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Trees for Small Yards

Looking for the perfect specimen for your suburban lot? Consider one of the many beautiful varieties that remain under 25 to 30 feet at maturity.

Common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

So you've got the hankering for something leafy, shade-lending, perhaps even flowering. But you don't have the yard space. There are plenty of lovely options in trees for small yards, including the common witch hazel. Bright, fragrant, fringe-like flowers appear on bare branches in late winter. This long-lived tree stands up well to extreme cold, moderate wind, even urban pollution.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)

Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden

Peeling bark reveals itself on a tall, narrow form that doesn't steal all the sunlight from surrounding plants. Its cold tolerance makes this a good selection in far-northern climates, although it will also do well in alkaline soils further south (Ohio and Illinois).

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Weeping Birch (Betula pendula)

Graceful weeping birches grow shorter and wider than the species, making them well suited to the smallest yards. Their yellow autumn foliage adds late-season interest.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden

Though tolerant of winter cold, the redbud likes the warm summers of its native Appalachian habitat. Its rosy-magenta spring flowers, heart-shaped leaves, and compact form translate well to suburban settings.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)

A common sight in California, these feathery, pink-flowering trees like it hot and dry, with free-draining soil. Place away from the wind.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Smoke Tree (Cotinus obovatus)

Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden

Flowers appear in cloudlike puffs against dark bronze or purple foliage in summer. This southeastern native tolerates dry, acidic soil.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

Photo by Virginia and Barry Foster

White flowers in spring and purple-red berries in fall distinguish this small multi-stemmed or single-trunk tree, which thrives in a wide range of conditions. Songbirds—as well as less welcome backyard interlopers, like deer and bears—relish the edible fruits.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Photo by Craig Lee

Clusters of red or coral flowers appear on this Southern native in late summer. A small-scale relative of the giant horse chestnut, its leaves are toxic to deer—a quality many wildlife-plagued landscapers in the Northeast may envy.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa var. chinensis)

Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden

With a bushier growth habit than its elegantly branching American cousin, this Asian native wins fans for its star-shaped summer flowers, good fall color, and large, dangly red late-season fruits.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata)

Photo by Nancy Andrews

This four-season performer—with attractive bark, confetti-pink spring blossoms, and serrated leaves that turn orange and red fall—is easily pruned to manageable proportions. Cold hardy to -10 degrees F.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Few spring-flowering trees are more shade tolerant than this native American species. The elliptical leaves turn red in fall, when the tree bears small, bright-red fruits. The slow-growing trees favor free-draining neutral or acid soil and a temperate climate; hardy to -20 degrees F. More than 20 species are available in nurseries, including varieties with variegated leaves, like 'Welchii'.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum)

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Nurseries carry hundreds of varieties, including many bushy or mounding trees that grow no larger than a standard shrub. Here, a red-leafed cultivar joins a spiky yucca and a variety of low-maintenance groundcovers—including a cascade of rocks—in a high-visibility, low-maintenance island near a driveway. Cold hardy to -10 degrees F.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Ever Red Laceleaf Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum 'Ever Red')

Photo by Nancy Andrews

This popular dark-leafed Japanese maple has deep purple-bronze leaves that turn fiery red in autumn.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Globe blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Globosa')

Photo by Nancy Andrews

Conifers classified as "dwarf" in nursery terms, like this chubby spruce, have the same genetic makeup as their more generously proportioned cousins: They just grow more slowly and, therefore, stay compact longer, making them well suited to small lots. According to the American Conifer Society, dwarf varieties grow about three to six inches a year, while their large relatives sprout up and out at twice that rate.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.

Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana)

Photo by Nancy Andrews

This native of the Canadian Rockies thrives in tight spaces—even containers—where their pyramidal form enhances the garden's geometry. Stays under 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide and is cold hardy to -30 degrees F.

Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to see if you can grow this tree.