The best trees for making a big impact in small gardens

Just because you have a small garden, doesn't mean you can't grow a beautiful tree.

tree for small garden

by Eleanor Weaver |
Updated on

If you only have a small garden or have limited ‘growing’ room to play with, you may think that a tree in your garden is out of the question. Fortunately, there are plenty of small trees available that you can introduce to your outside space. Whether you want to create a beautiful focal point, add a little more privacy or shade that a tree can provide, or help your garden to be a more vibrant landscape.

According to Nick Bailey, a gardening designer and TV presenter with over 30 years of horticultural experience, “The challenge with introducing trees to our gardens is finding the species or cultivar that is big enough to count as a tree but small enough to fit in our gardens. There are a few trees that fit the bill, reaching little more than 3-4 metres with spread a of 2-3 metres.”

Below we’ve shared some great trees for your small garden including some of Nick’s recommendations for Garden News that'll complement without dwarfing your outdoor space.

Best trees for small gardens

Best for a pop of colour


Trees can be a great way to add a colour pop. With vibrant foliage that changes throughout the

Top pick


Nick says, “This is one of my top 5 favourite small trees. It reaches little more than 5 metres

Best for year-round greenery


Plant an evergreen Magnolia Grandiflora to add a dark note of drama whatever the season. Its

Best for screening


Nick says, “I first encountered this tree on a TV shoot. It’s the perfect small garden tree

Best for wall growth


Highly ornamental with large glossy leaves, this tree will grow an abundance of rich and sweet

Best ornamental tree


This strawberry tree has the added bonus of ruddy-brown papery bark, not the mention the white urn



“Some would cite this plant as a large shrub but either way it’s perfect for small gardens with

Editor's Choice


This slow-growing tree is ideal for smaller gardens and a beautiful choice for those wanting more

Best for blossom


Ornamental cherry blossom trees are perfect for small gardens if you choose one of the smaller

Best for attracting wildlife


Designers often use rows of tall pillar trees in town gardens to add a stylish punctuation point

FAQs: Tree care and support

Writing for Garden News, Graham Rice, award-winning garden writer and photographer, shares his top tips for planting and supporting your new tree.

Planting for the future

• Your new tree will be with you for a long time, so prepare the soil thoroughly before planting. It really is worth it.

• Don’t just prepare the planting hole, improve the soil beyond the hole to encourage the roots to spread out.

• The best soil improver is well-rotted garden compost or, even better still, composted garden waste from the green waste recycling; it’s almost always 100% weed-free.

• Spread out the roots of bare root trees and work soil in among them as you refill the hole.

We say, if you’re not sure where to plant your tree, growing it in a pot offers a temporary solution. Experiment with positioning it in different locations until you settle on the perfect spot before transplanting it into the garden.

Supporting your tree

• All trees need support when they’re young otherwise the roots will rock in the wind and will never take hold.

• The tall stakes, once so popular, have been proven to be less effective than much shorter stakes.

• Choose a stake, the top of which can be tied to your tree about 60cm (2ft) above the soil or, for larger trees, about one-third of the tree’s height.

• For bare-root trees, first, dig your planting hole, then knock in your stake vertically. Plant the tree, fitting the roots around the stake.

• For container-grown trees, knock the stake in at an angle to avoid the rootball.

• Finally, water in well.

What is a bare root tree?

Bare root trees are small trees that are dug up when dormant, with all soil removed from the roots before they are packaged up and sent out to gardeners. They are usually less expensive but will quickly become established in your garden. There also tends to be a wider selection available than pot-grown trees, especially if you look online.

What to read next:

Best hedge plants to frame your garden

Vertical gardening ideas to transform compact spaces

Best plants for privacy to protect your garden retreat


Discover everything you need to know to make your outside space look fantastic, quickly and

Eleanor Weaver is the Deputy Homes & Garden Product Editor for A Modern Kitchen, specialising in kitchen accessories and appliances, including washing machines and microwaves. Having been a renter for a decade now, she loves looking for home inspiration in her spare time and is a master of DIY.

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