By Erin Marissa Russell
Are you looking for dwarf varieties of flowering trees to add some compact loveliness to your garden? We’ve got your back. Check out this list of the best dwarf flowering trees, including descriptions and care instructions so you can choose the varieties that will flourish in your climate and your garden.
Contrary to popular belief, dwarf trees are not simply small trees. Dwarf tree varieties grow up to 10 feet tall. In the next size category, semi-dwarf trees may be 10 to 16 feet tall. We’re including both dwarf and semi-dwarf flowering trees on this list, but we’ll be sure to tell you which one you’re looking at, as well as the average height of each tree when mature.
To create most dwarf and semi-dwarf tree varieties, the plant has been grafted onto root stock that influences the tree’s maximum size. Dwarf tree varieties that produce fruit bear the same size fruits as standard trees, but produce lower yields than standard trees. It takes about three to five years for dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees to begin bearing fruit.
Dwarf trees are easier to care for because of their smaller size. Pruning, for example, is a much easier task when you’re dealing with a small tree. It’s also much easier to gather the smaller harvest from the low-slung branches of a small tree, as compared with the task of gathering a harvest from a large fruit tree.
You may be wondering what the difference is between a dwarf tree and a shrub. Many of the articles about dwarf flowering trees out there are actually featuring shrubs instead of trees. So what makes a tree a tree?
The main difference between a tree and a shrub is that a tree has one main woody stem (its trunk), while a shrub can have several main stems (its branches). On a tree, branches grow away from the trunk to form the tree’s crown, while on a shrub, the branches come from ground level, creating the crown shape without a main stem.
Here’s a list of the most attractive dwarf varieties of flowering trees. Be sure to match the care instructions to the soil and sun that’s available in your region, and to make sure the trees are recommended for growing in your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Though it can be tempting to try to raise a tree that’s not quite a perfect fit just because you’ve fallen in love with it, trees in such situations just won’t ever thrive.
Zones: 9 through 11
Gardeners in zones 9 through 11 can enjoy the beauty of jacaranda flowers in a smaller size with Bonsai Blue Jacaranda. Average heights are between 10 feet and 12 feet tall, with a spread of around six to eight feet wide. The vivid purple flowers emerge trumpet-shaped from the tips of the branches in late spring and early summer.
Bonsai Blue Jacaranda will flourish in a spot that gets full sun, at least six hours of direct sunshine per day. It’s a fast grower that just needs an occasional deep watering once established. The semi-evergreen tree tolerates heat and drought well, and it likes to be grown in enriched soil that drains well.
Zones: 4 through 8
The Camelot dwarf flowering crabapple tree bears not only gorgeous, fragrant magenta and white flowers but also dark maroon fruit. The fruit ripens at the end of summer and attracts birds to the garden—a real plus if you’re a birdwatcher. The crabapples can also be cooked into tasty preserves. The tree’s deep green foliage is brushed with strokes of wine red that appear when the fruits ripen and get darker, making for a gorgeous visual display.
On average, Camelot dwarf flowering crabapple trees reach a height of around 10 feet, with a spread of around eight feet. Plant your tree in a spot where it will get full sun. These trees do best in acidic, loamy soil that drains well, though they will tolerate other soil types. They will also tolerate less than full sun, though production of flowers and fruit will decrease.
Zones: 5 through 9
Lavender Twist Eastern Redbuds are a great selection for a spotlight in the garden due to their unique growth habit. The weeping branches are decorated with magenta buds from which lavender flower petals emerge in the spring. Lavender Twist Eastern Redbud trees grow to reach a height of five to six feet tall, with a six-foot to eight-foot spread. These redbuds are also known by the names Judas Tree and Love Tree.
Find a place in the garden for your Lavender Twist Eastern Redbud tree where it will get full sun. It does best in average to moist soil. Don’t let your tree dry out, and bear in mind you may need to give it water when it’s especially hot out or there’s a drought. Lavender Twist Eastern Redbud trees are not demanding about soil type or pH level; they will adapt to a variety of soil conditions.
Zones: 5 through 9
Red Pygmy is a true genetic dwarf variety of flowering dogwood that produces dark pink to red flowers as large as the blossoms on standard dogwood trees. Red Pygmy dwarf dogwoods stay under three feet tall for their first five years, maturing to around seven feet tall. Blooming is heavy, and flowers are traded for red fruit in autumn. The leaves also transform in fall from green to orange and brown.
These trees are happiest in full sun to partial shade. Plant Red Pygmy Flowering Dogwood trees in average, moderately moist soil that offers plenty of drainage. The soil should also be acidic and rich in organic material. To help the plant’s root system stay cool and moist during the summer months, apply a layer of mulch two to four inches thick. Be sure to leave some space between the mulch and your plants, as when the mulch touches the plants it can spread disease.
Zones: 5 through 9
Lapins cherry trees are semi-dwarf, growing to an average height of 12 to 18 feet tall, with a 12-foot to 15-foot spread. There are numerous alternate names for this tree, including Lapins Sweet Cherry, Prunus Avium ‘Cherokee,’ and Prunus avium ‘STARKRIMSON SWEET.’ In the middle of spring, the branches burst into flowers with pinkish-white petals. From early summer to mid summer, these blossoms fade and are replaced with bright red cherries. In autumn, the glossy green leaves blaze with shades of orange, yellow, and red.
Plant your Lapins Semi-Dwarf Cherry Tree in a spot where it will get full sun. The soil should be moist and offer good drainage. Lapins trees are not particular about soil type or pH level. This variety does not require a pollinator, but it is a good pollinator for varieties that need one.
Zones: 5 through 8
Moonglow trees grow to reach a height between eight feet and 10 feet, with a 12-foot to 13-foot spread. From early spring to the middle of spring, paper-white blossoms open along the branches. In late summer, these are replaced by yellow pairs touched with a bit of red. Moonglow is a good choice as a pollination partner and for putting delicious pears on the table, not to mention its gorgeous display of blooms.
Plant your Moonglow dwarf pear tree in full sun. Provide with clay, loam, or sandy soil that is moist but provides good drainage. Moonglow will adapt to a variety of pH levels. Best of all, this variety is quite resistant to fireblight, a disease that commonly plagues pears.
Zones: 9 through 11
The tiny dwarf powder puff tree grows to reach around three to six feet tall, with a spread of two to three feet. The branches are adorned with scarlet blossoms that really do look like powder puffs. (These blossoms are similar to those of the mimosa tree.) The buds of the flowers are also attractive, resembling raspberries among the green leaves.
Powder Puff Trees grow best in full sun, with moist, rich soil. The trees are happiest in climates that have high humidity. This versatile plant will tolerate a variety of soil types and conditions, including somewhat poor soil.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of attractive dwarf flowering trees to grow in your garden. These small showstoppers are sure to make your garden the prettiest on the block.