Each spring, we look forward to the sight of trees loaded with delicate blossoms. There’s a reason people travel from all over the world for cherry blossom, or sakura, season in Japan. But you don’t have to book a flight halfway around the world to enjoy a little bit of the ethereal beauty of tree blossom season, even if you have a small yard.
Many cultivars have had dwarf ornamental trees developed that are well-suited flowering trees for small gardens. All of these compact trees do well in the Quad Cities metro area.
Few native North American trees look as beautiful in the spring as flowering dogwood.
Royal Star Magnolia
Royal Star Magnolia is among the most cold-hardy magnolias, perfect for the Quad Cities metro area. Magnolias are one of the earliest bloomers, and this variety features white star-like flowers that are a little bit smaller than other varieties.
As with other magnolias, Royal Star blooms before the tree leafs out, providing you with a truly spectacular sight in the early spring. In full bloom, the tree’s slender, graceful branches appear to be blanketed in snow-white blooms.
This is another tough cold-hardy variety for our region. If you love the deep pink of some magnolias, then this is the one to choose. The tulip-shaped flowers are quite large, with dark reddish-purple on the outside of the petals, and pristine white on the inside. Like Royal Star, Jane blooms before its leaves emerge, which creates the effect of an “explosion” of pink petals.
Early pruning makes a significant impact on the mature shape of this magnolia. It can be pruned into a neat tree form, or encouraged to grow into a large shrub form depending on your preference.
Crabapple trees are among the best small flowering trees for the Quad Cities. But, you have to make sure you’re choosing a dwarf variety. The family of crabapple trees is huge, and there is quite a size range to choose from.
Crabapples are loaded with beautiful blossoms in spring. Depending on the variety, the flowers range from white or very pale pink to bright pink. The flowers are incredibly popular with pollinators, and once the flowers fade, the small red apples are nearly as beautiful.
Crabapple tree leaves turn stunning vibrant colors in the fall, but it depends on the variety you choose as to which colors you will get.
Japanese Tree Lilac
Japanese tree lilac is a great small ornamental tree. It’s an early-to-mid-summer bloomer, picking up when the crabapples finish. Japanese tree lilacs grow reasonably fast and are very low-maintenance. Its crowning glory is the fragrant panicles of beautiful white flowers that peek out from the branches, each reaching up to a foot in length.
It’s not just the amount of flowers on this beautiful tree that make it worth adding to your landscape; it’s their incredible texture. Each large, fluffy panicle seems impossibly light and delicate. In springtime, when you look at the tree from afar, it appears to be covered in fluffy white clouds.
Dwarf Korean Lilac Tree
Dwarf Korean lilacs are another beautiful choice that bloom thousands of soft lavender flowers. It boasts reddish-purple buds that bloom into fragrant panicles in mid-spring, usually around May. it can be pruned to your desired size and shape immediately after flowering.
In the landscape, Dwarf Korean lilacs are also quite versatile. They make a lovely compact specimen tree or can be grown in rows to form a stunning privacy hedge.
Few native North American trees look as beautiful in the spring as flowering dogwood. It shows off long-lasting, dramatic blossoms that are white with pale pink tips. After the flowers fade, it produces beautiful red fruits that attract birds in the winter. This small specimen tree is a great choice for small spaces near a patio, or for planting near utility lines since it stays compact.
The downside of dogwood is that it is a popular snack for rabbits and deer. Protect the bark during fall, winter, and into early spring with a breathable wrap, white or light gray corrugated tubing, or a fence. Once the trees have reached greater maturity, they are less likely to be appealing to wildlife.
Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry
These small ornamental trees are the perfect trees for tight spaces. The long weeping branches are loaded with snowy-white flowers in spring. This exquisite tree can be grown as a free-growing specimen, or it can be espaliered to suit a narrower growing space, while still capitalizing on its stunning beauty. In fall, its leaves turn a beautiful coppery-red.
There are really no downsides to this tree. It stays quite compact, it’s very hardy, and it’s disease- and pest-resistant.
This viburnum is a gorgeous compact variety. It blooms pretty clusters of tiny white flowers in the spring, and they last for a very long time. The blossoms are followed by berries that start out yellow and mature to very dark blue-black. The leaves are shiny and dark green, and shift to an attractive reddish-purple in the fall.
The fruit is popular with birds and deer; it’s also tasty and can be turned into jams and other preserves. The only downside to this tree is that deer do like to snack on it, so you will need to protect it well until it is mature.
Hydrangea paniculata Grafted Trees
In the past few years, Hydrangea paniculata has been grafted onto dwarf tree rootstock, and the results are beautiful. Hydrangea paniculata is known for its large showy panicles of flowers. ‘Limelight,’ true to its name, features huge bunches of lime green flowers. ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ is another common option, featuring similarly large showy panicles of flowers that start out white but transition to creamy pink and then a much more vibrant strawberry red through the season.
These hydrangea grafts have the bonus of raising their gorgeous flowers up to eye-level, above the rest of the garden. They require the same type of maintenance as typical hydrangeas and usually bloom from mid-summer to late-fall.
Add some beautiful spring romance to your yard with any of these small colorful trees for your landscaping. Make note of the measurements of your yard, and then stop by our garden center to see these compact landscaping trees in person.