Trees for smaller gardens

There are many trees widely available for smaller gardens, in all shapes and sizes, evergreen and deciduous. Given that many of us have limited space in which to garden, it becomes important that any trees chosen are right for their surroundings, in terms of proportion as well as for their decorative value.

Top 5 smaller trees

From the hundreds of smaller trees available, here is our short list. There are further suggestions in the list below.

    Acer griseum AGM. Commonly known as the ‘Paperbark maple’. A beautiful small tree with bark flaking and curling back to reveal cinnamon-coloured bark beneath. Rich autumn foliage colour.Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Ballerina’ AGM. Profuse white spring flowers before the bronze tinted young leaves emerge. Good autumn leaf tints.Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’ AGM has white flowers in June followed by masses of showy bright orange-red fruits. Oval deep green leaves colour richly in autumn.Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ AGM has white flowers in late spring. Pale yellow fruits mature to amber-yellow are complimented by rich autumn foliage colour of red, orange and purple. Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ AGM is a small, columnar tree with greenish-bronze young leaves and dense clusters of fragrant semi-double, shell-pink flowers in mid-late spring.

    Practical considerations

    There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a tree for a small garden. Here are some of the more important ones:

    • Height and spread: This is probably the most important factor. Even small ornamental trees may, over time, reach a height of 6-8m (20-26ft) or more. If this is too much, consider a weeping form, as these rarely increase much in height or choose a large shrub. If spread is a problem, such as in a very restricted area, consider a columnar tree, as these do not spread appreciably
    • Season of interest: Consider when you want your tree to look good, thinking about flowering time, foliage, fruit and bark. If you only have room for one tree ideally look for one with more than one season of interest such as fruit or autumn colour following on from flowers
    • Deciduous or evergreen: Both types of trees have their advantages, the obvious one for evergreens being that they keep their leaves throughout the year. But many deciduous trees provide lovely autumn foliage colours not available with evergreen trees
    • Trees for specific locations: we have also provided the following profiles to help with growing trees in containers and trees for wet soils
    • Trees and buildings: many people worry about planting a tree close to a property, and there can be risks in doing so. For more information see our trees near buildings profile

    To help you choose, you may find it useful to visit gardens where a good range of well-established and mature ornamental trees can be seen and evaluated.

    Suitable trees

    If you would prefer to view a full list of small trees (up to 8m or 26ft), try the RHS Find a Plant.

    (*) Suitable for neutral to acid soils 
    (v) Variegated foliage
    AGM - The RHS Award of Garden Merit
    Heights given for each tree are approximate. Location in the British Isles and in the garden, soil conditions and prevailing weather will influence ultimate height.

    Trees under 5m (16ft) in height


    Amelanchier alnifolia
    'Obelisk':
    (*) Height 4m (13ft). Spread 1m (3ft)
    Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy': Height 4-5m (13-16ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    C. chinensis 'Avondale': Height 3m (10ft). Spread 2m (6½ft)
    Cornus kousa 'Miss Satomi' AGM: (*) Height 5m (16ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    Corylus maxima 'Purpurea': Height 5m (16ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    Euonymus europaeus 'Red Cascade' AGM: Height 3m (10ft). Spread 2.5m (8ft)
    Liquidambar styraciflua 'Gum Ball' AGM: (*) Height 3m (10ft). Spread 2m (6½ft)
    Magnolia stellata 'Jane Platt' AGM: Height 3-4m (10-13ft). Spread 2.5m (8ft)
    Prunus 'Hally Jolivette': Height 5m (16ft). Spread 2-3m (6½-10ft)
    Ptelea trifoliata ‘Aurea' AGM: Height 5m (16ft). Spread 4m (13ft)
    Salix exigua AGM: Height and spread 4m (13ft)
    Sorbus pseudovilmorinii: Height and spread 4m (13ft)
    S. villmorinii AGM: (*) Height 5m (16ft). Spread 4m (13ft)

    The following ornamental cherries are often available from nurseries and garden centres grafted to create a smaller tree (topworked), reaching a height and spread of 3-4m (13-16ft);

    Prunus 'Kiku-shidare-zakura' AGM: clear, deep pink, very double flowers, mid-late spring
    P. pendula f. ascendens ‘Pendula Rosea’: single rose pink flowers, early-mid spring
    P. pendula f. ascendens 'Pendula Rubra AGM: single, deep rose flowers, carmine in bud early-mid spring
    P. pendula f. ascendens ‘Stellata’ AGM: pale pink flowers from red buds, early-mid-spring
    P. × yeodoensis 'Ivensii': snow-white fragrant blossom in early-mid spring
    P. × yeodoensis 'Shidare Yoshino': pale pink flowers in early-mid spring


    Flowering trees


    Aesculus
    × mutablis 'Induta':
    panicles of yellow flowers, flushed pink, late spring. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Ballerina’: White flower racemes, mid spring. Height 5-6m (16-20ft). Spread 6-7m (20-23ft)
    Cercis canadensis f. alba ‘Royal White’: profuse, large white flower clusters on bare stems, before the leaves. Height 8m (26ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet' AGM: double scarlet flowers, late spring. Height and spread 8m (26ft)
    C. laevigata 'Punicea': scarlet flowers with a white eye, late spring. Height and spread 8m (26ft)
    Exochorda serratifolia 'Snow White': showy, papery white flowers, late spring or early summer. Height and spread 3-4m (10-13ft)
    Genista aetnensis AGM: bright golden-yellow flowers Height and spread 4-5m (13-16ft)
    The following selection of mid-winter flowering Hamamelis (witch hazel) reach a height and spread of 4m (13ft);
    Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ AGM: (*) sweetly scented bright-yellow spidery flowers 
    H. × intermedia 'Jelena' AGM: (*) yellow suffused copper-red spidery flowers 
    H. × intermedia 'Pallida' AGM: (*) sulphur-yellow spidery flowers
    H. × intermedia 'Rubin' AGM: (*) bright-red spidery flowers
    H. mollis ‘Wisley Supreme’ AGM: (*) large fragrant pale-yellow spidery flowers
    Hoheria ‘Glory of Amlwch’ AGM: large white flowers in mid and late summer. Height 7m (23ft). Spread 6m (20ft)
    Lagerstroemia indica AGM: white, pink, red or purple flowers depending on cultivar. Height and spread 3-5m (10-16ft)
    Magnolia ‘Jane’: very slender, red-purple flowers, late spring. Height 4m (13ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    M. × loebneri ‘Leonard Messel' AGM: lilac-pink flowers, mid-spring. Height 8m (26ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    M. 'Star Wars' AGM: deep pink flowers in spring before and with the leaves. Height and spread 6m (20ft)
    M. stellata ‘Jane Platt’ AGM: rich pink flowers, early and mid-spring. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    M. 'Susan' AGM: red-purple flowers, mid-spring. Height 4m (13ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    M. wilsonii AGM: cup-shaped white flowers with purple stamens, late spring and early summer. Height 5-6m (16-20ft). Spread 4-5m (13-16ft)
    Malus floribunda AGM: crimson flower buds open white, early spring. Height and spread 6-8m (20-26ft).
    M. 'Gorgeous': pink flower buds open white, mid-spring. Height and spread 6-8m (20-26ft)
    M. ‘Indian Magic’: dark red buds open to large deep-pink flowers, mid-spring. Height and spread 4-5m (13-15ft)
    M. 'Laura' AGM: pink flushed flowers, mid-spring. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    Prunus 'Accolade' AGM: clusters of semi-double shell-pink flowers from dark buds, early spring. Height and spread 5-8m (16-26ft)
    P. × blireana AGM: rose-pink flowers before and with the leaves, early spring. Height and spread 4m (13ft)
    P. dulcis: (almond) single pink or white flowers, early spring. Height and spread 6-8m (20-26ft)
    P. 'The Bride' AGM: pure white blossom, mid-spring. Height and spread 3-4m (10-13ft)
    P. 'Hanagasa' AGM: (Pink Parasol) pendulous, double pale pink flowers, late spring. Height and spread 8m (26ft)
    P. 'Pink Perfection' AGM: rosy-pink double flowers in drooping clusters, mid-late spring. Height and spread 6m (20ft) 
    P. 'Pink Shell': profuse delicate shell-pink flowers, early mid-spring. Height and spread 6m (20ft)

    The following are some Syringa vulgaris (lilac) cultivars with highly scented spring to early summer flowers in conical panicles. They reach a height and spread of 4m (13ft);

    Syringa vulgaris 'Andenken an Ludwig Spath' AGM: wine-red single flowers
    S. vulgaris 'Katherine Havermeyer' AGM: purple-lilac double flowers
    S. vulgaris ‘Krasavitsa Moskvy’: ('Beauty of Moscow’) pink buds open to blush-white double flowers
    S. vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’ AGM: large clusters of white double flowers
    S. vulgaris ‘Primrose’: small pale yellow single flowers


    Attractive fruits


    Catalpa bignonioides
    'Nana':
    slender pendulous pods. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii AGM: bright blue berries. Height and spread 5-6m (16-20ft)
    Cydonia oblonga 'Vranja' Nenadovic AGM: (quince) very fragrant golden-yellow fruits. Height and spread 4-5m (13-16ft)
    Euonymus cornutus var. quinquecornutus: pink tinged horn-like fruits. Height and spread 2-3m (6½-10ft)
    Malus robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ AGM: large clusters of deep-red fruits last through winter. Height and spread 7m (21ft)
    M. 'Butterball' AGM: yellow fruits, flushed orange. Height and spread 7m (23ft)
    M. [Jelly King] = 'Mattfru' AGM: large orange-pink, red flushed fruit, makes excellent pink jelly. Height 4-5m (13-16ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    Sorbus 'Eastern Promise' AGM: large, deep rose-pink fruits. Height 6m (20ft). Spread 4m (13ft)
    S. 'Sunshine': golden-yellow fruits in large dense clusters. Height and spread 7-8m (23-26ft)


    Flowering trees with autumn colour


    Amelanchier laevis
    ‘R.J. Hilton' AGM:
    (*) pink-tinged white flowers from pink buds, mid-spring, red-purple autumn tints. Height and spread 4m (13ft)
    Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' AGM: crimson flowers in clusters on bare stems before the leaves, deep reddish-purple leaves, orange-red in autumn. Height and spread 4-5m (13-16ft)
    Cornus kousa var. chinensis AGM: (*) large white bracts, early summer and crimson-purple autumn colour. Height 6-7m (20-23ft). Spread 4m (13ft)
    Koelreuteria paniculata: large panicles of small yellow flowers, mid-summer and butter-yellow autumn colour. Height and spread 8-9m (26-29½ft)
    Malus coronaria var. dasycalyx 'Charlottae': fragrant semi-double, shell-pink flowers, late spring, orange-red and yellow autumn tints. Height and spread 6-8m (20-26ft)
    Prunus 'Beni-yutaka' AGM: semi-double sugary-pink flowers, early to mid-spring, orange-red autumn colour. Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    P. 'Shizuka': (Fragrant Cloud) semi-double highly fragrant, white flowers, mid-spring, rich orange autumn colour. Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    P. 'Pandora' AGM: pale, shell-pink flowers, early spring, orange-red autumn colour. Height and spread 6-7m (20-23ft)
    P. ‘Ukon’ AGM: semi-double pale yellowish, tinged green flowers are pink flushed mid-spring, red-brown and purple autumn tints. Height and spread 7-8m (23-26ft)
    Pyrus calleryana 'Chanticleer': white flower racemes, early to mid-spring, red-purple autumn colour. Height 8-10m (26-33ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    Stewartia rostrata: (*) white flowers late spring, vivid scarlet autumn colour in favourable conditions. Height and spread 5-6m (16-20ft)


    Colourful foliage in spring and summer


    Acer negundo
    ‘Kellys Gold':
    lime-yellow foliage. Height and spread 7-8m (23-26ft)
    A. negundo ‘Flamingo’ (v): light-green leaves with broad pink margins, change to white. Height and spread 6m (20ft)
    A. palmatum (Palmatum Group) 'Orange Dream' AGM: orange-yellow foliage. Height 4m (13ft). Spread 2-3m (6½-10ft)
    A. palmatum (Matsumurae Group) 'Trompenburg' AGM: rich, dark purple foliage. Height 5m (16ft). Spread 3m 10ft)
    A. shirasawanum 'Aureum' AGM: greenish-yellow foliage. Height and spread 6m (20ft)
    A. pseudoplatanus ‘Brilliantissimum' AGM: foliage mottled pink and cream in spring. Height and spread 5-6m (16-20ft)
    Catalpa speciosa ‘Pulverulenta’ (v):  Height 4m (13ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' AGM: deep reddish-purple foliage. Height 5m (16ft)
    C. canadensis 'Hearts of Gold': bright yellow foliage. Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    Cornus florida 'Rainbow' (v) AGM: (*) yellow-edged green leaves with pink tints in spring. Height 3m (10ft). Spread 2.5m (8ft)
    C. kousa 'Gold Star' (v): (*) green leaves with a central golden-yellow blotch. Height 2.5m (8ft). Spread 2m (6½ft)
    Olea europaea: silver-grey foliage. Height and spread 8-10m (26-33ft)
    Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra' AGM: blackish-purple foliage. Height and spread 8-10m (26-33ft)
    Pyrus salicifolia var. orientalis ‘Pendula’ AGM: silver-grey foliage. Height 5m (15ft). Spread 4m (13ft)


    Trees with autumn foliage colour


    Acer griseum
    AGM:
    Height and spread 8-10m (26-33ft)
    A. japonicum ‘Aconitifolium' AGM: Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    A. micranthum AGM: Height 9m (29½ft). Spread 7m (23ft)
    A. palmatum (Amoenum Group) 'Ozakasuki' AGM: Height and spread 6m (20ft)
    A. tataricum subsp. ginnala 'Flame': Height 8m (26ft). Spread 6m (20ft)
    Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Boyd’s Dwarf’: Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    Cornus 'Eddies White Wonder' AGM: (*) Height 6m (20ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia' AGM: Height and spread 6m (20ft)
    Euonymus hamiltonianus 'Indian Summer':  Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    Malus × zumi 'Golden Hornet': Height 8-10m (26-33ft). Spread 7m (23ft)
    Nyssa sylvatica 'Isabel Grace': (*) Height 10m (33ft). Spread 7m (23ft)
    Prunus 'Pandora' AGM: Height 8m (26ft). Height 6m (20ft)
    Sorbus vilmorinii AGM: (*) Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    Styrax japonicus AGM: (*) 8m (26ft). Spread 6m (20ft)


    Autumn foliage colour and fruits


    Acer japonicum
    'Aconitifolium' AGM:
    red-purple fruits. Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    A. japonicum 'Vitifolium' AGM: crimson-red fruits. Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    Cornus 'Norman Hadden' AGM: (*) large strawberry-like red fruits, Height and spread 8m (26ft)
    Crataegus × lavalleei 'Carrierei' AGM: orange-red fruits persisting through winter. Height and spread 7m (23ft)
    Euonymus europaeus 'Red Cascade' AGM: rosy-red fruits, seeds have orange arils. Height 3m (10ft). Spread 2.5m (8ft)
    E. oxyphyllus AGM: dark red fruits, seeds have orange arils. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    E. phellomanus AGM: four-lobed pink fruits. Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    Malus toringo 'Scarlett': purple fruits. Height 3-4m (10-13ft)
    Sorbus commixta 'Dodong' AGM: (*) large heads of small red berries. Height 8m (24ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    S. helenae: pink flushed white fruits. Height 7m (23ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    S. 'Joseph Rock' AGM: (*) persistent clusters of globular creamy-yellow fruits deepen to amber-yellow. Height 9m (29½ft). Spread 7m (23ft)
    S. 'Sunshine': (*) large dense clusters of yellow fruits. Height 8m (26ft). Spread 6m (20ft)
    Pyrus calleryana 'Chanticleer': small brownish-green fruits. Height 8-10m (26-33ft). Spread 5m (16ft)


    Colourful stems and bark plus autumn foliage colour


    Acer griseum
    AGM:
    flaking cinnamon-brown bark. Height and spread 8-10m (26-33ft)
    A. palmatum (Palmatum Group) 'Asahi-zuru': (v) bright green bark streaked and blotched pink. Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    A. palmatum (Palmatum Group) ‘Sango-kaku’ AGM: coral-red young branches in winter. Height 6m (20ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ‘Moonbeam’: peeling white bark. Height 6-8m (20-26ft)
    Stewartia malacodendron AGM: (*) peeling mottled bark. Height 7m (23ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    S. ovata: (*) peeling mottled bark. Height 6m (20ft). Spread 4m (13ft) 


    Colourful stems and bark


    Acer capillipes
    :
    green and white striated bark and red shoots. Height 8-9m (26-29½ft)
    A. × conspicuum ‘Silver Vein’: bark streaked green and white. Height 8-9m (26-29½ft). Spread 6m (20ft)
    Arbutus × andrachnoides AGM: peeling red-brown bark. Height and spread 7-8m (23-26ft).
    Betula albosinensis ‘Red Panda’ AGM: copper-pink bark. Height 10m (33ft). Spread 8m (26ft)
    Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila AGM: green, grey and cream patchwork bark. Height 6m (20ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    Eucalyptus gregsoniana: grey and white flaking bark. Height and spread 4m (13ft)
    Prunus himalaica: dark red-brown polished bark. Height 8-10m (26-33ft). Spread 6m (20ft)
    P. serrula: polished mahogany bark. Height 8-10m (26-33ft). Spread 6m (20ft)
    P. serrula 'Dorothy Clive' AGM: glistening, very dark mahogany polished bark. Height 8-10m (26-33ft). Spread 6m (20ft)
    Salix daphnoides: (violet willow) purple young shoots, white-bloomed in winter. Height 8m (26ft). Spread 6m (20ft)
    Tilia cordata 'Winter Orange' AGM: red buds and orange winter shoots. Height and spread 8-10m (26-33ft). 


    Evergreen


    Arbutus unedo
    AGM:
    Height and spread 8m (26ft)
    Camellia japonica: (*) Height 8m (26ft). Spread 6-7m (20-23ft). Cultivar heights vary.
    Ceanothus arboreus 'Trewithen Blue' AGM: Height and spread 5-6m (16-20ft)
    Cotoneaster salicifolius ‘Rothschildianus’ AGM: Height and spread 5m (16ft)
    C. 'Cornubia' AGM: Height and spread 6m (20ft)
    Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila AGM: Height 6m (20ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    Eucryphia milliganii: (*) Height 4-5m (13-16ft). Spread 1.5-2m (5-6½ft)
    Ilex × altaclerensis 'Golden King' (v) AGM: Height 6m (20ft). Spread 4-5m (13-16ft)
    I. aquifolium ‘Pyramidalis’ AGM: Height 6m (20ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    Ligustrum lucidum 'Excelsum Superbum': (v) Height and spread 6-7m (20-23ft)
    Photinia × fraseri 'Red Robin' AGM: Height 4-5m (13-16ft)


    Tall and narrow (fastigiate or columnar)


    Amelanchier alnifolia
    'Obelisk':
    (*) Height 5m (16ft). Spread 1.2m (4ft)
    A. canadensis ‘Glenn Form’: (Rainbow Pillar) (*) Height 5m (16ft). Spread 2m (6½ft)
    Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Rotfuchs': (*) Height 5m (16ft). Spread 1m (3ft)
    Malus 'Adirondack' AGM: Height 3m (10ft). Spread 1.5m (5ft)
    M. [Red Obelisk] = 'Dvp Obel': Height 4m (13ft). Spread 1.5m (5ft)
    M. 'Van Eseltine': Height 6-8m (20-26ft). Spread 2-3m (6½-10ft)
    Parrotia persica 'Vanessa' AGM: (*) Height 8m (26ft). Spread 4m (13ft)
    Prunus 'Amanogawa' AGM: Height 8m (26ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    P. 'Spire' AGM: Height 9-10m (29½-33ft). Spread 6-7m (20-23ft)
    P. ‘Umineko’: Height 8m (26ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    Sorbus aucuparia 'Fastigata': (*) Height 8m (26ft). Spread 4-5m (13-16ft)
    S. [Autumn Spire] = 'Flanrock' AGM: (*) Height 7-8m (23-26ft). Spread 3-4m (10-13ft)


    Weeping


    Acacia pravissima
    AGM:
    (*) Height and spread 3-4m (10-13ft)
    Acer davidii 'Cascade': Height and spread 3-4m (10-13ft)
    Betula pendula 'Youngii': Height and spread 6-8m (20-26ft)
    Buddleja alternifolia AGM: Height and spread 4m (13ft)
    Caragana arborescens ‘Pendula’: Height 3m (10ft). Spread 2m (6½ft)
    Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendulum': (*) Height and spread 8-10m (26-33ft)
    Cercis canadensis ‘Cascading Hearts’: Height and spread 3-4m (10-13ft)
    C. canadensis 'Ruby Falls' AGM: Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    Cotoneaster 'Hybridus Pendulus': Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata Pendula’: (v) Height 4m (13ft). Spread 3m (10ft)
    Malus × scheideckeri 'Red Jade': Height 4m (13ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    M. 'Royal Beauty' AGM: Height 2m (6½ft). Spread 2.5m (8ft)
    M. 'Sun Rival' AGM: Height and spread 3-5m (10-16ft)
    Morus alba 'Pendula': Height 3m (10ft). Spread 5m (16ft)
    Prunus incisa 'Pendula' AGM: Height 3-4m (10-13ft)
    P. 'Snow Showers': Height and spread 3m (10ft)
    Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula' AGM: Height 5m (16ft). Spread 4m (13ft)
    Salix caprea 'Kilmarnock': Height and spread 2-3m (6½-10ft) depending on grafting height
    Styrax japonicus 'Fragrant Fountain': (*) Height and spread 2-3m (6½-10ft)
    S. japonicus ‘Pendulus’: (*) Height 5m (16ft). Spread 4m (13ft)
    Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’: Height and spread 6m (20ft)


    Links

    RHS Find a Plant

    Advertise here

    Gardeners' calendar

    Advice from the RHS

    Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

    Advice from the RHS

    Did you find the advice you needed?

    RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

    Join the RHS now

    Discuss this

    for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.