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Small Trees for a Border Garden

Updated February 21, 2017

Small ornamental trees add interest, height and variety to your garden. They are suitable as border garden plants because their height frames your garden space or yard and provides privacy, while not being so large as to block sunlight into your garden or take up too much room or root space in smaller gardens. Small trees generally reach no more than 25 feet in height, but many are even smaller.

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The crabapple tree is a small, flowering tree that bears tart but edible fruit good for baking and jelly. They blossom for a week or two in spring with small white, pink or purple flowers. Crabapples may reach 10 to 25 feet in height and approximately the same in width. Different cultivars may display different colour, size and shape characteristics.

Crape Myrtle

Crape myrtle can be grown in warmer climates, as they are hardy to USDA Zone 7. Standard varieties typically reach 20 feet, although many cultivars are available, including very dwarf, dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties ranging from 1 to 12 feet tall. Crepe myrtles are prized for their profusion of showy, long-blooming flowers during summer, which range from white to shades of pink, red and purple.

Smoke Tree

The smoke tree is a shrublike tree that reaches up to 15 feet in both height and diameter. Its common name refers to its many panicles, or clusters, of tiny flowers that give a smoke-like appearance to the tree. Smoke trees are hardy for USDA Zones 5 through 9. Their dark purple and red foliage is striking.


Redbud, sometimes called Judas tree due to the legend that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from a European redbud, is a flowering tree bearing clusters of pealike flowers in spring and summer. Some redbuds exceed small tree height, reaching up to 30 feet, so choose a cultivar like Tennessee Pink or Appalachian Red that grows to a maximum 20 feet, or a dwarf variety. Redbud is hardy in USDA Zones 4 through 9.


Magnolia is a striking and showy blossoming tree featuring fragrant flowers, ranging in colour from white, yellow and green, to pinks and purples. There are multiple cultivars of magnolia, which may range from 15 to 25 feet in height. They are hardy throughout several regions, depending on the cultivar.

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About the Author

Anna Roberts
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