Prevent overcrowding and killing your smaller yard with overstory trees. Knowing which trees remain small through maturity will help you create a balanced, long-lived ecosystem for your landscape.
72tree.com assembled the following 9 tree species selections and information to help you select trees that match the size of your landscape and leave room for their roots to properly develop.
1. Japanese Maple
Few trees show off their splendor like the Japanese maple in its fall colors. There are numerous ways to use this little tree in your yard. You can plant it as a specimen tree (in a partly shaded spot) or use it as a shade or privacy tree along your property line.
Scientific Name – Acer palmatum USDA Hardiness Zone – 5 – 8 Soil Requirements – moist, well-drained soil Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade Color Varieties – burgundy foliage turning red in fall
2. Crape Myrtle
Crepe myrtle species are a favorite among southern gardeners and roadway landscapers. (Crepe myrtle is the preferred name in the south). The draw for this plant is that it blooms at a time when most trees are not blooming. Healthy trees will be covered with blooms that last for months during the hottest part of the summer. Crepe myrtles are deciduous, grow quickly, and will often grow in their multi-stemmed form.
Scientific Name – Lagerstroemia indica USDA Hardiness Zone – 7 – 9 Soil Requirements – Will grow in nearly all soil types Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade Color Varieties – white, pink, red, lavender
Desired for its striking pink or white flower display in spring, redbud is an easy-to-care-for small tree with heart-shaped leaves that turn golden-yellow in fall.
Scientific Name – Cercis canadensis USDA Hardiness Zone – 5 – 9 Soil Requirements – requires well-drained soil Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade Color Varieties – species ranges from golden-yellow and purple foliage and white to pink flowers
4. Flowering (ornamental) Peach
The Bonfire Flowering Peach tree is a small ornamental tree with a bold personality. This tree is undeniable when its branches are peppered with fragrant pink blossoms in the spring!” Once the flowers fade, large burgundy, drooping leaves grow in, stealing the show. You won’t get edible peaches from this species, but you will get a fragrant and impressive display of flowers and foliage that will meet your need for drama in the landscape!
Scientific Name – Prunus persica ‘Bonfire’ USDA Hardiness Zone – 5 – 8 Soil Requirements – Prefers moist, acidic soils Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun exposure Color Varieties – dark red leaves and double pink-red flowers
5. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel trees have highly desirable shaggy, citrus-scented blossoms in a rich yellow, orange, and red shades. Some species bloom in late winter before the leaves open, and others show off in the fall. These are small trees, averaging 10 to 20 feet tall, and are low maintenance. Prune in the early spring if you need to remove damaged portions or shape the plant.
Scientific Name – Hamamelis USDA Hardiness Zone – 3 – 8 Soil Requirements – Average or medium moisture and well-draining Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade Color Varieties – Orange, red, and yellow
Plant a colorful display to your landscape with crabapples. There’s a wide range of species available that bear white, pink, and/or flowers. The ‘Prairifire’ species has dark pink flowers, reddish-purple foliage, and is disease resistant. The ‘Centurion’ variety has pink flowers, an upright shape, and great disease resistance. Crabapples are known for producing orange, gold, red, or burgundy fruit.
Scientific Name – Malus USDA Hardiness Zone – 4 – 8 Soil Requirements – medium moisture, well-drained soil Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun exposure Color Varieties – Flowers in shades of white, pink, and red with orange, gold, red, or burgundy fruit
7. Magnolia Randy
If you had space for one flowering tree to plant in your tiny yard, you may find some difficulty choosing, but Magnolia ‘Randy’ would be an excellent one. The beauty of this Magnolia was famously developed as part of the little girl series of hybrid Magnolias developed by the National Arboretum. All bred to be small deciduous low-branched trees growing only to 15 feet tall with oval habits and later spring blooming. ‘Randy’ will give you reddish-purple flowers on the outside and white on the inside. Then there’s the star-shaped flower that might pop up randomly in the middle of the summer for a second bloom.
This species is part of the Little Girl series (‘Ann,’ ‘Betty,’ ‘Jane,’ ‘Judy,’ ‘Pinkie,’ ‘Randy,’ ‘Ricki,’ and ‘Susan’) of hybrid magnolias developed at the National Arboretum in the mid-1950s by Francis DeVos and William Kosar.
Scientific Name – Magnolia ‘Randy’ USDA Hardiness Zone – 4 – 8 Soil Requirements – organically rich, neutral to slightly acidic Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade Color Varieties – Dark Pink Blooms and green foliage
8. Dragon Lady Holly
Multiple holly species, cultivars, and varieties could be selected for a small space, but the Dragon Lady Holly is an excellent choice for a few reasons. It is widely available, where other dwarf cultivars or uncommon varieties may require special ordering. The Dragon Lady cultivar is a female plant that needs a male for pollination to produce berries. Finally, its conical form requires very little maintenance, and it only grows to heights of about 15 feet or so. If you want a holly in your small space, this species makes sense.
Scientific Name – Ilex aquipernyi USDA Hardiness Zone – 6 – 8 Soil Requirements – Acidic, moist, well-drained soils Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun exposure Color Varieties – Green with Bright Red Berries
9. Powder Puff
Whether growing it as a large shrub or prune it into a small tree, powder puff will treat you with its fluffy and fragrant red, pink, or white summer flowers. It’s a heat-loving, drought-resistant variety specialized for the warmest areas of California, Texas, and Florida.
Scientific Name – Calliandra haematocephala USDA Hardiness Zone – 9 – 11 Soil Requirements – Moist, well-drained, fertile soil Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun exposure Color Varieties – red, pink, or white flowers
Small Trees for Tiny Yards
In this article, you discovered 9 tree species for small landscapes that help you avoid overcrowding and root competition.
Planting appropriately sized trees for your tiny yard allows you to develop a hardy and healthy ecosystem for your plants, trees, and shrubs without any of them choking out the other.
When you plant trees that end up dwarfing other plant life, you are robbing your landscape of vitally needed sunlight, soil nutrition, and physical space for all your plants, shrubs, and trees to flourish.
Crape Myrtle – A Southern Tree for Your Alpharetta and Roswell Yard
Lagerstroemia, known as crepe myrtle or crape myrtle is a tree that thrives in US Hardiness zones 7 through 10, making it a perfect choice for your Alpharetta or Roswell yard. The genus came to the US over 200 years ago and got its name from the Swedish merchant Magnus von Lagerstrom.
The most popular species is L. indica. It is a native of southern China and Thailand. For centuries, crepe myrtles have been grown in Asia as ornamentals.
Of all the southern trees and plants, crepe myrtles are among the most desired for their outstanding summer display of blooms and their brilliant fall colors. 72 Tree, Seed & Land Co. prepared an extensive article covering the characteristics, environment, and care these trees need to flourish and light up your landscape.
Are Crepe Myrtles Trees or Bushes
The Lagerstroemia genus contains approximately 50 species of trees and shrubs both deciduous and evergreen. So, this species can indeed grow as a tree or shrub, making it ideal for hedges, container planting, or even in groupings along your landscape.
Height – The L. indica species possesses cultivars and hybrids that remain under 5ft in height, some that reach 11 to 15ft in height, and those that tower over the others, reaching heights of 20 to 30ft.
Canopy – At maturity, the canopy can reach from 6ft to well beyond 15ft depending on the species.
Trunk – Crape Myrtles are known to have multiple trunks with beautiful bark which exfoliates in the winter months. Be cautious when pruning or working around these trees, their wood is somewhat brittle, and the trunks may easily crack when put under pressure.
Lifespan – When planted in full sun and fertile soil, Crepe Myrtles can live well beyond 50 years. In fact, dotted along the southeastern landscape, it is common to come across specimens over 100 years old.
Uses – Depending on the species, these trees work as shrubs, hedges, container plants, landscape groupings, and in some cities as street trees.
About two years after planting, these species become very tolerant to drought, heat, humidity, and will do well in nearly any well-drained soil. They become robust enough to resprout even after being completely frozen.
Crepe myrtles are low maintenance. However, you still need to do some planning before planting and a bit of upkeep as they grow.
Planting – Location is critical when planting crepe myrtles. Select a spot that has well-drained soil and gets full sun. Planting in partial or full shade will significantly reduce its ability to flower and may reduce its lifespan as well.
Crepe myrtles have a shallow and very fibrous root system which can extend 3 to 4 times the diameter of the canopy. As with all trees, the planting location should be at least 5 to 10 feet away from cement pathways, foundations, and sidewalks.
Pruning – Very little pruning is required. Improper pruning disrupts the development of a robust branching system and will leave your specimen deformed and vulnerable to weather, pests, and fungi.
If there is a need to prune, it should occur in late winter or early spring to correct the following:
• Removing crossed or rubbing branches.
• Removing suckers from the base.
• Branches growing inward (toward the center).
• Canopy thinning for better air circulation.
• Gradually remove side branches up to 4 or 5 feet as the tree grows.
• Reducing multi-trunk trees to a single trunk (not recommended).
Summer pruning can include:
• Removing old seed pods and spent flowers (removing them after the first bloom encourages further blooming).
• Removing small twig-like growth.
All crepe myrtle species bloom on new wood. The proper and minimal pruning of your tree will encourage this growth and promote a beautiful summer blooming season.
If you are pruning your tree because it has gotten too large for its location, you’ve planted the wrong species.
Watering – Provide newly planted crepe myrtles with a deep and thorough watering. Then, water your tree up to 4 or 5 times per week during hot weather or when planted in sandy soil. When the tree is dormant or during cold weather, your tree will need watering once per week.
Blooms – As previously mentioned, all crepe myrtles bloom on new wood. After the first bloom, removing the spent flowers will encourage further blooming in the season.
Tree Pests and Disease That Attack Crepe Myrtles
These trees like all others on your landscape are susceptible to infestations, disease, and animal damage. The best defense against these threats is to keep your tree(s) healthy, plant, prune, and water them properly and they will be less likely to suffer damage from the following:
Pests that infest crepe myrtles:
Japanese Beetle – This insect is approximately 1/2 inch in length, its body is oval and metallic green, and its wings are copper in color.
Larvae remain underground where they consume grass and young tree roots. Adult beetles feed on the tissues of the leaves and are most active on trees in full sun during the warmest part of the day.
A Japanese beetle infestation can cause severe damage to all of the trees on your landscape. Traps, pyrethrins, and neem oil can help curtail a beetle outbreak. However, this is an urgent situation which needs to be evaluated by a certified arborist.
Crape Myrtle Aphid – These insects are yellowish-green and have black spots on their abdomen. They measure from a sixteenth to an eighth of an inch in length.
Both nymphs and adults feed on the underside of the foliage causing it to droop and yellow leaf spots to appear. Buds, flowers, and branch tips can all be damaged as well from their feeding.
Sooty mold will appear on the leaves when there is an aphid infestation. This mold is a byproduct of the aphid’s excrement and will disappear once the outbreak ends.
Watch this video to learn how to eliminate aphids and “black” sooty mold on your crape myrtle.
When a crape myrtle aphid infestation occurs, apply a 2oz. to 1 gallon solution of molasses and water to the affected areas and release ladybugs around the tree. Neem oil is also very useful in controlling aphids.
Fungi that attack crepe myrtles:
Powdery Mildew – This fungus appears as a white powdery substance and can spread very quickly if not handled properly.
It is worth noting that trees planted in full sun are not typically bothered by this fungus.
To control powdery mildew, spray a fungicide on the affected area and its surroundings.
Sooty Mold – This mold has a tar-like appearance and is a result an aphid infestation (see above).
Bark Shedding – Don’t be alarmed. While it may seem that something has infected your tree, there is nothing wrong with it. Crepe myrtles, once reaching adulthood will naturally exfoliate their bark in winter months, revealing the magnificent color variations of its trunk.
Crepe Myrtles and Summer Blooms
If you are looking for an incredible addition to your Alpharetta yard or landscape, crepe myrtles are a must have. Besides being low maintenance, they will put on a colorful show every summer.
An added plus in the summer is when the blooms attract birds seeking refuge and nesting and offer their nectar and pollen to the bees.