By Erin Marissa Russell
Looking for trees that stay small—under 15 feet tall? This list will introduce you to the best options for you to consider, whether you are looking for small trees because you have a small yard or because you just don’t have a lot of room left in the garden. Keep reading to learn all about these 15 best bets for trees that will stay under 15 feet tall.
To get almonds from an almond tree, you’ll actually need to grow two different cultivars that have parallel flowering periods. However, a single almond tree is still a gorgeous addition to any garden because of the beautiful flowers it bears, even if you never get a single nut from the tree. The pink and white blossoms appear on the almond tree’s branches in early spring. Almond trees grow to reach heights between 10 and 15 feet tall, with the same spread.
Plant almond trees in full sun (a spot where they will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day). They do best in soil that is rich and deep while providing the tree with good drainage. Almond trees are not particular about soil pH and can do well in soil that is acidic, neutral, or alkaline.
Zones: 4 through 8
Crabapple trees are ornamental trees known for their flowers as well as their fruit, which is simply a small, sour wild apple. Crabapples are edible but because of their sour flavor are not usually eaten. However, they are not poisonous (as some legends suggest) any more than a normal apple. The core and seeds of all apples contain small amounts of cyanide, and crabapples are no different. However, you’d have to eat a lot of apple cores and seeds to see any danger from the toxin.
Certain varieties of crabapple trees stay small even when mature. Crabapple trees come in a few different forms because of their growth habits, so you can choose the form you like the best from the ones we’ve listed here.
Crabapple trees with an upright form grow in a shape that’s taller than it is wide. Small crabapple trees that have upright forms include Adirondack (Malus ‘Adirondack’) and Red Jewel (Malus ‘Red Jewel’). Adirondack has a strong upright, or columnar, growth habit that results in a dense leaf canopy that’s dotted with white blossoms in spring. Adirondack is also renowned for having one of the most gorgeous and impressive spring flower displays that you can get from a crabapple tree. Malus ‘Adirondack’ grows 12 to 18 feet high, with a spread of 10 feet wide. Red Jewel also has white flowers, and it grows in an upright oval or pyramid shape. Red Jewel is disease resistant and will reach heights of up to around 15 feet tall, with a 12-foot spread.
The Royalty crabapple tree (Malus ‘Royalty’) has purple flowers and a rounded form, which means the tree is about as tall as it is wide. Royalty crabapple trees grow to around 15 feet tall, with a 15-foot spread. This variety has good overall disease resistance but is susceptible to one disease: apple scab. Coralburst (Malus ‘Coralburst’) is another disease resistant crabapple tree that has a rounded form and double pink blooms. Coralburst grows up to between 12 and 15 feet tall, with the same spread.
Two dwarf varieties of crabapple trees, which both have a spreading horizontal growth habit in diminutive form, are Jewelberry (Malus ‘Jewelberry’) and Sargent (Malus sargentii). Because these are dwarf trees, they will work well for you if you want to grow your crabapple trees in containers. These two varieties each grow up to around 8 feet tall, with a 12-foot spread. Another dwarf option is Sargent Tina (Malus sargentii ‘Tina’), which is a bit smaller than Jewelberry or Sargent. Sargent Tina grows to around 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide, and it has a dwarf rounded growth habit.
Your final option we’ll list is a crabapple tree that has a weeping growth habit, meaning the branches droop down toward the ground. Molten Lava (Malus ‘Molazam’) gets up to heights of around 12 feet tall, with the same spread. In the spring, Molten Lava has a gorgeous display of lots of white blossoms, which are replaced by a hefty harvest of red fruit. Molten Lava is touted as being highly resistant to disease.
Crabapple trees are sometimes considered high maintenance plants because they do best with a regular schedule of pruning and regular visual inspection for disease or infestation. These trees should be planted in full sun. Soil for growing crabapple trees should be fertile and loamy, offering good drainage. The best pH range for soil for crabapple trees is 5.5 to 6.5 (acidic to neutral).
Dwarf Alberta spruce trees are beloved for their clean cone-shaped silhouette that will instantly elevate the formality of any garden. The needles of these trees are dense but still feel soft when touched. The natural triangular shape of the silhouette makes dwarf Alberta spruce trees resemble small Christmas trees, but they are also often cut into whimsical shapes as a topiary.
Grow the “Conica” dwarf Alberta spruce in full sun or partial shade. Soil for this tree should be slightly acidic and offer good drainage. Conica dwarf Alberta spruce trees grow up to heights of around six to eight feet tall, with a four-foot to five-foot spread.
Zones: 4 through 8
Standard sized redbud trees can get up to 30 feet tall, but there are a few varieties that stay smaller. These trees are known for their springtime displays of bright pink blossoms, but some of the varieties we’ll discuss here also have gorgeous foliage.
The Ace of Hearts redbud tree (Cercis canadensis ‘Ace of Hearts’) is an early bloomer that bursts into pinkish purple blooms before the leaves even emerge in spring. It gets up to around 12 feet high, with a spread of 15 feet. The bright green leaves are heart-shaped. Grow Ace of Hearts in full sun or partial shade.
The Rising Sun redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘JN2’) has leaves that are yellowish orange when they first appear, eventually changing to bright green when mature. The flowers are bright pink. This variety gets up to around 10 feet tall, with a seven-foot spread. If you live in a chilly area, this may be the redbud for you, as it is frost resistant.
Ruby Falls redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’) is known for its deep burgundy-purple leaves. The more sun this redbud tree gets, the more pronounced the leaf color will be. This variety is also special because it is a weeping redbud that grows up to around 10 feet tall. The flowers are lavender. You can grow a Ruby Falls redbud tree in full sun or partial shade, and it does well in most soil types.
Lavender Twist (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’) is another weeping redbud tree that stays small. It only grows up to around five or six feet tall, with an eight-foot spread. Lavender Twist has pink-lavender flowers and heart-shaped leaves. Grow Lavender Twist redbud trees in full sun, in soil that drains well.
Golden Falls redbud (Cercis canadensis NC 2015-12) is another small weeping redbud tree, but this one has rounded, bright lemon-yellow leaves cascading down the drooping branches. Golden Falls usually grows up to around 10 feet tall, with just a three-foot spread. You can grow Golden Falls in full sun or partial shade, but it needs at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day.
The Whitewater redbud tree (Cercis canadensis ‘Whitewater’) is another weeping small redbud that is distinguished by the white color on its variegated leaves. The green leaves are marbled and splashed with bright white. This variety stays quite small, usually topping out at around eight feet tall, with a six-foot spread.
The Avondale redbud tree (Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’) has an upright growth habit and is known for the large pink flowers that adorn its branches in spring. The leaves are heart-shaped and bright green. Plant Avondale in full sun and give it an annual dose of multipurpose fertilizer in early spring. This variety requires a little more maintenance than some of the others because you will have to water it for the first two years while the tree gets established. Avondale only grows up to around 12 feet tall, with the same spread. As you may have noticed from the botanical name, this variety is a Chinese redbud and not an Eastern redbud.
Vanilla Twist (Cercis canadensis ‘Vanilla Twist’) is striking due to the white color of its blossoms, as compared to the pink and purple usual for redbud trees. This is another weeping redbud tree that has drooping branches. The foliage is deep green when mature, with a lighter hue when the tree is young. Vanilla Twist reaches around 12 feet tall, with an eight-foot spread. Grow in a spot where the tree will get four to six hours of direct sunlight each day. This tree does well in most soils as long as they offer good drainage.
Zones: 7 and 8
This tree is a gorgeous addition to gardens in the right zones, thanks to the blossoms, which are pompom-like golden yellow balls. These flowers, about an inch across, bloom in late spring. The blossoms are followed by long seed pods. The leaves are slightly weeping, adding some grace to the tree’s silhouette. Goldenball leadtree normally grows to between six and 12 feet tall.
This is a low maintenance tree because it’s used to the poor soils of its native areas in the rocky plateaus and canyons of Texas and Mexico.
Zones: 4 through 8
This slow-growing tree looks like a round shrub at first, but it gradually grows into the more conical shape it will keep in maturity. The tree has feathery foliage similar to that of a Christmas tree, and that’s what this little tree resembles—a miniature Christmas tree in the garden. Hinoki cypress ‘Nana Gracilis’ will get up to three to six feet tall, with a spread of two to four feet. This evergreen tree will keep its foliage year-round for nonstop beauty.
This tree is easy to grow when provided with the right conditions. Grow Hinoki cypress in full sun. Find your Hinoki cypress a spot in the garden that’s protected from high winds and has average, moist soil that drains well. This tree is tolerant of chalk soil but thrives in soil that’s slightly acidic.
This magnolia variety is valued for its star-shaped blossoms, which open in early spring. The flowers are fragrant and are made up of 10 to 15 strap-like petals. The flower buds are purple, while the blossoms themselves are deep pink blushed with white. There are lots of hybrids available with slightly different colored blossoms, including blush pink, mauve, pink, and white. The trees grow to heights of 10 to 20 feet tall, with a 10-foot to 18-foot spread.
This variety of magnolia is less susceptible to frost damage than some because it blooms later than they do. Grow Loebner magnolia in full sun or partial sun. Soil for growing these magnolias can be acidic or neutral clay, loam, or sand, as long as it is moist and offers good drainage.
Zones: 5 through 9
This is a tree you don’t see in every yard in town. In summer, you’ll enjoy the flowers, which are white and similar to camellias. The leaves are dark green in summer, but when autumn arrives you’re in for a blazing show of color as the leaves turn orange and red. Mountain stewartia grows up to 10 to 15 feet tall, with the same spread. It is slow growing, so it will take the tree a while to reach its mature height.
Mountain stewartia is a hardy tree that doesn’t usually struggle with infestation or disease. If you live in a warm climate, you should make sure the tree gets a bit of afternoon shade (you can grow these trees in full sun to partial shade). Too much direct hot sun can scorch the leaves with sunscald. These trees do best in moderately moist soil rich in humus that offers good drainage.
Zones: 2 through 6
Get the upright conical shape of the juniper tree in a small size with a pencil point juniper. This is a dwarf variety that is slow growing (which means it won’t need to be pruned as often as more quickly growing trees). A pencil point juniper grows to two to six feet tall with a one-foot to one-and-a-half-foot spread. The blue-green needles are prickly to the touch and change colors in fall to a rusty brown.
Find your pencil point juniper a spot in the garden that gets full sun, which means at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Soil for growing these juniper trees should be moderately moist and offer good drainage. Pencil point junipers tolerate cold well but are notably intolerant of hot weather, so don’t try to grow them outside the recommended zones. The trees also tolerate drought once they are well established.
Zones: 9 through 11
The powder puff tree is one of the prettiest options on this list, as well as one of the smallest. The little trees only grow to between three and six feet tall, with a spread of two to three feet. The blooms are usually red, though there are some varieties available that bloom in pink or white. The blossoms consist of red stamens grouped together and resemble the flowers of the mimosa tree. The blooms appear in fall and winter, though you may see sporadic blooming during the rest of the year as well.
The powder puff tree flourishes in hot climates and can weather drought without trouble. The trees enjoy a high humidity environment, too. Ideally, powder puff trees should be grown in full sun, in moist, fertile soil. However, the trees will tolerate some other types of soil, including somewhat poor soil.
Zones: 9 through 11
The pygmy date palm goes by a few other names, including dwarf date palm, miniature date palm, Robellini palm, and Roebelin palm. The feathery leaves are made up of individual leaflets, but the entire leaf can reach up to three feet tall. This is usually a single-stemmed tree, but in some cases several trunks may develop. The leaves form a dense canopy atop the trunk. The grayish brown trunks are textured with diamond-shaped leaf bases. The trees grow to around six and a half feet tall, with a five-foot spread.
The pygmy date palm can be grown indoors as a container plant, but in zones 9 through 11 it does well outdoors. They can be grown in full sun or partial shade, and in hot climates will benefit from the respite of some shade during the afternoon. These low maintenance trees do well in moist soil that offers good drainage, regardless of the soil type or pH level.
Zones: 5 through 8
Quince isn’t the most well known fruit tree, but it’s a great option when you’re looking for something small. These trees grow to around 12 to 15 feet tall, with a spread of 9 to 12 feet.
Grow quince in full sun. Soil for growing quince trees should be fertile and moist, offering good drainage. Growing quince trees to harvest the fruit can be a bit high maintenance because it’s prone to disease, but if you’re just looking to enjoy the tree as an ornamental addition to the garden because of its pale pink or white flowers, you’ll find it easier to care for.
Zones: 5 through 9
This small tree doesn’t get the attention and popularity it should. Its blooms begin at the end of summer as other blooming in the garden starts to wind down. The blossoms resemble crepe myrtle, giving the tree one of its common names: crape myrtle of the north. It’s sometimes also called autumn lilac. The blossoms are fragrant and will entice pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies to enter your garden. Seven son flower grows up to 10 to 12 feet tall.
Grow seven son flower in full sun or partial shade. This low maintenance tree only needs pruning to remove dead foliage. Seven son flower isn’t likely to struggle with problems of disease or infestation.
Zones: 5 through 8
The bright green leaves of the Japanese maple have thin, lacy, fernlike shapes that light up in fall when they transform to yellow and red. The tree has a weeping growth habit, making a graceful low, spreading silhouette and adding whimsy to your garden. It goes by a few different names, including cutleaf Japanese maple, laceleaf Japanese maple, and threadleaf Japanese maple. In addition to the gorgeous colorful foliage, the plant is known for the twisted shapes of the branches once the plant is mature. Viridis Japanese maple trees can grow up to six to 10 feet tall, with the same spread.
Grow this Japanese maple in either full sun or partial shade. For best results with the colorful display of the leaves, grow your viridis Japanese maple in partial shade. While you can grow these trees in full sun, they really just tolerate full sun and thrive in partial shade. Soil for growing a viridis Japanese maple should be moist, slightly acidic soil rich in organic material that offers plenty of drainage. This is considered a low maintenance tree because it doesn’t need much pruning and just needs an annual dose of fertilizer in spring before the new growth appears.
You’ll love the graceful shape and fluttering foliage of this weeping birch tree. Crooked stems bear the domes of weeping foliage that make up this tree’s distinctive silhouette. The growth habit of this tree can be somewhat similar to an umbrella. Watch carefully for the appearance of small catkins in the spring.
Plant in full sun, in a spot where the soil is moist to wet. Young’s weeping birch grows eight to 10 feet tall, with a 15-foot spread.
As you can see, when it comes to trees under 15 feet tall, you have lots to choose from. Simply match up your growing zone and garden conditions with what’s described here, and before you know it you’ll be enjoying the beauty of these small trees in your own yard.
Learn More About Small Trees Under 15 Feet Tall
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