University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Small Trees for Landscape Use

April 22, 1999

Shade trees, most of which grow to be large, were discussed last week. What about smaller trees, such as in the 15 to 30 foot height range? There are some good choices for landscape use. Here's a partial list of some of the better choices.

Flowering crabapples are one of the more popular smaller trees. Many cultivars of flowering crabapple (Malus species) are available, with variation in flower and fruit colors. One critical feature to look for when choosing a crabapple is disease resistance. Apple scab has been a major disease problem the past few years, and resistant varieties are the best way to prevent the problem. Also look for varieties resistant to cedar rust disease, and if possible fireblight

While most maples are large trees, there are a few smaller choices. Amur maple, or Acer ginnala, is an attractive tree with red fruit in summer and brilliant fall color. Amur maples are very hardy trees with round form. The Paperbark maple, Acer griseum, is a unique tree with brownish peeling bark, but may be difficult to find.

Serviceberry is an excellent landscape choice. Downy Serviceberry, Amelanchier arborea, tolerates various soil conditions and shade. White flowers produce edible fruits, and the foliage is yellow to red. Apple Serviceberry, Amelanchier x grandiflora, features large white flowers in spring, clusters of blueberry-like edible fruit in summer, orange to red fall color, and ornamental gray & black bark in winter. It tolerates a variety of soils and grows in semi-shade.

Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is popular for it's purplish/pinkish flowers and heart-shaped leaves. Obtain from a northern source to assure hardiness.

Hawthorns are good choices and are very adaptable trees. Cockspur hawthorn, Crataegus crus- galli, has white flowers in spring, glossy foliage all summer, and brick red fruit in fall. Be aware of dangerous long thorns, especially with children in area. The cultivar 'Inermis' is thornless. Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) is the latest blooming of the hawthorns and has small orange-red fruit lasting into winter.

Finally, the magnolias are popular flowering trees of spring. Saucer magnolia, or Magnolia x soulangiana, has large pink flowers. Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata, features double white flowers. Both should be planted in full sun.


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