Best Ornamental Trees for Small Gardens

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by Real Men Sow

It is important to research before you choose ornamental trees for small gardens. It is important to find out how tall the tree will grow and how long it takes for that height. Some species can take a while to grow and may not be able to fit in small gardens. However, they will eventually outgrow your space and block light from your home.

There are many ornamental tree species and cultivars that have a compact habit and won’t grow out of their environment. If placed well, a tree can be a focal point for the garden and will provide year-round interest.

Where To Plant Your Ornamental Trees If You Have a Small Garden?

For birds to flock to, choose trees that bear berries. They will be attracted by the berries and can provide nesting and perching sites. For abundant harvests, you can also grow cherry, pear, and apple trees.

You can place your tree in several locations and then move it around if necessary. If you have to protect your tree during winter, this is also a good option.

Shrubs are a good option if you want something small. Many shrubs can be crown lifted to look smaller than a tree, while still being taller. Some examples of such shrubs are viburnums, lilacs and elaeagnus.

Ornamental Tree: Crab Apple

Top Ornamental Trees for Small Gardens

Crab apple

Crab apples can be used as a great all-rounder, providing food for wildlife, spring blossom, and colourful fruit. To save space, you can grow a variety such as ‘John Downie’ for crab apple jelly. Or an upright variety such as ‘Golden Hornet’ (pictured).

Topiary shapes

Although they are not traditional trees, topiary bay and box yews make up for this with their versatility. You can choose from ready-to-train lollipops, spirals, and pyramid shapes or you can save money and train your own in a short time. If left unattended, bay and yew may grow very large.

Japanese maples

You can grow many small, slow-growing Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum), that will not overcrowd your garden. The leaves are a bright autumn colour and they grow in an attractive form. You can either grow them in a protected spot out of direct sunlight or in a large tub.

Stewartia monadelpha

Stewartia monadelpha is a handsome deciduous, multi-stemmed tree with white, camellia-like flowers that are a magnet for bees. It can grow up to 8m tall. Stewartia rostrata can reach 4-6m height if it’s too big for your space.

Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’

Elegant Pyrus salicifolia “Pendula” has slender, silvery leaves and weeping branches. It can tolerate all soil types as long as it is in a sunny place. Spring blooms are sweetly scented and creamy-white.

Ornamental Peach TreePeaches as Ornamental Trees

Peaches make lovely small trees. It is essential to plant peaches in a sunny, warm and protected spot. Frosty areas can cause damage. They are well-suited for training as an espalier or fan. Apricots are also worth considering.

Espalier Apple Trees

A ‘family tree’ Espalier is the best way to make the most of your space. Each arm contains a different apple variety. Use it as a garden divider or plant against a sunny wall. It can be used to grow clematis, a spring flower, reliable fruit supply, and even a compact plant. They can also be trained as fans or single cordons.


These evergreens are often found in urban gardens, where they thrive in the microclimate cities offer. Eriobotrya japonica can grow up to 8m high and is prized for its fragrant flowers, fruits, and glossy leaves. Eriobotrya japonica (pictured) is valued for its bronze-tinted foliage and scented flowers. It will eventually grow to 5m.


Amelanchier lamarckii has white, showy blossom in early spring and purple fruit in summer. Its leaves turn from dark green to golden in autumn. A. lamarckii likes to grow in sunny or partially shaded areas in moist soil and can grow up to 6m in height.

Snow gum

Snow Gum provides year-round interest with its grey, cream, and patchwork bark, and evergreen grey green leaves. These leaves grow shorter and narrower as they age. In summer, it bears small, white flowers. It can tolerate all soil types but prefers full sunlight and can reach 8m in height.


Magnolias can be grand plants. However, they are not too large to grow in small gardens. Try species like Magnolia wilsonii, Magnolia macrophylla x Magnolia macrophylla subsp. Magnolia stellata and ashei, and cultivars such as ‘Alexandrina (pictured) or ‘Sayonara’.


Cercis trees, also known as redbuds are grown for their spring and summer blossom, with some cultivars having dramatic bronze or purple foliage, too. Cercis chinensis Avondale’ will be around 3m high, while Cercis canadensis ’Forest Pansy’ will grow to 8m.

Paper-bark maple

The paper-bark maple, Acer griseum, is a slow-growing small tree with dark green leaves that turn a rich, crimson colour in autumn. After the leaves are gone, the trunk and stems of the paper-bark maple provide winter interest. The bark, which is chestnut-coloured, peels away to expose the new, orange-red bark underneath. It can tolerate partial shade and will grow to a height of about 10m. This is not the right size for a small garden.

Ornamental cherries

Ornamental cherry trees are great for small gardens. The stunning spring blossoms of Ornamental cherries are a delight for the eyes and benefit pollinators. Prunus “Pink Shell” (pictured) is a great choice for small gardens, reaching up to 8m in height.


Figs have striking, lobed leaves of this species are worth growing, even though it doesn’t produce reliable fruit in the UK. The fig should be protected against the cold wall. ‘Brown Turkey’ is considered one of the best varieties for growing in the UK. It can reach 3-4 meters in height. You could train it to be a fan or espalier if space is limited.


Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, is a wonderful choice for a small garden and one of the most wildlife-friendly trees you can grow. Bees love the spring flowers, while birds enjoy the calorie-rich berries. It can grow to 6-8 m tall and there are many cultivars.

Hardy palms

Hardy palms can be used in a variety of garden styles from tropical and Mediterranean gardens to gravel gardens. The Mexican blue palm Brahea armata, and the Mediterranean fan palm Chamaerops.humilis are both small and hardy.


Rowans (Sorbus), have beautiful, pinnate leaves that are complemented by spring flowers or autumn berries. These trees are great for garden birds like robins, blackbirds, and thrushes. They love the nutrient rich berries. An excellent choice for a small garden would be the cultivar ‘Rosiness’, which reaches 4m. For a slightly larger space you might consider ‘Eastern Promise’, which can reach 8m.

Japanese dogwood

The Japanese dogwood (Cornus kousa) is a lovely small tree native to Japan and Korea. It bears masses of small flowers in the early summer, surrounded by white bracts. The foliage changes to a vivid shade of crimson with the arrival of autumn. This is accompanied by strawberry-like pink fruits. Cornus florida or Cornus mas could be grown.

Strawberry tree

This neat evergreen provides interest year-round, with plump red fruits in spring and autumn flowers that are bell-shaped. Arbutus unedo often grows into an attractive multi-stem specimen and especially enjoys growing in coastal areas. It can be crown-lifted to enhance its appearance. It can reach up to 8m.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.