autumn leaf colors can range from orange to yellow or red to purple. Flowers can begin to bloom in May and June and are pollinated by insects. They typically grow 15 to 25 feet tall and have a spread equal to or greater than the height.

    • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9
    • Full sun, partial shade


Photo: WikipediaPhoto: Wikipedia

Okame flowering cherry (Prunus x incamp “Okame”) 

The Okame cherry is an early spring bloomer and covers itself with single pink flowers that have red stems and calyces. After planting, be sure to provide adequate water to help the root systems recover and send out new sprouts. These trees have a low chilling requirement, which makes them ideal for those located in the Deep South. These trees can grow 15 to 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide in an upright, oval silhouette.

    • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9
    • Full sun, partial shade


Photo: AU ArboretumPhoto: AU Arboretum

Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

The red buckeye produces bright red flowers, can be grown in all soil textures, and is nearly pest-free. The flowers last several weeks into spring and can attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  The shiny, round capsule nuts are toxic to humans and are 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Leaves are also said to be toxic and usually drop in late September. They can reach a height of 15 to 20 feet with a width of 15 to 25 feet.

    • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8
    • Full sun or shade


Photo: WikipediaPhoto: Wikipedia

Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina)

Carolina silverbells have rounded, pyramidal habits and have white, bell-shaped flowers that bloom in April and May. The flowers can be best seen from below, as they hang on pendulous stalks. Flowers are ½ to ¾ of an inch long and bloom in clusters of two to five. These tend to grow better in a collection of trees because of their need for light shade, and the height can range from 30 to 40 feet with a spread of 20 to 35 feet.

    • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9
    • Light shade


Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki “Fuyu”)

This fruit-bearing tree has glossy green leaves that turn bright orange-scarlet in the fall. This “Fuyu” cultivar produces non-puckering fruit that resembles tomatoes in size, shape, and color. The flavor has a deep sweetness like honey with a slight hint of mango.In the spring and summer, these trees should be irrigated when rainfall is adequate to maintain soil moisture and prevent fruit and leaf drop. They do not require pollinators, and they can grow to be 20 to 30 feet tall and wide.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-9
  • Full sun
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