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Top 10 Dwarf Ornamental Trees for the Landscape

Who says bigger is always better? That's not the case with dwarf ornamental trees, which make a great focal tree in the landscape. We love dwarf ornamentals for their size, unique shapes and of course, color!

First, let's define a dwarf ornamental tree. In horticulture, a dwarf tree is one that is artificially kept to a smaller size than is normal for average members of the species and are grown for ornamental purposes in small spaces.

In our list below, we are including naturally smaller trees as well as some slow growing trees that will accomplish the same purpose. Our Landscape Design Team and Landscape Architects have been working in Chicagoland for their entire careers and are responsible for the planting of thousands of trees. They chose the trees below for their size, beauty and most importantly, their ability to thrive and perform.

dwarf ornamental trees

"The Best Dwarf Ornamental Trees"

  1. Jack Dwarf Pear: A perfect specimen for tight spaces. White blossoms appear before foliage. Tightly spaced branches form a dense symmetrical crown that leaves an impression that it's been pruned. The glossy leaves produce fall color that can be a mixture of yellow, orange and red. .10-15’Hx7-10’W Grown locally by The Barn, it is part of our Barn Premium Select line.
    UPDATE: We no longer sell the Jack Dwarf Pear due to fire blight.
    Emerald Spire Crabapple - Narrow, Columnar Habit 10-20′ high x 5-10′ wide, Single Stem, Fireblight disease resistance, Fuschia and white flowers.
    Royal Raindrops Crabapple - 15 to 20 feet high and wide; rounded form; pink flowers; maroon-red, persistent fruit. Good resistance to Fireblight
  2. Royal Raindrops Crabapple: Personal Favorite! This gorgeous bright pink flowering crabapple has refined, uniquely shaped leaves emerge glossy deep purple and maintain their rich color through the heat of summer. Fall color is a medley of bronze, orange and purple. Tiny, persistent, bright red fruits appearing in late summer are prized by wildlife, which makes this a very clean tree. Most of the fruit will be eaten before dropping. 20’Hx15’W Grown locally by The Barn, it is part of our Barn Premium Select line.
  3. Firebird Crabapple: The Firebird Flowering Crab is covered in stunning clusters of fragrant white flowers along the branches in mid spring, which emerge from distinctive rose flower buds before the leaves. It has dark green foliage throughout the season. Most persistent fruit and very disease resistant. Needs well-drained soil and full sun, makes a great accent.  8’Hx10’W Grown locally by The Barn, it is part of our Barn Premium Select line.
  4. Butterfly Magnolia: This spring, The Barn is carrying a variety of the unique yellow magnolias. Of these, the butterfly is the most well known. An exquisitely beautiful magnolia whose flowers are among the truest yellow of all hybrids. Butterflies Magnolia is covered in stunning fragrant yellow cup-shaped flowers held atop the branches in early spring before the leaves. It has dark green foliage throughout the season. The large pointy leaves turn coppery-bronze in fall. 20’Hx18’W
  5. Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry: A great small tree prized for its abundance of showy white flowers in spring and consistently beautiful fall colors; a great three-season shade tree for small landscapes. Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is covered in stunning clusters of white flowers rising above the foliage in early spring before the leaves. Birds love the edible June berries. It has dark green foliage throughout the season. 25’Hx20’W Grown locally by The Barn, it is part of our Barn Premium Select line.
  6. Japanese Maple: At our garden center, we carry a variety of unique japanese maples including varieties of Bloodgood, Tamukeyama, Veridis, Shojo and more. A Japanese Maple is probably the ideal dwarf ornamental tree. They are extremely slow growers and uniquely beautiful. The color of their foliage ranges from green, to purple, to red and their interesting shapes, canopies and leaves make them a stunning specimen plant. Depending on the variety, most Japanese Maples top out at about 6-10' Tall.
  7. Lavender Twist Redbud: Lavender Twist Redbud has rose pea-like flowers along the branches from early to mid spring, which emerge from distinctive fuchsia flower buds before the leaves. It has forest green foliage which emerges burgundy in spring. The heart-shaped leaves turn buttery yellow in fall. The fruit is not ornamentally significant. The twisted dark brown bark is extremely showy and adds significant winter interest. 6’Hx8’W This is one of our favorite dwarf ornamental trees.
  8. Standard Limelight Hydrangea: Limelight Hydrangea (tree form) is a deciduous dwarf tree, selected and trained to grow in a small tree-like form with the primary plant grafted high atop a standard trunk. Raising the blooms to eye height, it features enormous, dense upright panicles of flower heads that start out a soft lime green, fading over the summer to white and finally brown in fall. Great option for summer blooms. 6’Hx7’W
  9. Kousa Dogwood: Satomi & Heart Throb: The Satomi features splendid pink to red bracts followed in fall by hanging red fruit. Autumn leaves have red-scarlet tints.  The Heart Throb: A magnificent flowering dogwood with rich pink flower petals that last one to two months, much longer than other varieties; forms a small tree, ideal as an accent in the landscape.  Outstanding dark red fall foliage.
  10. Tri-Colored Beech: While not a true dwarf tree, the tri-colored beech features gorgeous foliage and is a very slow grower. Its variegated leaves of pink, white and green make it a great specimen tree. This is a great tree for uplighting and night lights and makes a great ornamental near a deck or patio. Prefers some shade. 30’Hx20’W, after 2-3 decades.
If you are looking for a slightly larger ornamental tree that can provide shade, read our recent blog on "The Top 16 Best Ornamental Trees for the Landscape."
Questions? Give us a call at 847-658-3883!


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