The Best Small Trees for Small Yards in the South

crepe myrtle
Photo: Southern Living

Who doesn't love a tree? They can add height and visual interest to yards, plus a reliable show of foliage (or flowers!) throughout the year. Towering over everything else around, a tree offers us shade and protection from the elements, as well as a habitat for animals and migratory birds. Everything from a tree's bark, its natural shape, and the varied colors of its leaves and blooms provides a show season after season. As with everything, trees come in all shapes and sizes, so it's important to choose the right-sized tree for your area. Whether you're looking for small trees with spring and summer blooms, evergreen foliage, or easy-care plantings, there's a compact tree here for you to consider. Here are some of the best trees to plant in a small yard in the South.

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Chaste Tree

Chaste Tree for Small Yard
Melina Hammer

Chaste trees are prized for their showy blue or purple flowers in the summer months because those colors are more rare for flowering trees. Steve Bender, a.k.a. the Grumpy Gardener, has a chaste tree in his yard that is almost 20 years old and still stands less than 15 feet tall. According to Grumpy, he "prunes it a lot in winter to remove the internal twigs and let the sculptural trunks show. It blooms on new growth, so winter pruning is good for it." Remove the first wave of flowers after they fade to ensure a second wave of blooms in August or September. Chaste trees are fully winter-hardy in USDA Zones seven to nine, but any colder and the tree may not survive the winter.

02 of 14

Cherry Blossom

Okame Flowering Cherry
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These trees have gorgeous pink blossoms, which are unmistakable and open in spring before the leaves appear. The South's cities are home to many cherry blossom festivals, though they're beautiful when planted in yards too. The 'Okame' is a popular small selection for cherry blossoms. It blooms early, sometimes as early as February in places like Arkansas, so it is easy to understand why people look at it as a harbinger of spring.

03 of 14


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These beautiful ornamental trees have bright flowers that appear in spring. They also produce fruits, either ornamental or edible. The Southern crabapple is a small growing variety originating in the south and found across Texas, Florida, and Arkansas. The plant will grow to be between 20 and 30 feet and is loved for its pink and white flowers.

04 of 14

Crepe Myrtle

crepe myrtle
Southern Living

You can still have a beautiful cluster of crepe myrtle blooms without an immense tree covering your yard. Instead of the Natchez crepe myrtle, which is a taller variety, plant a smaller selection. That way you will have a tree of manageable size that can be pruned every year in the proper method, and you won't be tempted to commit crepe murder. Smaller candidates for your yard include the 'Acoma' variety with white flowers that will grow to be between two and 10 feet, the 'Cheyenne' variety with bright red flowers which will grow between four and 12 feet, or the pink velour variety with bright pink flowers which will grow between six and 12 feet.

05 of 14


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There are many types of dogwood trees, and most grow best in full sun to partial shade. One of the most popular to grow in the South is flowering dogwood, which naturally occurs in the eastern United States. It has telltale notched blooms that are big, in shades of pink and white. They typically grow between 15 and 25 feet tall.

06 of 14

Fringe Tree

Fringe Tree
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Offering a show of fleecy white flowers in spring, along with bright yellow foliage in fall, this lovely tree which originated in the eastern United States is a nice alternative to the ever-popular flowering dogwood. Also known affectionately as grancy graybeard, fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) grows between 12 and 20 feet tall and wide and is hardy in USDA Zones three through nine.

07 of 14

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple, japanese maple tree
Ralph Anderson

Consider a Japanese maple, and you'll have your pick of varied shapes, sizes, and colors. These gorgeous trees have foliage in hues of scarlet, crimson, orange, and yellow come fall. Many of these easy-to-manage top out at 15 feet or less, and they usually take a while to get there. Small candidates include the 'Crimson Queen' variety which will grow to between six and 10 feet, the 'Dissectum' variety which will grow between 10 and 12 feet, or the 'Garnet' variety which will mature around eight feet.

08 of 14


Little Girl Magnolias
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Breeders at the U.S. National Arboretum hit the right whimsical note when they named a dazzling group of compact, spring-blooming magnolias the "girls" giving different members of the group simple monikers including 'Jane,' Ann,' 'Susan,' and 'Betty.' Most of these 'girls' come in under 20 feet tall. Magnolia trees put on a beautiful show of deep-pink, white-pink, or reddish-purple flowers. Grow them in USDA Zones three to eight.

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Banana Shrub

Banana Shrub
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Michelia figo, which is also known as banana shrub, is an evergreen shrub. It grows to be between 10 and 15 feet tall, but can be pruned to your preferred height and density. The plant's calling cards are its deep green glossy leaves and small, deeply fragrant blossoms, which smell like bananas, that appear in spring.

10 of 14


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The powderpuff, with its cheery fluff-like flowers, can be grown as a shrub of five to six feet, or a small tree. The namesake puffs are fragrant and appear in summertime in shades of red, pink, or white. These trees in the Calliandra genus thrive in warm climates and are popular plantings for the lower and tropical South.

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Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon
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This shrub used to be seen loaded with colorful blooms in the summertime in yards across the South. Unless you had an heirloom plant, you were hard-pressed to purchase a quality new one, since nurseries mostly sold weedy and sickly-looking Rose of Sharon seedlings. Fortunately, today's improved hybrids feature better blooms over a longer period, more colors, fewer seeds, and nicer forms. Blooming on new growth, they reach eight to 12 feet tall and adapt to USDA Zones five through nine. Some candidates to consider are 'Ardens' which have purple flowers, the 'Diana' variety with white, night-blooming flowers, or the 'Pink Giant' variety with pink flowers with red centers.

12 of 14


Redbud Branches
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Before the leaves appear on these trees, they bloom out in a riot of small pink or lavender flowers. Many selections good for small yards include the 'Ace of Hearts' which grows from 12 to 15 feet, the 'Lavender Twist' which will reach a mere four to five feet, the 'Merlot' that reaches nine to 12 feet, and the 'Ruby Falls' which grows from five to six feet. There are also weeping selections and ones with cascading branches. Foliage and bloom hues also vary among selections.

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Crimson Serviceberry Leaves
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Serviceberries, selections of the genus Amelanchier, are great trees for smaller yards. The tree's calling cards are the clusters of drooping white flowers in spring and groups of round berries that turn from green to red. The tree can grow quite large, but there are small varieties too. It has visual interest through the year, as the tree's foliage also turns from green to deep red in fall.

14 of 14


Snowball Viburnum
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These shrubs, some of which originated in the United States and can be found throughout the region, have rounded forms and produce cloudlike blooms. Bodnant Viburnum is deciduous and grows to between eight and 10 feet tall and four to six feet wide. It has fragrant, pink to white flowers, while while Chinese snowball viburnum has dense clusters of flowers and grows to be between 12 and 20 feet tall.

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