15 Best trees for small gardens

Growing a garden can be challenging, especially in a city or suburban area with little space. These houses usually come with small gardens, making it necessary to choose the best trees to plant so as not to overcrowd the garden.

The best trees for a small garden are usually dwarf varieties, flowering trees, or anything with a compact root structure. The best trees for a small garden require little space to grow to maturity, leaving the gardener with more room to grow other plants.

Below are my picks if you are looking to plant a tree in a small garden. They are in no particular order.

1. Japanese maple tree

Japanese maple tree

The Japanese maple tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The Japanese maple tree is one of the most colorful trees with the color of the leaves changing through the seasons.

The leaves of the Japanese maple tree are gold in winter, reddish-purple hues in spring and summer, and purple in fall. The colors of the tree are what make it a great addition to a small garden as it is always colorful no matter the season.

The vibrancy of the Japanese maple tree has made it one of the most popular choices for small gardens. The tree also has many varieties available ranging from the dwarf tree (about 5ft when fully mature)) to large towering species. This allows you to choose the height best for your garden size.

The tree requires acidic soil with good drainage. Alkaline soils and poor drainage will affect the growth of the tree.

2. Eastern redbud tree

Eastern redbud tree

The Eastern redbud tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The Eastern redbud tree is the best choice if you’re looking for bright-colored flowering trees in your garden.

The tree is very easy to plant and take care of and it rewards you with pink and/or white flowers in springtime. In autumn, the leaves of the tree turn burnt orange and continue to light up the garden.

There are many varieties of the Eastern redbud tree, some with different colors in different seasons. The dwarf variety grows about 10 ft when mature and is a good choice for a small garden.

The tree will grow well in a very sunny area with shade against frost in the winter. The tree also requires well-drained soil and regular watering.

3. Crabapple tree

Crabapple tree

The crabapple tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The crab apple tree is a loose relative to the regular apple but with more sour fruit. The tree is a very good choice for a small garden with its brightly colored flowers in shades of pink, red and white.

The crab apple comes in various varieties with dwarf varieties growing as short as 6 ft to 16ft when mature.

Although the crab apple is sour to eat, they are a good addition to jams and jellies that you can make at home with a recipe.

The crab apple tree grows best in a sunny environment with good drainage and regular watering. They also do well when planted in a pot.

4. Amelanchier tree

The Amelanchier tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The Amelanchier tree is also called serviceberry, juneberry, or saskatoon depending on where you live.

The tree is an evergreen with beautiful star flowers and orange-red leaves in the springtime. The Amelanchier tree often called serviceberry or juneberry produces edible berries while blooming making it a good choice for a kid-friendly garden.

The Amelanchier tree has a dwarf species that is perfect for a small garden. The dwarf species grows to about 13ft on maturity and is perfect as a potted tree.

5. Crepe myrtle tree

Crepe myrtle tree

The crepe Myrtle tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The tree is a great choice if you’re looking to add color to a small garden.

The crepe Myrtle is a southerner dream tree with boldly colored flowers in shades of pink, lilac, and white in the spring, topped with even brighter leaves from orange to red in autumn with green bark in winter, the tree is never going to let your garden get boring.

There are many varieties of the crepe Myrtle tree with the dwarf species growing as short as 6ft to 10ft when mature.

The tree grows best in a sunny area with no shade. It also needs good drainage and regular watering.

6. Japanese flowering dogwood tree

Japanese flowering dogwood tree

The Japanese flowering dogwood tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The tree comes in different varieties with some being shrubs or small trees.

The trees have a dwarf variety that grows to about 7-8ft when mature making it an excellent choice for a small garden. produces beautiful flowers and edible berries in the summertime. The berries are red and call to mind strawberries upon tasting.

The Japanese dogwood tree is a good choice if you want to attract insects and birds into your garden as the bright colors and fruit nectar attracts beautiful insects and singing birds.

In autumn the leaves turn gold, orange and red and in winter, the tree still has a striking appearance due to its peeling bark.

7. Magnolia tree

Magnolia tree

The Magnolia tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The tree is a beautiful sight with its lovely sweet smelling flowers blooming in the spring.

The various species of Magnolia trees mean that finding the best option for your small garden is feasible. There are dwarf varieties that are compact thereby taking minimum space in the garden.

Some of the popular varieties for small gardens include the Chinese Magnolia tree, the Elizabeth & the star Magnolia tree. These are dwarf Magnolia trees and won’t grow past 20 ft when mature.

The Magnolia tree grows best in a sunny but sheltered position in the garden and responds well to bi-annual trimming. The shelter helps to protect the plant during winter.

8. Fringe tree

Fringe tree

The Fringe tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The tree was originally from the Eastern parts of North America but has proven to be resilient in other parts.

The fringe tree is an all-around tree that can be planted as a small tree for a small garden. The tree blooms in the spring and has a spread of white flowers. During autumn, the tree produces a purplish-colored fruit that attracts birds.

This tree has dwarf varieties that grow about 12ft to 14ft when mature. It is a good choice if you’re looking for color and to attract birds into your garden.

The fringe tree grows best in a sunny environment with shade against frost in winter. It also requires good drainage and regular watering.

9. Golden chain tree

Golden chain tree

The Golden chain tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The tree is a good way of adding color and brightness to a small garden.

The Golden chain tree blooms in spring and produces the loveliest clusters of yellow flowers in a chain form. The flowers hang from the tree-like lines and give the “Golden chain” look.

When the golden chain tree is not in bloom, its leaves are clover shaped and bright green which still gives that bright feeling to the garden.

The tree requires a sunny environment to grow with shade against harsh sunlight and frost in winter. It also requires good drainage and regular watering.

10. Bay tree

Bay tree

The bay tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. Bay leaves are evergreen trees with sweet-smelling leaves all year round.

The tree is one of the best for a small garden due to its straight form and evergreen nature which makes sure your garden still looks good in the winter as in summertime.

The bay tree is compact and can serve as a potted tree if you plan to use the bay leaves as a spice. The tree is low maintenance as it does not shed its leaves and doesn’t need constant pruning (try pruning once in spring).

The potted bay trees are a good choice as they are easy to manage and may require you to change the pots every few years till they mature.

Bay trees grow best in warm weather and require shelter during cold weather. If you live in an area with constant weather, bay trees might not be the tree for you.

11. Olive tree

Olive tree

The olive tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. This evergreen tree calls to mind the cool breeze and hot sun of Mediterranean cities like Italy and Sicily where they were originally grown.

The olive tree has dwarf varieties that grow about 10 ft when mature. The olive tree is originally from the Mediterranean with hot summers, this means that olive trees need lots of sun and water during summertime and shelter in the winter.

The tree can be grown as a potted plant for those with a fluctuating climate so it can be moved to a warmer location during the cold seasons. Without steady sun they may not produce any olives but still, make a good tree for a small garden.

12. Hawthorn tree

Hawthorn tree

The Hawthorn tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The tree is one way to brighten up your small garden with its low branches.

The tree has bright white flowers with a sweet fragrance in summer, in fall the tree produces small red fruit and the leaves turn orange.

The tree attracts birds and other insects due to its color and fruit nectar. The Hawthorn tree needs sunlight with good drainage and regular watering.

13. Pagoda dogwood

Pagoda dogwood

The Pagoda dogwood is one of the best trees for a small garden. The tree is native to North America and is a good choice if you’re looking to attract multiple insects and birds.

The tree produces bright blue and purple berries with colorful flowers that draw in all sorts of wildlife. The tree looks beautiful throughout the year and provides shade.

The Pagoda dogwood is a good and lively option for a small garden. The plant needs sunlight with shade, good drainage, and regular watering.

14. Japanese stewartia tree

Japanese stewartia tree

The Japanese stewartia is one of the best trees for a small garden. The tree is a colorful specimen during all seasons.

The Japanese stewartia produces luscious leaves and is a compact tree that takes up little space. The shorter variety grows about 12ft when mature.

The tree grows well in sunlight with or without shade and requires acidic soil. Good drainage and regular watering.

15. Japanese lilac tree

Japanese lilac tree

The Japanese lilac tree is one of the best trees for a small garden. The Japanese lilac tree as its name implies produces the most colorful lilac flowers.

The tree blooms in spring and produces lilac flowers and in early summer, it produces white clusters of flowers.

This tree is a good choice if you’re looking for a tree that’s never boring as the colors of the tree change with the seasons.

The Japanese lilac tree grows well in a sunny environment with good drainage and regular watering.

Other good trees for a small garden

Some other great trees for a small garden that are not mentioned above but are also worth investigating include:

  1. Plum tree.
  2. Silver birch tree.
  3. Paperbark maple tree.
  4. Birch tree.
  5. Strawberry tree.

What to look for when searching for the best trees for a small garden

Finding the best trees for your small garden is very important. Your needs for the garden will determine the best choice for you.

  • If you’re prioritizing color in your garden, choose trees that grow no taller than 12 ft to 16ft but produce beautiful flowers in summer and colorful leaves in autumn. This keeps the garden colorful but not crowded.
  • If you are looking to improve the view of your house, choosing wide-branched trees will help. The side branches mean you don’t have to plant more than 2-3 trees to improve your view.
  • If you live near a major road, reducing noise might be a priority and trees are good noise filters. Finding short trees with dense branches is a good choice.
  • If you live in a crowded or polluted area, growing trees can help filter the air around you. This is because trees produce oxygen and take In carbon dioxide (CO2) which is a pollutant.
  • Find out the soil type in your garden. Many trees require certain soil types to flourish so knowing the optimal choice for your garden’s soil type is important.
  • Plant potted trees. If your garden is extremely small, potted trees might be the way to go. Planting the tree in a large pot helps to limit its size and the space it takes up.

What do you need to start planting in your small garden?

Planting a small garden will not cost a lot but you can try doing it yourself (DIY). Taking the time to plant your garden can be a fun experience for you and the reward of seeing your work is priceless.

Since the garden is small, planting the trees by yourself will not be much of a struggle.

However, before planting you’ll need to get the following;

  • Garden Tools; you’ll need garden tools to plant your tree. Tools like a shovel or trowel for digging the plant hole. A water can for watering the plants easily and many others.
  • Tree seedlings of your choice; getting the right tree seedlings for your small garden is necessary. You can go to the local nursery and request the tree seedlings you want.
  • Fertilizer; applying the right fertilizer in the right amount is very crucial. Fertilizers have necessary plants minerals and vitamins and help the trees to grow
  • Professional advice; taking on your garden can be daunting especially if it’s your first time. If you want some pro tips, you can attend a gardening workshop to get started.

How do you maintain the best trees for a small garden?

Keeping the trees in a small garden maintained is quite easy. Here are a few tips;

  • Prune the plants regularly: Cutting off overgrown branches helps to keep the tree healthy and prevents overcrowding in the garden.
  • Use the adequate fertilizer: Using the right fertilizer in the right amount will help your tree grow on time and be healthy too.
  • Water your plants as required; some plants need more water than others so watering your plants with the right amount at the right time is crucial.
Ben McInerney
Author: Ben McInerney - Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.