The best small garden trees

Updated April 17, 2017

Growing smaller trees in limited spaces adds beauty and increases property value to a home. Proper landscaping with small trees provides plenty of shade, acts as nature's insulation and screens out unwanted views. Pruning is easier, and maintenance costs are less for small trees, which grow faster than larger ones. Careful selection of the best small garden trees can define the space with colour, shape and size for many years.


The hazelnut's unusual twisted twigs give the tree a corkscrew appearance that adds variety to landscaping. It grows 8 to 10 feet when mature and does well in loamy, well-drained soil. Once established, a hazelnut is tolerant of urban areas and dry soil, but not desert conditions. A late bloomer in the spring, usually mid to late April, it has three to six small edible clusters of nuts, and its yellow to dark green foliage attracts squirrels. This tree flourishes in full sun to light shade areas.

White Oak

Considered a dwarf evergreen, the white oak is a conifer tree with a spreading, pyramid shape and drooping branches. A small tree by evergreen standards, it reaches an average of 8 to 10 feet, but can grow as tall as 30 feet. Cooler regions in the East, Midwest and Northwest are ideal for a white oak with moist soil. The tree's cones grow about 1 inch long and its dark green foliage with yellow-gold leaves give it a soft look that's appealing in small spaces.


A small flowering tree that resembles a shrub, the fringetree grows 12 to 20 feet tall. A slow growing and fragrant ornamental, it blooms in March through April. The fringetree gives off a slightly sweet scent from its green-yellow flowers and large petals that can reach 6 to 8 inches wide. In the fall, the leaves turn a bright yellow-gold. Small plumlike fruit draws squirrels and birds, but it is not for human consumption. A fringetree needs well-drained soil and full to partial sun.


One of the South's most distinctive trees, a magnolia in bloom signals the end of winter and has more than 75 varieties worldwide. A magnolia grows slowly, reaching 10 to 20 feet when fully grown. An extremely fragrant tree, it has white flowers that grow up to 1 inch wide, resembling small water lilies, with light to dark green foliage. When placed in moist but not dry soil in full to partial sun, a magnolia tree will give shade and beauty to a small garden for years.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Since 1998 Valerie Valdez's articles have appeared in the "Austin Business Journal," "Austin Women" and "Inside Austin." Valdez has enjoyed working in broadcasting for NBC, PBS stations and for the U.S. Army. She earned a Bachelor of Science in radio-TV from the University of Texas and a Master of Arts in theater from Texas State University.