Home & Garden

Got a small yard? Check out these trees to plant

A Crape Myrtle
A Crape Myrtle

Q: What types of trees would be suitable for my small yard?

Karen, San Luis Obispo

A: Choosing the perfect tree can be intimidating even for experienced gardeners. It’s a long-term commitment that has a big impact on your home’s appearance, as well as your outdoor enjoyment.

Small-lot owners face the added challenge of finding trees that fit limited spaces. The last thing they need is a huge, overgrown tree littering their yard while its roots invade planting beds, walls and foundations.

Turns out, they’re in luck. As smaller lots have become the norm, nurseries now stock a variety of small trees, as well as large shrubs that can be shaped into tree form. Several varieties of semi-dwarf fruit trees also fit nicely into tight spaces, providing the added bonus of tasty, home-grown fruit.

When selecting any plant, first determine your local growing conditions, including climate, soil type, sun and wind exposure, frost or heat extremes and the tree’s water requirements. If planting near a patio or paving, be aware if the tree drops messy fruit, leaves or flowers. And last, make sure you are willing to take on regular pruning chores if you choose a shrub and plan to train it into a tree.

With this information, visit local botanical gardens or nurseries and investigate books and internet sources for specific trees that match your needs. Here are some examples of small-scale landscape trees grown locally.

▪  Deciduous: Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) varieties 5 to 20 feet — not for hot or windy spots; Smoke Tree (coggygria) 12 to 20 feet — takes poor soil; Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) 8-feet shrubs to 25-feet-tall trees — single and multi-trunked; and Flowering Cherry (Prunus) numerous deciduous and evergreen varieties 10 to 40 feet high.

▪  Evergreen: Strawberry Tree (Arbutus Marina or unedo); Citrus — most varieties are cold sensitive and prefer mild winters and warm-to-hot summers; Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) fruiting tree 15 to 20 feet; Strawberry Guava (Psidium cattleyanum) fruiting shrub or small tree to 6 feet; Australian Tea Tree (Leptospermum) large shrubs/small trees 10 to 30 feet; Melaleuca (ericifolia or linearfoilia) 15 to 20 feet; Rhaphiolepis Majestic Beauty — larger variety can be trained as single or multi-trunked tree 20 to 25 feet.


▪  Cal Poly Select A Tree: http://selectree.calpoly.edu/search-trees-by-characteristics

▪  City of San Luis Obispo, Street Trees: http://www.slocity.org/home/showdocument?id=3606

Leslie E. Stevens is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 805-781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 805-473-7190 and Templeton, 805-434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 805-781-5939.