In addition to their decorative beauty, ornamental miniature trees require very little maintenance throughout the year. Their short stature and compact nature mean that they’re easy to plant and care for. Since these are miniature trees, their root structure isn’t as extensive or invasive as trees of a larger scale, which allows them to be used in various landscape settings!
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What Is an Ornamental Tree?
Ornamental miniature trees are grown for their aesthetic value and the sheer enjoyment of having them in the garden. As a result, they tend to have outstanding flowers and fragrances, an exciting shape, colorful or unusual bark, or a combination of all these traits!
With beauty that can be seen throughout the seasons, ornamental trees have a lot to offer in terms of home landscape. Whether you want flowers, fall colors, or fruit to keep the garden interesting throughout the winter months, you’ll have many trees to choose from. Keep reading to learn how to select the right ornamental trees for your home!
Popular Types of Ornamental Trees
The market for ornamental trees is wide and varies greatly. That being said, there are a number of options for you to choose from.
Japanese Maple is a slow-growing ornamental miniature tree that offers a variety of colors. It has an excellent shape and makes a beautiful canopy bush. The iconic Japanese Maple is among the most versatile.
- Height: 20 - 25 feet
- Growth Per Year: 2 - 3 feet
- Number of Varieties: Over 1,000 varieties
- Life Expectancy: >100 years
Green Spire Euonymus
The Green Spire Euonymus is a small evergreen-type tree that’s a well-behaved plant with glossy, dense, green foliage. It requires minimal care, and its naturally narrow growth habit is ideal for small spaces. It also makes a great clipped hedge or privacy/windscreen!
- Height: 14.5 feet
- Width: 6 feet
- Growth Per Year: 2 feet
- Life Expectancy: >30 years
The Chanticleer Pear has a pyramid-type shape, with bright white flowers and dark green leaves that hang on the end of very long stems. Some varieties of this tree naturally grow in a column and allow for a vertical uplift to your design.
Some say that the Chanticleer is the best ornamental miniature trees because it’s great for narrow spaces, such as along the sides of a house and in narrow yards. These attractive trees can also grow in almost all types of soil and can handle the heat, making them great plants for dry areas.
The beauty of this tree during the spring is without parallel due to its vibrant white flowers. Once fall comes, this tree becomes a lush, dense foliage that morphs into beautiful shades of oranges and red.
- Height: 30 feet
- Width: 15 feet
- Daily Care Requirements: 6 hours of sunlight, watering during hot weather
Korean Sun Pear
The Korean Sun Pear is an ideal ornamental flowering tree for small, compact gardens. This low-maintenance tree requires little pruning to keep its appealing pyramid shape. The Korean Sun Pear is considered a dwarf ornamental pear tree. When in bloom, it produces a plethora of gorgeous, white spring flower clusters and lush, dense, glossy green foliage.
Before the flower buds bloom, you should notice oval leaves appearing all over the tree. And, just like that, the amazing foliage will turn into a beautiful combination of red and orange! Unlike other ornamental pear trees, the Korean Sun blossoms have a light aroma.
- Height: 15 feet
The Capital Pear is a flowering tree that, surprisingly enough, is also thornless! Its shape resembles that of a vase-shaped crown and it grows particularly narrow. Similar to all the other fruitless pear trees on this list, the Capital Pear produces beautiful flowers in dense clusters. Not to mention, their lush foliage is made up of glossy, dark green leaves.
It’s advised to place this pear tree in the sun. This tree needs direct sunlight to bloom, but don’t forget to keep it well-watered in the spring and summer. This tree's slender growth makes it perfect for the little spaces in your garden or yard!
- Height: 36 feet
- Width: 8 - 12 feet
The Weeping Pear is an ornamental pear tree of small size and with a rounded canopy. It also consists of drooping branches and foliage, groups of large white flowers, and willow-like leaves. All of this together actually gives the tree quite an umbrella shape, which will definitely make your garden or yard stand out amongst the neighborhood!
The Weeping Pear is also known as the weeping silver-leaved pear due to its gray-white silvery foliage and seemingly elegant, weeping branches. In order to take care of this ornamental weeping pear properly, ensure that it gets plenty of sunshine and moisture. This tree grows well in most soils, including infertile, sandy soil.
- Height: 20 feet
- Width: 20 feet
The Crabapple is one of the most popular types of ornamental trees in the United States; however, it’s one of the most labor-intensive to grow. These trees need an excellent spraying program in order to prevent pests and disease, and they also need a good amount of pruning.
There are hundreds of different varieties to choose from. It’s recommended to select a variety that’s resistant to apple scab. The most attractive aspect of crabapple trees is their delightful spring blossoms and various pastel shade flowers. The bark of crabapple trees is gray with a scaly appearance.
- Height: 4 - 20 feet
Other Types of Ornamental Trees
Serviceberries are a great specimen that work well in almost any landscape. These brilliant white flowers start to bloom in early to mid-spring. Their colors are a spectacular combination of red and orange!
The Eastern Redbud has purplish-pink flower clusters in spring, yellow fall foliage, and dark brown pods in fall and winter. Eastern redbud is named for where it grows, in eastern North America, and the beautiful, reddish flower buds. Other names include Judas-tree.
How to Use Ornamental Trees in Landscape and Garden Design
Ornamental trees make great specimens or stand-alone plants. This is especially true if they have features that make them interesting when there isn’t much else going on in the garden. Feel free to also plant them in small clumps so that they make a garden all on their own.
Small ornamental trees, and those with loose canopies, allow lots of sunshine to pass through them. The more sunshine they let through, the more options you’ll have in the plants that you can grow underneath them. A pattern of shifting light and shade throughout the day allows you to grow sun-loving shrubs and perennials right under their canopy!
Below are some things to consider before selecting your ornamental trees.
- Growing Zone (Geographical Area): A hardiness zone map, such as the one created by the USDA, displays your geographic area and can tell if the trees are capable of growing and surviving in the climatic conditions of your area.
- Size: Do you have room for a tree? Will it be out of scale in your landscape?
- Bloom Season and Duration: If you’re selecting a tree for its flowers, you want them to last as long as possible.
- Location: Make sure your soil is right for the tree, and you can give it the right amount of sun or shade.
- Surface Roots: Roots that rise above the soil can lift sidewalks and make lawn maintenance more difficult.
- Litter: Some trees seem to always have something falling from their branches. This is especially true for fruit trees.
Ornamental Tree Care
Ornamental tree care depends on the type of tree. There are many ornamental trees that require very little maintenance. Pruning raises the bar on tree maintenance, so look for those that grow well without extensive pruning.
Most ornamental trees look their best with a regular program of fertilization, usually in the spring, and some may require extra watering and care during dry spells or periods of abnormally low rainfall.
There are many different types of these trees available on the market. Maybe you’ve decided to terrace your front yard with some rock retaining walls. Planting these trees inside of the terrace will allow you to add an additional layer of beauty to your yard.
When trying to decide what type of ornamental miniature tree to use, having a plan and keeping all the factors in mind will benefit you in your landscape or garden design.
For example, placing miniature trees in large spaces will actually provide a negative aesthetic. You can also plant miniature trees in areas where a more traditionally-sized tree wouldn’t work, such as along driveways or sidewalks.
Remember, ornamental miniature trees are best when they’re placed in narrow areas or used to accent other landscaping features!
The final thing to consider is whether you want a deciduous-type tree or a conifer-related tree. The difference being that deciduous trees lose their leaves at the end of the season, whereas conifers do not. The confier is routinely called an evergreen, which is actually a misnomer as there isn’t only one type of evergreen tree.
In most areas, planting ornamental miniature trees in the spring and fall seasons will ensure the best results. However, if you have mild summers or winters, the timing of when you can plant is not much of an issue. Just make sure that you keep an eye on the frost forecast if that’s typically a concern in your area.
When planting in the summer, be sure to provide plenty of water. Transplanted plants do go through some forms of shock, and they require larger amounts of water than normal. Additionally, adding a nice thick layer of mulch will cut down on the amount of water that you will need to use as it creates a cool, moist space for the tree and helps it retain water.
An important tip for planting in the winter is to cover your plants at night with some plastic if it’s going to be cold for a few days. This will provide a protective barrier from the cold air and allow some heat, provided by the plant, to form and prevent them from freezing. Just be careful that they don’t overheat during the daytime.
Additionally, if you’ve planted the trees in pots, it’s best to bring them inside during exceptionally cold weather or freezing temperatures for protection.
We hope that this article has helped you make a more informed decision about what ornamental trees are, the difference between certain ornamental trees, and how to properly care for them! Now it’s time to go make your purchase so that you’re one step closer to making your yard look even more beautiful!
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