Question of the Week: December 13, 2018

“Which smaller trees would you suggest for someone who doesn’t have room for large shade trees?”

Sometimes this comes up when we have small urban properties. Sometimes it comes up when we just don’t want any more giant trees up around our houses. Here are several I’d suggest. I’ve used many of these at our home as well.


Lacey oak

Lacey oak. It’s native to the Hill Country, also to far Southwest Texas. It grows 20 to 25 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide. It has small, rounded, blue-green leaves all summer. In late fall they turn rich shades of yellow and orange.

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‘Little Gem’ southern magnolia

‘Little Gem’ southern magnolia is beautiful. It grows about half the size of standard magnolias in all respects (height, width, flower and leaf size).


‘Teddy Bear’ southern magnolia in lovely landscape of Milton Kaplan

‘Teddy Bear’ southern magnolia is smaller still, even though its leaves and flowers are comparable in size to standard southern magnolia.


Mexican plum in the Sperry home landscape

Mexican plum would be great if you’re looking for something with a relatively coarse texture. I have one near our driveway and house. Its white blooms in early spring are deliciously fragrant. Beware of its thorns, however, if it will be near a people-area.


‘Oklahoma’ redbud

‘Oklahoma’ redbud has attractive glossy, deep green leaves and rich burgundy-red spring flowers.


Golden raintree

Golden raintree grows to 25 feet tall and wide and bears showy sprays of buttery yellow flowers in late spring. It also has good fall color many years.


Warren’s Red possumhaw holly

Warren’s Red possumhaw holly is an outstanding large shrub or small tree. It’s one of the comparatively rare deciduous hollies. We grow it for its heavy loads of bright red berries each winter. It’s spectacular. Its evergreen counterpart, yaupon holly, is also excellent in tree form.


Crape myrtles with ‘Warren’s Red’ possumhaw hollies in the distance

Crape myrtles, the tallest types trained tree-form, are outstanding small trees. And they keep blooming all through the summer and into the early fall. They have beautiful trunks – treasures at all seasons.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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