Best Trees To Plant For Small Yards

Quercus shumardii small yardATTENTION NEW HOMEOWNERS: If your new home is located on a very small lot, you must be very careful when choosing the best trees to plant for small yards. The best advice is this – small yards require small trees.

As you might expect, there are very few choices when it comes to small trees.

Prior to the housing boom that began in the early 1990s, most new homes were built on quarter-acre lots – allowing plenty of space to plant trees that grew to a height of 50 feet or more. The canopies on these trees require a lot of open space. Most of these earlier homes were one-story, ranch-style homes.

How times have changed. Due to the high cost of land these days, instead of 4 homes to an acre, builders are putting as many as 20+ homes on an acre. This means a much smaller yard for each home. To get this many homes on an acre, builders are making them smaller and taller. Today’s new homes are generally 2-3 stories tall and very close together.

The end result is no side yards and very small front and back yards.

No longer are your able to select a tree for shade. There is simply no room in these small yards for a tree that will grow large enough to provide shade for your home. Forget about it!

If you want to plant one or more trees in your small yard, you must choose trees appropriate for your smaller space.

Best Trees To Plant For Small Yards

small tree japanese maple
Photo credit: Jerzy Opioła

The perfect tree for a small yard is the beautiful Japanese maple.

Properly trimmed as it grows, your Japanese maple will grow to the perfect height for your small yard. Several Japanese maples can turn your small, boring yard into an inviting urban forest. But, again, you must hire a tree expert like my friend Brad to keep them properly trimmed.

Beware when shopping for small trees for your small yard. Some nurseries may try and sell you dwarf shrubs and privets. Neither is a substitute for the wonderful Japanese maple tree. Shrubs and privets can grow to a very large size. Privets are messy trees you’ll discover if you make the mistake of planting one in your small yard.

If you make the mistake of planting an oak tree or maple tree in your small yard, at some point in time you’ll discover the ongoing cost of keeping it trimmed and ultimately having it removed due to its size.

Keep in mind by choosing a new home on a small lot you’ve already made one sacrifice – the big yard. So, now you must make a second sacrifice – big shade trees.

Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t create a wonderful paradise in your front or back yard. You simply must choose the right elements to place in your yard. Foremost is the selection of the proper trees for the size of your yard.

olive tree small treeYou might want to select an olive tree as they grow fast, have a nice canopy (if properly trimmed each year), and remain relatively small. The downside is the pesky olives dropping all over the ground which can be quite messy. There are things you can do to prevent the growth of these olives each year. Check with your local nursery expert for advice.

Some folks like to plant fruit trees as they, too, remain relatively small compared to the giant oaks, elms, and birch trees. But, like the olive tree, fruit trees must be trimmed every year and the falling fruit can become quite a nuisance every year. They are fun to plant and harvest fruit in the early years but for most folks they become more of an aggravation down the road.

Why not play it safe and just go for the Japanese maples.

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