June 23

Best Trees For Compact Spaces



Not everyone has a lot of space in their yards where they can plant trees of all sizes. In fact, many people in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas don’t have a ton of space where they can plant a tree that grows as it will. Even if they do, most people are afraid of planting larger trees because they can become dangerous quite quickly. So what does that mean? It means that most people are looking for more compact trees that they can put in their yards, whether it is by the street, as an accent, or just in a space where only something small will fit.

These are trees that can go in the ground, though some might be happy in pots as well. With a potted tree, you do have to ensure that you keep it trimmed and healthy, as the roots can get potbound if you aren’t careful. Before going to a local garden center like Dammann’s to pick your tree, make sure you do a bit of research on your own first.

What are our choices for small yard friendly trees in Indianapolis? Take a look:

Crab Apple Tree

crab apple
Credit: Giles Watson
  • Thrive in small spaces anywhere
  • Requires little watering unless there is a drought
  • Hardy against diseases and infestations

Many people are biased against crab apple trees due to their name, but these trees aren’t crabby at all. They are perfect for any Indianapolis yard because they are disease and pest resistant, which means you don’t have to worry about treating them with hazardous chemicals. In a smaller yard, you want to know that your dogs and children can run around without encountering hazardous toxins.

Another reason they are so great? These smaller trees require very little upkeep according to Arbor Day.  There are fruits that fall (the “apples”), though they don’t make much mess. If you have the space, they look great lined up a row, but they are also great all alone.

In the spring, the crab apple tree really shines thanks to its white flowers. You’ll end up taking many photos under these trees and if you have children, they will love to throw around the petals as they fall.

For a beautiful tree that isn’t a lot of work at any point in its life, the crab apple is a fantastic choice for your small yard.

Pagoda Dogwood

bonsai pagoda dogwood
Credit: Kyudos

  • Requires attention to water – lives best in moist soil.
  • Doesn’t grow very tall or wide
  • Changes with the seasons so there is always visual interest

If you want to get the most bang for your buck out of your trees, there is nothing better than the pagoda dogwood. This tree is a go-to for many homeowners because it is small but packs a punch in terms of scent and beauty. The white flowers produce a heavenly smell that will permeate throughout your entire yard. There are also blue fruits and purple flowers that will make the tree visually interesting and a standout, even in a larger yard.

One tip, however: plant this tree away from the road as it can be impacted by the chemicals thrown off of heavily used roads.

It is important to note that this tree does require a little bit of care and attention, so you have to be ready for some work, especially when it comes to watering. To avoid that, according to the Morton Arboretum, “If planted in full sun, the shallow root system benefits with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture.”

Cockspur Hawthorn

Cockspur Hawthorn
Credit: Plant Image Library
  • Native to Indiana
  • Short trunk
  • Can be shorter or grow taller

One thing is for certain, you want to take the word “thorn” in the name of this tree extremely seriously – but don’t let it scare you off.  While you probably should not plant a small hawthorn tree where your children or grandchildren are playing, it can ward off unwanted visitors. This tree offers beautiful white spring flowers that you will take many photos of, long-lasting red fruits that are quite popular with birds, according to The Spruce, and orange fall foliage that will make you feel like you are in a painting. Once the tree matures, the thorns should no longer be an issue.

These are smaller, globular trees that have a short trunk. The thick, glossy foliage is beautiful and any time of the year. It tends to grow as tall as it is wide, so you can predict how big it will be.

Paw Paw

Credit: Johanne Worsaae
  • Very popular tree
  • Can grow up to 40 feet tall, but tends to be shorter
  • Named after the Papaya, but not related to it.

According to Wildflower.org, “Common pawpaw is a small, short-trunked tree or large, multi-stemmed shrub, 10-40 ft. tall, with large, tropical-like leaves. Young shoots and leaves are covered with a rusty down, later becoming smooth. The thick, bright-green, deciduous leaves turn yellow-green in fall. Not particularly showy, but interesting, purple, six-petaled flowers are borne singly in leaf axils before leaf emergence. Large, cylindric, dark-green or yellow, edible fruit follows.”

This tree is actually a hardy tropical tree from the same line of trees that produce fruits like the Annona, Custard-apple, Sugar-apple, and Soursop. Unfortunately, modern techniques have rendered the supply minimal.

The common and Latin species names both describe the numerous and extremely long spines, which are used locally as pins. The long spines and shiny dark green spoon-shaped leaves make this one of the most easily recognized hawthorns. Common and widespread, it has been planted for ornament and as a hedge since colonial times.

Contact Menchhofer Tree Care for all of your tree care needs – we can help you at any stage of the tree process, from planting and taking care of your tree to pruning and cutting it down – and of course, any seasonal problems that you might have with your trees. If you are having trouble making decisions about how to best care for your tree, we are here to help. Remember that acting sooner rather than later will help you to get the most out of your trees and keep your home safe.

Call us today at 317-661-4240.

Header photo courtesy of Marco Verch on Flickr!

Menchhofer Tree Care

About Steve Menchhofer

Steve Menchhofer has been caring for the trees of the Indianapolis, Indiana metro area for over 40 years. Steve and his team of experienced, certified arborists are members of the International Society of Arboriculture and the Indiana Arborist Association.

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