A small tree in place of Japanese maple


Hi I have a beautiful small garden in a tight space in my backyard. I have not had success with Japanese maple as the accent tree. 4 years back I put a Japanese maple that did not survive. Last year I put this healthy Bloodgood Japanese maple that is also not doing well. its leaves are not bright red and the top looks dead. Is there a nice evergreen accent tree with short branches and a good design look that I can plant instead as the accent tree in place of Japanese maple? or is there a nice short beautiful tree that can go there? I am grateful for a few suggestions on how
i can put a nice tree (disease and Japanese beetle resistant) and make my garden shine. I am sick of experimenting with Japanese maple. the space receives over 5 to 6 hours of afternoon sun, I water and fertilize regularly


Hello – I’m sorry to hear about your disappointing results with Japanese maple. They are beautiful trees but can be tricky to establish. Fortunately, there are many other small trees to choose from.  You note that you are looking for an evergreen with short branches.  I interpret this as meaning you’d like a tree that adds height but doesn’t take up too much space.  I’ll assume 18 feet is your maximum desired height – the height of a mature bloodgood Japanese maple.

Dwarf conifers with a narrow, vertical habit or a pyramidal form could work.  An example of a conifer with a narrow habit is Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’) growing to a height of 15 feet with a 2-3 foot spread.  It has blue-green foliage and requires little pruning to maintain its shape. An example of a dwarf conifer with a pyramidal form, is dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca‘Conica’) a cultivar of our native white spruce.  This conifer grows to 10 feet (over 30 years) forming a dense bright green cone with a width at the base of 3 feet.  Both of these trees should do well in your conditions.

If you visit your local garden center and ask for trees with similar characteristics to these two you will no doubt find others to choose from.

There are deciduous options as well.  Click on the link below to have a look at one of the earlier posts on our site for suggestions of other small specimen trees.

Small Specimen Trees

Enjoy making your selection!