The Best Small Trees for Landscaping

Crape Myrtle

When it comes to landscaping, it’s not just about the lush lawns and blooming flower beds. Trees play a pivotal role in creating a balanced, inviting outdoor space. But what if you’re working with a smaller area or want to keep things cozy and manageable? That’s where small trees come into the limelight, offering the perfect solution to add height, structure, and a touch of nature’s architecture without overwhelming your space. Let’s take a look into why small trees are a landscaping must-have and spotlight a few of our favorites: the Corkscrew Willow, Emerald Green Arborvitae, Dogwood, and Crepe Myrtle.

Crepe Myrtle

The Crepe Myrtle is a summer standout with its show-stopping blooms in pink, red, purple, or white. Beyond the blooms, this tree features attractive, peeling bark and lovely fall foliage, ensuring it earns its keep all year long. Crepe Myrtles can range in size, but many varieties are ideal for small landscapes, growing between 15 to 25 feet tall. They love the sun and can tolerate a variety of soil types, although they prefer well-drained conditions.

Corkscrew Willow

This whimsical tree is a real conversation starter, thanks to its unique, twisted branches that look stunning all year round. The Corkscrew Willow can reach up to 30 feet tall, but its slender form and open growth habit ensure it doesn’t take up too much space. It’s especially breathtaking in the winter when its contorted branches create dramatic silhouettes against the sky. Ideal for adding movement and interest to your landscape, this tree thrives in full sun and moist soil conditions.

Emerald Green Arborvitae

Looking for a touch of evergreen elegance? The Emerald Green Arborvitae is a classic choice, known for its vibrant green, densely packed foliage that stays lush all year long. Growing up to 15 feet tall, it’s a perfect pick for creating natural privacy screens or windbreaks without dominating your garden space. This low-maintenance tree prefers full to partial sun and well-drained soil, making it a versatile addition to any landscape design.


Dogwoods are beautiful springtime trees, celebrated for their beautiful blossoms in shades of white, pink, and red. But there’s more to these trees than their springtime show; they also offer attractive foliage in the summer, vibrant fall colors, and striking red berries that attract birds through the winter. Dogwoods can vary in size, but many cultivars are perfectly suited for small spaces, growing up to 20 feet tall. They thrive in partial shade and well-drained, acidic soil, making them a delightful choice for adding layers of interest to your landscape.

Factors to Consider

There are also several factors to keep in mind when choosing a tree for a particular area that we will look at. Here are a few things you may want to ask yourself when choosing a tree.

  • What is the purpose of the tree? Looks, shade, or privacy?
  • Where will the tree be located? Near the house, sidewalk, or driveway, or far away from the house?
  • Do you want color or just greenery?
  • How big do you want it to get?

What is the Tree’s Purpose?

Something to always ask yourself is what is the tree’s sole purpose. If the tree is just for looks, then you can be somewhat more flexible. On the other hand, if you are going for privacy, you will be searching for a different type of tree.

If you are looking for a tree that will bring you privacy and create more of a hedge, you will probably want an evergreen tree that will give this privacy all year round. A tree that loses its leaves in the winter will not be the solution. One of our favorite trees to use for privacy and creating a barrier is an Emerald Green Arborvitae. A couple of other trees that are great for this purpose are Leeland Cypress and Sky Pencil Hollies.

Emerald Green Arborvitae

If you are looking for small trees that is just for looks and to add interest and beauty to your landscaping, well, your options are pretty wide open. A few we have used in the past are small Dogwoods, Japanese Maples, and Crape Myrtles.

What is the Location of the Tree?

It is very important to keep in mind the location of the tree and exactly where it will be planted. Planting a tree close to a house, sidewalk, or driveway will require you to choose a much smaller tree that will not have large roots. You need an adequate amount of room for the tree to grow and live. Restricting its roots can damage and kill the tree, not to mention it can damage the surroundings like pavement or concrete.


Whether or not the tree is in the shade or full sun will be determined after you know the location. This may help you make a decision on what tree is best for you. Some trees do better in full shade, some in part sun, and then others like sunlight all day long.

Do you want color or just greenery?

Most trees will for sure add lots of greenery, but do you want to take a step further and purchase a tree that will bloom? If so, you may want to consider a tree such as the Flowering Dogwood. The blooms are absolutely gorgeous in the spring and sometimes will bloom again in the fall. They definitely add curb appeal to the exterior of your home and those blooms will be strikingly beautiful!

How Tall and Big Do You Want the Tree to Grow?

Knowing upfront how big you want the tree to grow will be a huge help in choosing the perfect tree for your area. When planting close your home within landscaped areas, you probably will want a tree that will not overgrow the space. You may want to search for one that will not grow too tall or wide. As I mentioned earlier, we used a Limelight Hydrangea in a recent project. It is the perfect smaller tree that will only get eight feet tall.

Corkscrew Willow

If you are wanting shade, then you probably want to look for a tree that grows very large. Some of the most popular shade trees include American Sycamore, Red Maple, and Weeping Willows. If you do plant a large shade tree, keep in mind that it won’t be long before you are raking a lot of leaves in the Fall.

Most large shade trees will take several years to get large. If you want shade “in a hurry”, there are some faster-growing shade trees. These include the Silver Maple, Northern Red Oak, and the Tulip Tree.

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