More and more builders are accommodating homeowners who have the desire for a small garden. No longer having the room for trees that mature to 30-50 feet in height, smaller options are are now sought after. So, I compiled a list of my favorite small trees that grow well in the Central Valley of California (zone 9). All 5 choices prefer full sun, which most of us have plenty of!
1. Purple Pony Plum
I love this tree mostly for the deep dark-purple foliage. Another great feature is that this dwarf variety is also non-fruiting. No mess around paths and walkways and suitable planted near driveways! At just 12 feet tall and wide, Purple Pony will fit into almost any landscape. Pink blossoms appear in spring before it leafs out. Apply an annual systemic insecticide to prevent against borers.
2. Chinese Fringe Tre
An excellent choice, and underused if I do say so myself. Gorgeous fringe-like blossoms come out in spring followed by dark green foliage. The flowers are also fragrant. Grows to 20 feet tall and just as wide. Does not require much in the way of maintenance other than removing low-growing or awkward limbs.
3. Chaste Tree
Another underused tree that loves the Central Valley heat! I prefer to use this tree as a large multi-trunk shrub to showcase its architectural base. The blossoms, which are backed by aromatic gray-green foliage, are a delight to pollinators. Can reach up to 20' if left untrimmed. I recommend an annual pruning as Vitex produce blooms of of new wood. Prune in late winter/early spring to maintain shape and size. (If smaller tree is desired, Vitex can be pruned down to as much as 3’ tall) Remove all growth but the trunks, as vitex bloom off of new wood.
Redbuds are extremely popular in the Central Valley due to their drought tolerance. I particularly like to recommend the variety, 'Merlot'. A standout from the rest, Merlot offers dark foliage, which appear after magenta blooms in spring. One of the earliest trees to bloom, Merlot cheers up the winter garden. Makes an outstanding small space tree at only 12 feet tall and wide.
Most often used for hedging, Xylosma congestum can also make an excellent small tree. I grow them as both shrubs and trees in my own garden. I love the way they grow, naturally horizontal in nature, making them appear more like a "real" tree. New foliage appears copper-colored, adding a bit of contrast to the shiny green background. An easy maintenance evergreen that takes to pruning well and fits into small landscapes growing to just 10-12 feet tall and wide. They also grow fast, which is a plus for the impatient gardener. Use for privacy along a fence line or dotted in the landscape for height.
What is your favorite small tree? Did it make the list? Be sure to comment below and let me know if there is one I left off the list