Small garden trees

Not all trees reach a large size – there are lots of beautiful options for even the smallest of spaces. It’s best to choose types that naturally stay compact, rather than trying to restrict a vigorous tree by pruning. The exception is topiary, which is often used on trees such as yew (Taxus baccata) and bay, (Laurus nobilis) but regular clipping is required to keep them in shape.


These trees tend to have a light, elegant habit, reaching only a few metres tall at most, with a slender trunk. They often have attractive flowers and ornamental or edible fruits. There are evergreen or deciduous (losing their leaves in autumn) options, the latter often with delicate foliage and autumn colour.


These trees are happy in  fertile, well-drained soil. They may need watering in hot dry spells . Some enjoy sun, while a few, such as Japanese maples, thrive in shade.


Small trees can struggle in harsh conditions, such as drought or windy sites.

Did you know?

Cherry trees are ideal for small gardens, due to their compact size. In Japan, traditional festivities known as hanami are held under cherry trees during flowering to celebrate their beautiful but transient blossom.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.