Dwarf trees are ideal if you have a limited growing space.
Their accessible height makes harvesting, pruning and netting chores easier. For a tree to be categorized as a dwarf, its maximum stature must not exceed 10 feet. Meanwhile, semi-dwarf trees are 10-15 feet tall.
In this article, we considered the best combination of height, cold-hardiness, and popularity among gardeners to give you the 7 best zone 3 trees you can grow in small yards.
We’re also listing 11 additional varieties for you to check out.
USDA Zone 3 includes parts of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
- Zone 3 minimum temperatures: -40°F to -30°F (-40°C to -34°C)
- Zone 3a average minimum temperatures: -40°F to -35°F (-40°C to -37°C)
- Zone 3b average minimum temperatures: -35°F to -30°F (-37°C to -34°C)
High winds, dry conditions, and low soil temperatures are some of the challenges that plants in these regions must contend with during Winter. Look for cold-hardy trees when choosing what to grow in your area.
- Estimated last frost date for Zone 3: May 15
- Estimated first frost date for Zone 3: September 15
7 USDA Zone 3 Trees That Grow Well in Small Yards
1. Juliet™ Dwarf Cherry Tree (Prunus fruticosa x Prunus cerasus ‘Juliet’)
If you’re fond of eating sweet cherries but don’t have space to grow a full-sized tree, the Juliet Dwarf variety may be the perfect plant for you. This ornamental tree blooms with beautiful white flowers in Spring. It is self-pollinating, cold-hardy, and a breeze to care for.
Introduced by the University of Saskatchewan in 2004, the Juliet Dwarf Cherry is one out of six trees in “The Romance Series of Cherries”. You can try the other varieties named Romeo, Valentine, Cupid, Crimson Passion, and Carmine Jewel.
Your Juliet Cherry Tree will bear fruit in 3-6 years after being planted. The cherries are good for eating fresh, baking, making jams, and freezing. You can pick them in late July to mid August. Each Juliet Dwarf Tree can yield up to 11 kg of fruit.
Other Common Names: Prunus x kerrasis ‘Juliet’, Juliet Dwarf Sour Cherry
Growing Zones: 2-7
Average Size at Maturity: 5-10 feet tall, 4-8 feet wide
Flowering Season: Spring
2. Weeping Birch (Betula nigra)
Weeping Birch Trees are famous for their foliage which gracefully cascades towards the ground. Their leaves turn a beautiful yellow color in the Fall. You can grow one of these as an accent tree in large beds, but don’t crowd it with other plants so you can see its arching form.
The dwarf varieties to look for in Zone 3 are the Fox Valley Dwarf River Birch (Betula nigra ‘Little King’) and Magical® Globe (Betula pendula ‘Magical Globe’). On average, they grow up to 10 feet and 5 feet tall respectively.
You will find many Birch Trees growing natively in the swamps of America, so it does not come as a surprise that these trees stand well against flooding. They are valued in landscapes as fast-growing shade and ornamental tees. They live for 50-75 years.
Other Common Names: River Birch, Water Birch, Black Birch
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 3-20 feet tall, 3-10 feet wide
3. Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’)
The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is perfect if you want an evergreen tree that stays lush throughout the year. This low-maintenance, slow-growing conifer easily maintains its shape and compact size with minimal pruning required.
This dwarf variety was discovered in 1904 in Alberta, Canada. Look for specific cultivars such as ‘Jean’s Dilly’, ‘Rainbow’s End’, ‘Laurin’, and ‘Elegans Compacta’.
On top of its elegant appearance, the Dwarf Alberta Spruce has fragrant needles that are soft to the touch. You can even adorn it with holiday ornaments for Christmas!
Shaping your Alberta Spruce Tree into a posh spiral topiary is sure to raise the value of your property. You can use it as an accent plant in entryways and driveways, or you can grow it as a dense screen for privacy.
Other Common Names: Dwarf White Spruce, Dwarf Alberta White Spruce, White Spruce ‘Conica’, Conica White Spruce, Alberta Spruce ‘Conica’
Growing Zones: 2-8
Average Size at Maturity: 6-13 feet tall, 4-10 feet wide
4. Dwarf Red-leaf Plum (Prunus x cistena)
The Dwarf Red-leaf Plum is the perfect ornamental tree to feature in any garden. It blooms with fragrant white and pink flowers in Spring, but the real show starts when the leaves turn bright red in the Summer. You can use the purple berries to make tasty jams.
In 1910, the South Dakota State University developed the Dwarf Red-leaf Plum specifically for its high tolerance to frost. Interestingly, this tree will also thrive in urban conditions and hot humid summers.
Your Dwarf Red-leaf Plum will survive for 10-20 years. Grow it in containers along apartment patios, in tight spaces between driveways, or as an ornamental shrub in the middle of your garden. Birds and deer are particularly attracted to the purple berries of this tree.
Other Common Names: Purpleleaf Sandcherry, Prunus x cistena ‘Crimson Dwarf’, Prunus x cistena ‘Purpurea’
Growing Zones: 2-8
Average Size at Maturity: 6-10 feet tall, 5-8 feet wide
Flowering Season: Spring
5. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana ‘Little Suzie’)
Famous for its citrus-scented flowers and yellow leaves in the Fall, the Witch Hazel is a beautiful low-maintenance tree for cold climates. Its cultivar– the ‘Little Suzie’– is a showy shrub you can grow at only 5 feet tall.
The owner of Hidden Hollow Nursery in Tennessee bred the Little Suzie Witch Hazel in 1992, naming it in honor of his wife. This cultivar will bloom earlier and more densely than its parent species.
The Little Suzie Witch Hazel will fit nicely into smaller gardens for foundation planting, shrub borders, or as a bonsai in containers. It is resistant to erosion and fire, and is best grown in full sun and well-drained soil.
Other Common Names: Common Witch Hazel, Little Suzie Witch Hazel
Growing Zones: 3-9a
Average Size at Maturity: 4-5 feet tall, 4-5 feet wide
Flowering Season: Fall
6. Coralburst® Crabapple Tree (Malus ‘Coralburst’)
Crabapples are one of the most useful trees you could grow in any landscape. They are excellent pollinators for Cherry, Pear, and Apple trees. Showy blossoms followed by shiny red fruits will attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife.
Luckily, there is a dwarf variety that you can cultivate if you have limited space in Zone 3. Released in 1970 by the Cole Nursery of Ohio, the Coralburst Crabapple Tree is named so for the coral-pink flower buds that open in Spring.
The neat, compact, and rounded shape of the Coralburst’s foliage makes it a perfect accent tree in small gardens. Its growth rate is remarkably slow, so you can set aside your pruning shears for many years to come. Impressively, the Coralburst Tree is also disease-resistant and drought-tolerant.
Other Common Names: Crab Apple ‘Coralburst’, Malus x ‘Coralcole’, Coralburst Crab, Malus Hybrida
Growing Zones: 3-7
Average Size at Maturity: 5-10 feet tall, 4-15 feet wide
Flowering Season: Spring
7. Chalet Swiss Stone Pine (Pinus cembra ‘Chalet’)
The Chalet Swiss Stone Pine adds so much appeal to your landscape, you will be shocked at how easy it is to care for! This evergreen tree is drought-resilient, extremely hardy, and tolerant of urban pollution. It’s also not particular with soil type and pH.
The soft needles of the Chalet Swiss Stone Pine remain silvery blue throughout the Winter, made more interesting by the colorful pine cones. You can expect your Chalet Tree to live for 60 years or longer under ideal conditions.
With its dense, conical, upright growth, this tree is the ideal specimen for narrow locations. Plant it as an accent in small groups, or as foundation near entrances and doors. It glows really slowly, so pruning won’t be a problem.
Other Common Names: Swiss Stone Pine, Arolla Pine
Growing Zones: 3-7
Average Size at Maturity: 5-15 feet tall, 2-8 feet wide
We’ve checked out forums and orchard listings to find more small trees and shrubs that can be grown in Zone 3. Here are 11 additional cold-hardy varieties for you to consider:
- Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium): This small tree typically grows 12-15 feet tall. With fragrant white flower clusters, colorful berries, and leaves that turn vibrant red in the Fall, the Blackhaw Viburnum has exceptional ornamental value. Plant this tree if you want to attract bees, butterflies, and wildlife.
- Young’s Weeping Birch (Betula pendula ‘Youngii’): Youngii reaches only 13 feet tall within 20 years of growth. As Weeping Birch Trees go, the foliage droops downward so that the whole tree looks like an umbrella. You will see strikingly yellow leaves and peeling white bark in the Fall.
- Siberian Pea Tree (Caragana arborescens ‘Pendula’): This 15-foot tree is valued in the landscape for its gracefully cascading foliage. The Siberian Pea Tree blooms with pale yellow flowers in Spring, followed by tasty peas you can eat in the Fall. It practically thrives on neglect, even with hard freezes and poor soils.
- Red Osier Dogwood Tree (Cornus sericea): Growing 5-12 feet tall, the Red Osier Dogwood is another tree with excellent ornamental features. It features small white flowers in the Spring, followed by berries that can attract 95 different species of birds in the Summer. Its bright red leaves are certain to catch your attention in the Fall.
- Dwarf Shadbush (Amelanchier spicata): Also known as Dwarf Serviceberry, this native shrub grows about 3-5 feet tall. It tends to grow in dense thickets so it’s ideal if you’re looking for a privacy hedge. The showy white flowers will attract birds and pollinators in Spring. You can also enjoy sweet-tasting berries fresh or cooked.
- Hydrangea Trees (Hydrangea paniculata): While Hydrangeas are more commonly grown as shrubs, you can look for tree forms of the Limelight Prime®, Pee Gee, and Pinky Winky® varieties. Hydrangeas will paint the landscape with pink, white, and sometimes yellow blooms during the Summer.
- Norway Maple (Acer platanoides ‘Rudy’s Joy’): Rudy’s Joy Norway Maple is a small, compact cultivar of the giant Maple Tree that you see growing all over North America. It has large, dark green leaves which grow ruddy red in Spring. It’s not a very common cultivar, but you can order it online from this orchard.
- Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’): Standing at 10-15 feet tall, this narrow conifer tree can be planted neatly in rows. You can readily find these trees used as a screening hedge in the West Coast. It requires regular care and upkeep, but it can live for 30 years under ideal conditions.
- Wichita Blue Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’): You can use this evergreen conifer as a screen, hedge, or a windbreak in your yard. Wichita Blue Juniper has a handsome pyramidal shape and silvery blue leaves that don’t turn brown in the Winter. It grows about 10-15 feet tall.
- Dwarf Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii ‘Compact’):The Dwarf Engelmann is a dense, upright tree that brings vertical interest to any landscape. It is extremely hardy, growing even in USDA Zone 1. The gray-blue needles are a delightful sight all year-round. It reaches 4-5 feet of height within 10 years.
- Dwarf Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea ‘Nana’): Nana is an old and reliable cultivar of the Balsam Fir, originating in the USA before 1866. It is one of the most popular dwarf conifers you will find in nurseries. Dwarf Balsam is a type of fir tree that only grows up to 2-5 feet tall after 10 years.
Zone 3 Trees That Thrive in Small Yards
If you think trees have to be gigantic to be considered as valuable, think again! Even small trees can add fragrance, privacy, color, beauty to your landscape, shelter for wildlife, flowers for pollinators, and even fruits for your kitchen table.
Dwarf trees are ideal for landscaping in smaller yards, and their naturally compact form means there will be minimal pruning required on your part. Smaller trees will also have less watering needs.
Hardiness Zone 3 covers some of the coldest regions in the USA. Luckily, many dwarf trees have been bred and acclimatized by arboriculturists so you can start planting one of the beautiful trees in this list if you’re living in a cold area!
- Best Trees For USDA Zone 3 (11 Tough Options for Cold Climates)
- Zone 3 Trees for Small Yards (7 Compact & Dwarf Varieties)
- 9 Flowering Trees That Thrive in USDA Zone 3 (Pink, Yellow, & White Blooms)
- 8 Cold-Hardy USDA Zone 3 Apple Trees (That Will Thrive)
Eliza is a plant hobbyist from the botanically diverse country of the Philippines. She grew up surrounded by trees, farms, and all sorts of flora which sparked her passion for the conservation of nature.
When Eliza is not busy reading and writing about plants, you will find her digging and growing in the garden where she feels the happiest.
She equally loves animals, cosmology, books, music, and art.