8 Small Trees for Tight Spaces in USDA Zone 8 Landscapes

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » USDA Zone 8 » 8 Small Trees for Tight Spaces in USDA Zone 8 Landscapes

Establishing a garden in a small backyard can be a struggle, especially when many of the most desirable tree species require a lot of space to grow and spread their roots.

If you have a property with minimal outdoor space, your best course of action is to plant smaller trees that will fit a more compact garden. You can even plant several dwarf trees, either outdoors or in containers that can brighten up a patio, porch, or courtyard area.

For property owners and gardeners in USDA hardiness zone 8, working with a diminutive garden or backyard doesn’t have to be painful.

Consider these eight small trees for zone 8 gardens.

1. Tamukeyama Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Tamukeyama’)

It’s no easy feat for a small tree to impart a sense of mystery, but the Tamukeyama Japanese Maple does just that.

Its weeping, cascading branches and fine, feathered maple leaves create a gorgeous textural study in the landscape. When its deep red foliage turns plum-purple in fall it adds an even more romantic element.

This 300-year-old cultivar is an excellent way to add drama and sophistication to a very small space. Use it as the focal point of your garden, or in a mixed flower bed. It will also grow perfectly in containers or raised beds. Plant in moist, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH.

Getting the perfect amount of sun exposure can be tricky with this tree. In zone 8 it will appreciate some protection from the hot afternoon sun, but too much shade can stunt growth and produce greenish-red leaves.

  • Growing Zones: 5-8
  • Average Size at Maturity: 6-10 feet tall, with a 10-12 foot spread
  • Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud (​​Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’)

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a tree that fits as much visual impact into such a small package as the Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud.

This Eastern Redbud cultivar is lauded in landscape gardening for its unusual umbrella shape with twisted, weeping branches. In springtime it explodes with vivid lavender flowers, followed by a blanket of heart-shaped green leaves which turn bright yellow in fall.

In winter it drops its leaves revealing its unique architectural branching habit and dark bark, proving that the Lavender Twist will beautify a compact space in every part of the year. Use this tree as a living sculpture, accent, or foundation planting, or plant it in groups as a small, colorful grove.

Plant the Lavender Twist in either sandy or loamy soil that is deep, moist, and well-draining, with a slightly alkaline pH. In early spring treat it with general-purpose fertilizer to boost flower production.

  • Other Common Names: Lavender Twist Redbud
  • Growing Zones: 5-9
  • Average Size at Maturity: 5-10 feet tall, with a similar spread
  • Fruiting/Flowering Season: Early Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. Harlequin Gloryblower (Clerodendrum trichotomum)

If you’re looking for a truly peculiar landscaping tree for your garden, the Harlequin Gloryblower could be a good fit. It is known for the strong peanut butter smell that its dark green leaves emit when crushed, perfect news for peanut-butter-loving gardeners in warm climates.

But don’t be fooled – the Harlequin Gloryblower is more than just its unusual scent. This small tree is a very attractive specimen with a wide-spreading canopy and highly ornamental flowers and fruits.

Its small cascading white flowers have lacy, delicate petals, and its fruits are a steely blue set against bright red calyces. They are excellent trees for attracting pollinators and are also used as border plants and lawn trees.

These tropical shrubby trees grow best in locations with full to partial sun and rich, loamy, well-draining soil. They have a habit of aggressively producing suckers, so make sure to prune them back in spring and fall to stop them from spreading.

  • Other Common Names: Peanut Butter Tree, Japanese Clethra, Glorytree
  • Growing Zones: 7-10
  • Average Size at Maturity: 10-20 feet tall, with a similar spread
  • Flowering Season: Summer

4. Natchez Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Natchez’)

Crape Myrtle trees are some of the most desirable flowering species in the southern US, and few varieties are as beloved as the Natchez cultivar.

Crape Myrtles are well-known for their heat tolerance and stunning, lengthy flower displays in the summer, and the Natchez is no exception. Its enormous panicles of white flowers, the charming droop of its foliage, and its reddish-orange fall color provide plenty of visual interest.

While it is technically the largest Crape Myrtle variety, the Natchez is still a small tree by all standards and will fit easily into most small garden spaces. It works particularly well as a specimen, accent planting, and grouped together in a deciduous privacy screen.

The Natchez boasts superior disease resistance compared with most Crepe Myrtle varieties, particularly to powdery mildew which tends to severely affect this species, according to the USDA Forest Service.

Growing Zones: 6-9

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet tall, with a 20-25 foot spread

Flowering Season: Mid to Late Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

5. Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

With an interesting history and plenty of vibrant color, the Chaste tree is another excellent option for zone 8 gardeners looking to fill in space in a compact yard or garden.

Growing as a large shrub or small tree, the Chaste tree has been a notable species since ancient times, when it was believed to have the power to curb a woman’s libido (hence the name) according to the University of Florida Gardening Solutions.

The Chaste tree will bless your garden with deep green, aromatic foliage and vertical spikes of purple flowers that bloom from midsummer through to fall. It makes a lovely specimen or focal point and is small enough to be an excellent patio tree.

It is easy to grow and highly adaptable, suiting a wide range of growing conditions. It can grow in full sun and partial shade, as well as in most pH ranges. However, it will not do well in overly dense, rich, or wet soil.

Other Common Names: Wild Lavender, Lilac Chaste Tree, Chaste Berry, Monk’s Pepper Tree, Abraham’s Balm

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

As native bushes go, Witch Hazel is deeply entwined in the history and folklore of North America, used medicinally by Native Americans and reportedly in witchcraft and divination.

Today, it is best known for its use in cosmetics and landscape gardening. It is a truly special US species, and topping out at 20 feet tall it is ideal for compact garden spaces.

Witch Hazel is also an excellent choice for rounding out the growing season, with its lacy, ribbon-like yellow flowers that appear in fall and remain on the tree well into winter. Before dropping from the tree their leaves will turn a complimentary golden yellow too.

Since this shrub loves shade you can use it as an understory tree, or as a street tree due to its salt tolerance. It can also be used as a specimen, focal point, or sound barrier when planted in a dense row.

Other Common Names: Witch-Hazel, Common Witch Hazel, American Witch Hazel

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 10-20 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Fall to Early Winter

Available at: Nature Hills

7. White Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)

Add color and unique visual interest to your small yard with this beneficial US native. The White Fringe tree, also known as the American Fringetree, can be planted as both a multi-stemmed shrub or a small tree, depending on your preference.

It earned its name from its delightful white flowers which grow in long, lacy panicles that resemble clusters of white fringe lining the branches.

Keep in mind that female and male specimens will look different and have different visual effects. Fertilized female trees produce blue fruits that are beneficial for local wildlife, whereas male trees produce more profuse, showier flowers.

The White Fringe tree looks excellent planted in rows as a woodland border, as a backdrop to a mixed shrub border, or even as a screen. Plant in full to partial sun, with some protection from the afternoon glare. It prefers sandy, well-draining soil with an acidic pH, though it is fairly adaptable.

Other Common Names: American Fringetree, Fringetree, Old Man’s Beard, Grandaddy Greybeard, Grancy Greybeard, Sweetheart Tree

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 10-30 feet tall, with a 10-20 foot spread

Flowering Season: Late Spring

Available at: Nature Hills

8. Honeycrisp Apple (Malus ‘Honeycrisp’)

Why settle for purely ornamental small trees? Make the most of your small yard with a classic apple tree like the Honeycrisp.

This apple cultivar comes in both dwarf and semi-dwarf sizes, whichever you prefer. And what’s more, it is self-fruitful in warm climates so you only need to plant one! It’s the ultimate space-saving kitchen companion.

The fruits of the Honeycrisp apple are incredibly juicy, with thin crisp skin and a flavor that is perfectly balanced between sweetness and acidity. It is a truly satisfying fruit to plant in your own backyard. The red blushing fall fruits, as well as their white spring apple blossoms are visually appealing too.

Honeycrisp trees require 8 hours of sunlight a day to promote flower production and kill the spread of fungal and bacterial diseases. Plant in loamy, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH.

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 12-18 feet tall, with a 10-15 foot spread (semi-dwarf), 18-25 feet tall, with a 15-18 foot spread (standard)

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Make The Most of Small Landscapes

The size of your property doesn’t have to limit its landscaping potential. There are plenty of ways you can make your small garden beautiful, and choosing any one of these compact trees is a great place to start.

These smaller trees can fill your garden with color, and provide texture and even privacy depending on what you prefer. Whether you plant them in containers for your patio or balcony, or establish a grove of them in your yard, it is worth the time and effort to find the perfect-sized tree for you.

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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