12 Small Trees for a Big Landscape Look

My Garden Life
May 17, 2018
Table of Contents

Planting trees instead of grass is a growing trend in home landscaping. People are losing interest in mowing and maintaining large tracts of empty lawn space. Trees invite a fascinating variety of wildlife to your landscape, create shade to help cool the environment, and they’re an essential finishing touch to make a landscape look complete.

But trees take a long time to grow. Usually when we plant a tree it’s with the expectation that it will be enjoyed by future generations. Those with small landscapes may feel that they don’t have space for trees at all. There is a solution to both of these predicaments if you just think small! There are quite a few trees that can be enjoyed in their mature form in as little as 10-15 years. These small trees are just the right size for home landscapes, tight urban spaces, or creating a mini forest to bring life to large, empty, open areas.

Here are 12 trees that grow only 15 to 35 feet (4.5 to 10 meters) and reach maturity in as little as ten years. Each has multi-season interest too; with exceptionally attractive foliage, flowers, seed pods or autumn color:

1. Mimosa

(Albizia julibrissin)

Albizia julibrissin, Mimosa
Mimosa reaches its full height of 20 to 35 feet (6 to 10 meters) in about 10 years. This exotic-looking tree produces a wide swath of fragrant rosy pink blossoms set against tropical-looking foliage. Blooms appear in mid to late summer followed by long brown seed pods through the fall. Mimosa is hardy in USDA zones 6-9.

2. Amur Maple

(Acer ginnala)

Acer ginnala, Amur Maple
The fast growing and cold hearty amur maple tops out at only 15 to 25 feet (4.6-7.6 meters). Grown as either a large shrub or a small tree, it sports creamy white flowers with new foliage in spring and puts on a fiery display of reds, yellows, and oranges come autumn. Amur maple is hardy in USDA zones 3-7.

3. Willow Acacia, Australian Willow

(Acacia salicina)

Acacia salicina, Willow acacia
Extremely quick to mature, the willow acacia is a hardy evergreen adapted to the dry conditions of Eastern Australia. It grows only 15 to 25 feet (4.6-7.6 meters) tall but its fine, wispy foliage and weeping branches have a big softening effect in the landscape. Autumn brings a brilliant display of fluffy yellow flowers followed by delicate seed pods. Willow acacia is hardy in USDA zones 8-12.

4. Blue Palo Verde

(Cercidium floridum)

Cercidium floridum, Blue Palo Verde
Another quick grower, the blue palo verde, is a small desert tree reaching 35 feet (10 meters). As its name suggests, its foliage is a unique shade of blue-green. One of the first trees to bloom in the spring, when it’s covered with bright yellow blossoms. Blue palo verde is hardy in USDA zones 9-12.

5. Japanese Maple

(Acer palmatum)

Acer palmatum, Japanese Maple
These elegant staples of the peaceful Japanese garden grow one to two feet per year and top out at around 15 feet (4.6 meters). Japanese maples are known for their almost architectural presence in the garden. The deep red varieties add rich color to the landscape and all varieties can be counted on to provide stunning autumn color. Japanese maple is hardy in USDA zones 5-8.

6. Shadblow Serviceberry

(Amelanchier canadensis)

Amelanchier canadensis, Shadblow serviceberry
This small tree, no more than 20 feet (6 meters) and sometimes grown as a shrub, is native to the bogs and swamps of the Eastern seaboard. Serviceberry grows quickly and can reach 10 feet (3 meters) in just five years. It’s is covered in fragrant white flowers in spring followed by decorative and edible fruits in summer. The foliage turns a warm golden yellow in the fall. Shadblow serviceberry is hardy in USDA zones 3-7.

7. Magnolia ‘Jane’

(Magnolia species)

Magnolia species, Jane hybrid
The hearty magnolia ‘Jane’ grows quickly to reach its mature height of only 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.7 meters). This little tree is a super star of the spring landscape when it produces a showstopping display of huge pink flowers. Blooms may continue to appear intermittently through the summer. Exceptional cold tolerance makes this a great selection for Northern regions. Magnolia ‘Jane’ is hardy in USDA zones 4-9.

8. Flowering Dogwood

(Cornus florida)

Cornus florida, Flowering dogwood
Dogwoods are a favorite for home landscaping with their lovely horizontal branching pattern and multi-season interest. Dogwoods can grow as much as one to two feet a year until they reach their mature height of 15 to 30 feet (4.6 to 9.1 meters). Flowering may be sparse for the first five years after planting, but trees will eventually bloom reliably every spring. Flowering dogwood is hardy in USDA zones 5-8.

9. Holly ‘Nellie R. Stevens’

(Ilex hybrid)

Ilex hybrid, 'Nellie R. Stevens' Holly
Prized for its quick growth (two to three feet per year), drought resistance, dark evergreen foliage, and bright red berries, ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ is the perfect all-season hedge. This holly reaches a mature height of 30 feet (9.1 meters) but can be pruned to maintain it at whatever height suits your needs. Holly ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ is hardy in USDA zones 6-9.

10. Crabapple

(Malus hybrid)

Malus hybrid, Crabapple
A favorite in northern climates, the cold-hearty flowering crabapple grows about a foot a year and tops out at between 8 and 15 feet (2.4 and 4.6 meters). Crabapples put on a beautiful show in the spring when they are covered with fragrant white or pink flowers. The small fruits are enjoyed by birds and other wildlife. Crabapple is hardy in USDA zones 5-8.

11. Semi-Dwarf Cherry

(Prunus cerasus)

Prunus cerasus, Semi-dwarf cherry
These lovely small trees, prized for their fragrant spring flowers and delicious summer fruit, reach between 15 and 18 feet tall (4.6 and 5.5 meters) at maturity. Semi-dwarf Cherry varieties may be sweet or tart, and their compact size makes reaching the fruit easier when harvesting. Trees can be pruned to maintain whatever size is desired. Semi-dwarf cherry is hardy in USDA zones 4-8.

12. Little Leaf Linden ‘Greenspire’

(Tilia cordata)

Tilia cordata, Little Leaf Linden 'Greenspire'
Little Leaf Linden is a fast growing, low maintenance tree that can grow as high and wide as 50 feet (15 meters). You’ll love the abundant shade its broad branching habit provides. When in flower, its sweet scented blooms are a magnet for bees and other insect pollinators. Little leaf linden ‘Greenspire’ is hardy in USDA zones 3-8.

Whether big or small, no garden or yard should ever have to go without the beauty and shade provided by trees. Quick growing, small trees make it easy to design a setting that has the look and feeling of a well-established landscape, but without the long wait.


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