Favorite Ornamental Trees for Small Urban Spaces
November 2, 2020
Fall is tree planting time in Texas! The increased rainfall and cooler temperatures are perfect for adding a new addition to your landscape. But, we realize that not all properties have room for a giant shade tree, so we compiled a list of our favorite ornamental trees for small urban spaces.
Texas Arbor Day is held the first Friday of November each year. This year, on November 6th, Harker Heights will be the official site for the state’s celebration.
One of the very best small ornamental trees you can plant in North Texas is redbud. Not only do they produce an abundance of cheerful flowers in spring, but they also put on a wonderful fall foliage color show. Generally, redbuds grow to 15-20 feet in height and prefer well-drained soil. Plant them in full sun to part shade areas.
Many new varieties have been introduced to the market over the past decade. Our favorites include:
- ‘Forest Pansy’: leaves emerge burgundy and fade to green in summer, fall color in various shades of yellow, orange, purple and red.
- ‘Ruby Falls’: a charming, weeping variety with purple foliage. Reaches only 8’ tall x 6’ wide.
- ‘Rising Sun’: Leaves emerge and change from yellow, golden, and orange to settle on bright lime green in the summer. Reaches 12’ tall.
- ‘Traveler’: Another weeping variety with green leaves. Incredible structural presence in the landscape.
- ‘Merlot’: deep burgundy foliage and flowers. Reaches 15-20’ tall and wide. An excellent variety for the Texas heat.
- ‘Alba’: the white flowered version of the popular Eastern Redbud.
As known as Mexican Chaste Tree, this small, but showy flowering tree serves as a great focal point in your landscape. Vitex is a multi-trunked tree with fragrant, grey-green foliage and large (8-12”) lavender/purple flower spikes in the early summer. ‘Shoal Creek’ and ‘Montrose Purple’ are popular varieties, but you can even find white or soft pink-flowered vitex.
Vitex are very drought tolerant once established and a favorite of xeriscape gardens. Pollinators love the blooms. Plant in full sun where they reach up to 20’ tall & wide with an open canopy shape.
Japanese Maples are bright spots in shade gardens all across North Texas. Their delicate and ornate foliage and fall color makes them beautiful specimens and focal plants in your landscape. We do offer a few cautions though when planting Japanese Maples in Texas. Most varieties can’t handle full exposure to the Texas summer sun. Japanese maples planted in full sun, or in a spot where they get afternoon sun, will often spend the entire summer with scorched brown leaves. Plants also need consistent moisture, which means providing supplemental irrigation through the summer months. Always choose a spot with afternoon shade or dappled shade throughout the day.
Some of the best varieties for North Texas include:
- ‘Bloodgood’: A stand-out favorite for our area with burgundy foliage that turns bright scarlet red in the fall. Plants slowly reach a mature size of 15-20 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
- ‘Coral Bark’: The leaves of ‘Coral Bark’ emerge with pink coloration in spring, turning a bright lime-green during the spring and summer, followed by intense yellow, orange and red fall foliage color. The distinctive feature of this variety is the coral-pink bark that is quite striking on the bare tree in winter. Plants grow to 20 feet tall by 15 feet wide.
For best results, do not allow Japanese maples to dry out. They can also benefit from richly amended soil.
While this tree earned it’s common name from the profusion of tiny and fluffy pink flowers, plants also have beautiful foliage. Leaves emerge in spring with a pink-ish hue before turning a blue-green color in the summer. Purple smoke tree holds deep burgundy purple foliage through fall. The fall foliage color is a true treat and varies in shades from yellow to orange to fire-y red.
Smoke Trees (Cotinus obovatus) prefer full sun to part shade locations, and are quite heat and drought tolerant once established. Plants can grow 15-30 feet tall.
A quintessential southern tree, graceful crape myrtles thrive in landscapes across Texas. Summer blooms usually emerge in June in shades of white, pink, purple, and red. Tree bark will peel then become very smooth and shiny as plants mature. Foliage turns a bright golden yellow in the fall.
Crape myrtles should be planted in full sun in order to stay healthy and produce the most flowers. Plants are drought resistant, low maintenance, and can survive in many soil types.
Fun fact: There is NO reason to cut back crape myrtles - or top them - each year. Topping crape myrtles does not produce more flowers, but it does make the canopy structure weaker and it results in unattractive “knuckles” on the main trunks, often ruining the overall form of the tree.
While there are a wide variety of sizes & colors to choose from, we decided to list a few recommended varieties in each size group:
- Dwarf/Small, up to 10 feet: ‘Cheyenne’, ‘Hopi’, ‘Tonto’, ‘Zuni’
- Medium, 10-20 feet: ‘Centennial Spirit’, ‘Dynamite’, ‘Osage’, ‘Yuma’, ‘Powhatan’, ‘Tuskegee’, ‘Pink Velour’
- Tall, larger than 20 feet: ‘Arapaho’, ‘Red Rocket’, ‘Potomac’, ‘Fantasy’, ’Glendora White’, ‘Kiowa’, ‘Twilight’
Not sure which new tree is right for your landscape? Call in our expert arborists for a site evaluation. We’ll help you pick the right tree, then source and plant it for you the right way.
Posted: November 2, 2020