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Best Small Ornamental Trees with Multi-Season Interest

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry,

Ornamental trees can add so much color, interest and value to your home landscape. If you’re like me, you have so many questions about which ornamental tree is right for you.

Questions like… Are the roots invasive? How big will it get? Is it prone to diseases? Will it look great all year round? Will it add value to my landscape?

Yep, all of these questions ran through my head as well. I did so much research when I was looking for the perfect tree. Luckily, I have a friend who’s an arborist and he was incredibly helpful in my decision.

The trees on this list are healthy, well-behaved, low maintenance trees that will add value and beauty to your property. Best of all, these options are all around 20′ in size and have multiple seasons of interest for your 4-season garden.

The Best Small, Ornamental Trees with Multi-Season Interest

Keep scrolling for all of the details.

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Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

autumn brilliance serviceberry single stem and multi stem varieties
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’) comes in both single stem and multi stem varieties

20-25′ H x 15-20′ W
Full-Part Sun
Zones 3-8
Blooms in early spring (April)
Purchase Here

A hybrid cross between native serviceberries, the ‘Autumn Brilliance’ Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora) is an ornamental tree that grows in full sun to about 20′ tall and wide. It can be purchased as a single-stem or multi-stem variety and is adaptable to most soil types. It’s also fairly drought tolerant once established.

Autumn Brilliance blooms VERY early with showy white flowers in late April before the foliage appears. Edible berries (juneberries) taste great and attract birds and wildlife in June.

Great autumn color of fiery orange-red will light up your fall landscape. An attractive branching habit and silvery-grey bark truly make this a tree for all seasons. 

The Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry boasts 4 season interest. From flowers to berries to fiery red to beautiful bark, this tree gives you a lot of bang for the buck.

I have this ornamental tree in my front yard so I’m a huge fan. You can read more about why I love the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry in this post.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is a naturally occurring hybrid of the native serviceberries Amelanchier laevis & Amelanchier arborea. Its “parents” are native to the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and throughout the East coast of the US.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple

Bloodgood Japanese Maple
Acer Palmatum ‘Bloodgood’

20-25′ H x 20-25′ W
Full-Part Sun
Zones 5-9
Attractive fall foliage (does not bloom)
Purchase Here

Japanese Maple ‘Bloodgood’ is a small ornamental tree that grows slowly to about 25 feet tall and wide. It’s a great option for a front yard tree and adds year round interest to any home landscape.

Bloodgood can be grown in full to part sun and prefers moist, well-drained lightly acidic soil. ‘Bloodgood’ is a very common form of Japanese Maple with excellent burgundy colored foliage year round. This tree shines in fall when its foliage turns bright red.

Japanese Maples are native to Japan, China and Korea.

Snowdrift Crabapple

snowdrift crab apple tree
Malus x ‘Snowdrift’

15-20′ H x 15-20′ W
Full Sun
Zones 4-8
Blooms in early spring (April-May)
Purchase Here

Snowdrift crabapple (Malus ‘Snowdrift’) is a beautiful, hardy ornamental tree with visual impact during all four seasons. The Snowdrift variety grows to about 15-20′ high and wide, preferring a sunny location. Snowdrift can tolerate a wide range of soil and moisture conditions.

A tree that brings color and interest in all four seasons, Snowdrift has a dense, rounded foliage habit that creates a more formal appearance to your landscape. It can be purchased as a multi-stemmed or single trunk tree.

In April-May, its pink buds form into snowy white blossoms. 

Glossy, deep green summer leaves change to yellow in the fall.

From late spring through winter, 3/8″ -1/2″ round, orange-red crab apples will have birds flocking to your yard. 

Apple scab, cedar-apple rust, fireblight, and powdery mildew are concerns for all crabapple trees. Disease-resistant cultivars, like Snowdrift, should be taken into consideration when selecting which crabapple to plant. ‘Snowdrift’ can be moderately to severely affected by fire-blight disease, has a “fair” resistance to scab and “excellent” resistance to cedar apple rust and mildew (Source).

Snowdrift is a hybrid derived from Sweet Crabapple (Malus coronaria) which is a small tree in the rose family. Malus coronaria is native to the eastern prairie region of the US in the upper Mississippi Valley as well as parts of Canada.

Quick Tip: Looking for tips for choosing the absolute best tree for your front yard? Head over to this post to learn what to look for!

Kousa Dogwood

Kousa dogwood front yard tree
Cornus kousa

15-25′ H x 25′ W
Part Sun
Zones 5-8
Blooms in Spring (May-June)
Purchase Here

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) is a beautiful ornamental tree grows 15-25′ high and a horizontal branching habit that will extend this tree to about 25′ wide.

The Kousa Dogwood can be grown in full sun, part sun or even shade which makes it a great choice for any home owner.

In spring, Kousa Dogwood bursts into action with showy white blooms that last from May to June.

In late summer, Kousa produces an abundance of edible berries that can be used to make wine. The 1-2″ round pinkish-red berries have a nubby texture that also add interest. 

Purple to scarlet foliage adds intense interest to your fall landscape.

And lets not forget its beautiful exfoliating bark and interesting branching habit that will stand out in any winter scene.

Kousa Dogwood is native to East Asia including Korea, China and Japan.

Quick Tip: Narrow trees are also a great option if you are low on space. Head over to this post to discover some of my favorite skinny trees!

Stellar Pink Flowering Dogwood

Cornus florida x Cornus kousa

20’H x 20’W
Full Sun-Shade
Zones 5-9
Blooms in Spring (May-June)
Purchase Here

‘Stellar Pink’ is an interesting hybrid Dogwood tree (Cornus florida x Cornus kousa) adorned with lovely pink blooms and foliage that changes to a reddish purple in the fall; vigorous grower with an erect habit and overlapping branches makes it a great choice for a front yard accent tree.

‘Stellar Pink’ dogwood is a hybrid of Cornus florida, which is native to eastern North America and Cornus kousa which is native to China.

Quick Tip: Looking for more privacy? Check out this post about privacy trees that includes how to plant them along with my top picks for the best privacy trees.

Japanese Lilac

Japanese lilac tree (ivory silk)
Syringa reticulata

25-30′ H x 20′ W
Part Sun
Zones 3-7
Blooms in Early Summer
Purchase Here

Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata) is a beautiful small tree that grows to about 25-30′ tall and 20′ wide. It can be purchased as a single trunk or multi-stemmed tree (pictured above). It grows in part sun, but produces more blooms when provided with a full sun location. 

At its best in early summer, the Japanese Lilac blooms for about 2 weeks with huge (10″), fragrant creamy white clusters that are similar to lilac bush blooms but much larger. After the flowers fade, attractive seedpods will attract songbirds to your garden.

It’s attractive form, disease-resistance and non-invasive root system make this a great tree near a patio or porch where you can watch the songbirds and enjoy the fragrance up close and personal. 

Native to wooded areas on slopes, valleys and grasslands in northeast China, Siberia and Korea

‘Weeping Higan’ Flowering Cherry

Pink weeping flowering cherry tree
Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’. Photo by Pretty Purple Door

15-20′ H x 15-20′ W
Zones 5-8
Full Sun
Blooms in Spring
Fast growth rate
Purchase Here

‘Weeping Higan’ Flowering Cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’) is a gorgeous show-stopping ornamental tree that grows only 15-20′ high and wide. Its compact size and weeping habit are sure to make a statement even in the smallest landscape.

In spring, large magenta buds along the graceful weeping boughs open to soft pink flowers. As the blooms fade, new foliage grows in bronze that matures to green in summer followed by yellow-orange in the fall.

A fast-grower, the weeping cherry will grow between 1-2 feet a year, quickly maturing into a gorgeous specimen. The branches will cascade to the ground if left un-pruned, or you can trim them up each year.

The ‘Weeping Higan’ variety is also more resilient than many of the other flowering cherries.

Native to Japan, where it is called beni-shidare zakura (pink weeping cherry), this tree is an essential for Japanese-style gardens.

Keep Reading…

In my perennial garden plan, I’ll go over landscape layering and give you some suggestions for each of the 5 layers:
Layer 1: Ornamental Trees
Layer 2: Evergreen Shrubs
Layer 3: Perennial Deciduous Shrubs
Layer 4: Perennial plants and flowers
Layer 5: Groundcovers, Vines and Grasses

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