Care Tips for Small Ornamental Trees in Your Landscape

Care Tips for Small Ornamental Trees in Your Landscape

Flowering Tree by House Entrance

The first crop that sells out on the Nature Hills site is our super popular smaller ornamental trees. Some customers call them “Patio Trees.” No matter what you call them, we see the trend to use smaller trees in both front and backyard landscapes getting bigger.

To keep up with the demand, we’ve really beefed up our numbers of smaller, more ornamental trees. After all, they fit so nicely into your landscape, and help you enjoy time spent outside on your patio.

Short on Space? Choose a Small Tree

With higher density housing in many areas, modern yards are not huge. Where space is limited, people want to choose plants with more ornamental attributes.

We’ve talked before about plant trends for more color and more seasons of interest. Plant breeders have introduced selections of highly ornamental plants that are the perfect complement to every landscape.

Why not bring the flowers, fruit, and fall color of these smaller growing trees where you can see them better? Use these plants up close and personal to appreciate the flowers, fruit, and great color.

Have a larger yard? Lucky you, you’ll be able to have more fun with these smaller, flowering trees by creating different "garden rooms" throughout your property.

Shop Nature Hills Gorgeous Selection of Ornamental Trees

Flowering Shrubs Can Be Trained as Small Trees

Did you know that some popular shrubs can be trained to grow as a single stem plant? These tree form shrubs are known as “standards”, and they make excellent small trees.

Some of the most desirable tree form shrubs that have been trained by our nursery production team and grown as standards are Hydrangeas, dwarf reblooming Lilacs and Crape Myrtles.

For easy modern style, plant two of the tree form shrubs, one on either side of your front entrance to give your guests a real sense of welcome and a big dash of curb appeal.

You’ll also love growing these in pots on your patio. Use the Finger Test to check for moisture to ensure you keep them hydrated. 

Trees Can Be Grown as Multi-Stemmed Bushes for Screening

On occasion, we offer small trees that are actually grown as multiple stem shrubs. These make wonderful, colorful, flowering, screening selections.

Some fine examples of trees grown as multi-stemmed shrubs include some Magnolias, Japanese Maples, Japanese Tree Lilacs and Crape Myrtles. These classic examples are quite popular, and we have a hard time keeping them in stock.

Seems like just about everyone could use a little more visual privacy in today’s small yards!

Read on to get expert tips from one of our resident horticulturalists. He’ll walk you through the selection and care for our most popular accent trees.

How to Care for Japanese Maples

Japanese Maple in a Zen Garden Japanese Maples are outstanding plants for a wide region of the country. New selections offer finely textured leaf forms, summer and fall leaf color, and they come in many sizes. Japanese Maples are often selected for training into miniature bonsai plants.

They make incredible specimen plants as a focal point in your garden or landscape and prefer evenly moist soil. They love a deep layer of mulch over the roots, but not touching the trunk. Use one as a beautiful focal point for a Meditation Garden, or allow several to shine in a Japanese-style garden.

Select a spot out of the wind and that has some afternoon shade and your Japanese Maple will be happy. Morning sun keeps the leaves colorful and the dappled afternoon shade keeps them from drying or scorching.

How to Care for Flowering Dogwood Trees

Scarlet Fire DogwoodFlowering Dogwood trees are popular because of their smaller size and long, colorful display of flower bracts. They are native to the Eastern part of the United States, but they are grown as small specimen trees very successfully in hardiness zones 5-9.

Flowering Dogwood trees bloom in spring, have handsome summer foliage, lovely fall color, then develop showy red fruits that hang from late summer well in to the fall. Much like the care required for Japanese Maples, Dogwoods prefer cool, moist soil with protection from the hot afternoon sun, especially in warm climates.

There are many white selections, along with new hot pink flowering trees in this group. The height ranges from 15-30’, so you can select a variety that will work in the spot you have chosen for planting.

How to Care for Improved Crabapple Trees

Crabapples In WinterCrabapple trees love colder climates and are very important additions to Northern landscapes.

Some of the older selections of crabapple varieties were very large growing and quite susceptible to apple scab, which would defoliate the plants in summer. They were also known as “one trick ponies” with only a small season of interest. Don’t let those old selections leave a bad taste in your mouth!

Plant breeders have improved Crabapples tremendously. This is actually a real success story in horticultural circles.

Consider one of the newer crabapple selections for your landscape. Sizes of mature plants range from small miniature selections to those that get to be 20’ tall.

Abundant swathes of gorgeous spring flowers appear early and last for weeks. Many of the pink and red crabapples have bronzy or reddish foliage color, while most of the white flowering crabapples have deep, dark shiny green leaves. Some varieties have the bonus of fall color before dropping to expose the winter fruit display to catch and sculpt the snow.

Cute, colorful, cherry shaped fruits may persist through the winter where they become an important food source for birds such as robins and cedar waxwings.

You’ll want to take another look at crabapples for your yard. These are easy to grow plants that only ask two things of you: full sun and well-drained soil. Give them that, and they will perform for decades in your landscape.

How to Care for Flowering Cherry Trees

Autumn Blooming Cherry TreeFlowering Cherry and Weeping Cherry trees are extremely popular, both because of the pink flowers and the options for weeping forms. You’ll be amazed at the early spring flower these trees display.

These low maintenance trees stop traffic in full bloom. Pick a sunny, well-drained spot to plant them.

Because it’s shallow rooted, it won’t like being a lawn tree, and doesn’t like being underplanted with groundcover or other shrubs or perennials. Instead, use a thick layer of mulch under this beautiful tree for it’s lovely blooms and attractive bronze foliage.  

Try Flowering Cherry Trees in an edited Japanese style garden. Focus on the beautiful branch structure, flowers and find peace without any unnecessary distractions.

With its attractive, arching branches, the Weeping Cherry trees make an incredible, small specimen tree for your landscape. Weeping Cherry trees need full sun for best performance. Keep them watered, you don’t want them to be stressed from lack of water.

You can grow these in containers, or near your patio wherever you’ll be able to see and appreciate the blooms all along the long stems. What a pretty accent tree!

How to Care for Crape Myrtles

Crape Myrtle Flowers

An option for warmer climates is to utilize today's improved Crape Myrtles. The deep foliage color – almost black! - set against the myriad of flower colors available today make Crape Myrtles a phenomenal smaller ornamental tree for your landscape.

Use your new Crape Myrtle as a specimen screening plant for some privacy with loads of color, or along the back of your shrub border to jazz up your yard.

Some of the really small varieties work well as foundation plants. Choose a bit larger variety at the corners of your house to instantly ground it into your landscape. The largest varieties can be used as real ornamental trees in your yard, or to shade your patio.

Now, life is short. Please make good choices to avoid an ongoing pruning situation. It’s far better to simply select a plant that fits your space in the first place.

The hardest choice is which color flowers you want! Spanning from white, all the way through deep, delicious purple, you’ll find something you just love.

Plant Crape Myrtles in well-drained soil, and – while fairly drought tolerant - give them enough water especially in June and July during bloom. They’ll love morning sun, if you’ve got it.

Prune these in later winter or early spring before the plant starts to leaf out. It’s important to note that they’ll leaf out a bit later than other plants in spring, so please be patient. You will also want to prune off suckers that emerge in spring to keep it trained as a single trunk tree.

How to Care for Redbud Trees

Blooming Redbud TreeRedbuds are great, native ornamental trees. In very early spring, small, electric, fluorescent lavender colored blooms are borne all along the stems of the plant. The flowers sometimes last for a month before the interesting purple and red leaves emerge to follow the flowers.

We even offer weeping Redbud for another interesting specimen for your yard.

This can be grown as either a single stem or multiple stem tree, and it gets 15-20 feet or so. These are easy to grow and definitely easy on the eyes.

When it comes time to plant, always be careful that you do not plant your new plants too deep. To ensure a successful transplant, water carefully.

You’ll feel a little like Goldilocks trying to eat porridge. Don’t let your new plant dry out. But, don’t keep the soil too soggy, either. Use that Finger Test from above to see when the roots of your beautiful tree need water.

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