Small Backyard Tree



We have a smallish backyard in Toronto and are looking to plant two trees. One we would like to be located where the circle is in the attached photo both for privacy and visual appeal. It will have to be a small tree due to space constraints with the fence. The area gets partial to full sun. In terms of drainage I think it normal and I have not tested acidity.

I was wondering if you had recommendations for types of small trees that would fit best. I am very new to this. Some options I have seen are serviceberry (native, but perhaps a bit boring?), dogwood (there seems to be many kinds), crape myrtle (pretty but I think its too cold), magnolia (?). Open to suggestions!

Thanks so much.


Hello – There are lots of wonderful small trees to choose from. I didn’t find an attached photo but can make a number of small tree suggestions. Be sure to plant your trees as far as possible from your house or fence – at least half the distance of the spread of the tree.

I think serviceberry is well worth considering. There are beautiful cultivars of this native tree available.  Another native to check out is Eastern Redbud with its graceful form and beautiful spring blossoms. Of the non-natives you suggest, I agree that crape myrtle which is only hardy to zone 7 is not a good choice. A Star Magnolia and a Kousa Dogwood are certainly worth considering.  Another non-native which would do well in your conditions is Japanese Maple.  Below is a list of recommendations for your full sun to partial shade back yard with one or more cultivars noted. It’s not always easy to locate a specific cultivar but if you have one in mind, your local garden centre should be able to suggest something similar.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) can be found as a tree or a shrub that produces profuse clusters of pinkish-white flowers in Spring that cover the branches before the leaves are fully open. In Summer, bunches of small edible, dark blue berries hang among dark green leaves, which turn brilliant bronze-red in the fall. Serviceberry requires little pruning, but if pruning is necessary, remember to “prune after bloom”.

  • Cumulus  Amelanchier laevis ‘Cumulus’ (Height:  3.5m, Spread:  3m)

Eastern redbud (Cercis Canadensis), is native to southern Ontario, often multi-trunked understory tree with a rounded crown. It is particularly noted for its stunning pea-like rose-purple flowers which bloom profusely on bare branches in early spring (March-April) before the foliage emerges.

  • The Rising Sun  Cercis canadensis ‘The Rising Sun’ (Height:  4 m, Spread:  3m)

Star Magnolia (Magnolia Stellata) is a compact, spreading shrub or tree native to Japan. It has long, narrow white flowers which emerge before the leaves.

  • Centennial Magnolia Stellata ‘Centennial’ (Height: 3-6m, Spread:3-4.5m)

Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) is native to Korea, China and Japan. It typically grows with a vase-shaped habit in the early years but eventually maturing to a more rounded form. Bloom occurs in late spring. Flowers are followed by berry-like fruits which are technically edible, but are usually left for the birds. Leaves usually turn attractive shades of reddish-purple to scarlet in autumn. Mottled, exfoliating, tan and gray bark on mature trees is attractive in winter.

  • Milky Way Cornus kousa ‘Milky Way’ (Height:  5m, Spread:  5m)

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) like the Kousa Dogwood iss native to Korea, China and Japan. General plant form is rounded to broad-rounded, often with low branching. Fall color includes shades of yellow, red-purple and bronze.

  • Beni Schichiheng Acer palmatum ‘Beni Schichihenge’ (Height:  4m, Spread:  4m)
  • Koto No Ito  Acer palmatum ‘Koto No Ito’ (Height:  4m, Spread:  4m)
  • Orange Dream Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’ (Height:  4m, Spread:  3,5m)
  • Scolopendrifolium  Acer palmatum ‘Scolopendrifolium’ (Height:  4m, Spread:  4m)

So how to choose?  The article at the link below from Canadian Living magazine lists a number of considerations when selecting a small tree for your yard.

Enjoy selecting your trees.