Top 10 Small Trees
1.) Korean stewartia (Stewartia koreana).Sleek and narrow when young, the best feature is the kaleidoscope of bright fall foliage (gold, red, orange blend). Gets white flowers in late spring, and bark peels as it ages. Four seasons of interest. 20′ x 18′. Sun or part shade.
2.) Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa). More clay-, sun-, heat-, bug- and disease-tolerant than the American dogwood (also a beauty despite its troubles), this one blooms white in June, has a more horizontal growth habit and gets warty, marble-sized red fruits in fall. Exfoliating bark and decent fall foliage, too. Another four-season beauty. 25′ x 18′. Sun or part shade.
3.) Weeping katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendula’). Elegant weeping habit. Heart-shaped leaves turn a rich yellow in fall. A bit expensive and hard to find sometimes, but makes a wonderful specimen — especially near a water garden. 20′ x 25′. Sun or part shade.
4.) Crabapple ‘Prairifire’ (Malus). Magenta flowers start the show, then the tree sprouts burgundy-tinged leaves before putting out berry-sized red fruits in fall that the birds love. Not messy at all and resistant to the diseases and caterpillars that plague many older, inferior crabapples. 18′ x 16′. Full sun to light shade.
5.) American fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus). Really cool shaggy white flower strands in spring that look like confetti. Needs some pruning in early years to get off to a good shape, but otherwise it’s my favorite native tree. Yellow fall foliage. 18′ x 18′. Sun or part shade.
6.) Redbud ‘Forest Pansy’ (Cercis canadensis). The heart-shaped burgundy leaves are the highlight, but it’s also gorgeous in spring flower (pink). Slow-growing, shade-tolerant and native. 20′ x 25′. Part to full shade.
7.) Serviceberry ‘Autumn Brilliance’ (Amalanchier). White spring flowers give way to blue June berries that the birds love. Then this native cultivar gets a blend of blazing fall foliage. Lots of action in a small package. 20′ x 15′. Sun to part shade.
8.) Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). One of the best small shade-dwellers that’s also tolerant of fairly damp soil. Gets fragrant white flowers in May. Tough enough to deal with full sun, too. A good patio tree. 20′ x 18′. Part to full shade.
9.) Paperbark maple (Acer griseum). One of the smaller maples, the best trait of this one is the peeling cinnamon-colored bark. It’s as nice in winter when bare as any time. Fall foliage isn’t as brilliant as red and sugar maples, but it’s still pretty good. 25′ x 20′. Full sun to light shade.
10.) Seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides). Hard to find but worth the hunt! Blooms white in late summer and then gets reddish seed capsules that look like the tree is in bloom again in a different color. Not much fall color, but bark peels to give winter interest. 18′ x 12′. Full sun to light shade.