9 USDA Zone 10 Small & Dwarf Trees for Tight Spaces (2024)

Making gardening decisions when you have a small property or small backyard isn’t always easy. Many of the most popular landscaping trees in the US are medium-sized to large, and both their canopy and roots will take up too much space on a small property.

If you are looking to plant new trees in USDA hardiness zone 10, and you are working with limited space, then it is important to choose small trees that won’t disturb infrastructure or other plants as they grow.

These 9 species are excellent zone 10 small trees and dwarf varieties for gardeners with limited space.

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9 Small Trees that Grow Well in Zone 10

1. Dwarf Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus ‘Little John’)

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The Australian Bottlebrush is a beauty, and fairly small in its own right, but this cultivar takes it a step further.

This Dwarf Bottlebrush evergreen reaches just 3 feet tall on average but still packs a punch with its narrow blue-green leaves and deep crimson bottlebrush-shaped flowers. In fact, in zone 10 these flowers can sometimes bloom intermittently throughout the year.

Its petite form and rounded irregular shape mean it can be used in many areas of your property, as part of a small hedge, foundation planting, and ground cover, or as a specimen or container plant. They also work well in a pollination or wildlife garden, as their flowers will attract many birds and pollinators.

Plant the Dwarf Bottlebrush in full sun or partial shade in moist, acidic, well-draining soil. Keep an eye out for signs of pests such as mealy bugs, scale insects, and red spider mites.

Other Common Names: Little John Dwarf Bottlebrush

Growing Zones: 8-11

Average Size at Maturity: 3 feet tall, with a 5-foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring to Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’)

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Gardeners in cooler growing zones will likely recognize this tree as a houseplant, but in zone 10 and higher you are able to grow this exotic straight in the ground!

A native of Madagascar, it is known for its unusual yet aesthetic appearance, as well as being low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and incredibly robust.

The Madagascar Dragon tree has an upright growth habit made of sometimes one, but mostly multiple tall thin stems. These stems are topped by shrubby formations of narrow leaves that grow in stripes of green, cream, and pale red.

These trees grow best in bright but still indirect sunlight, though they can grow in partial shade. If you’re planting it outdoors, be sure to choose a location that shields it from direct sunlight, and also has loose, loamy, well-draining soil. Water sparingly, but if its leaves begin to turn yellow this is a sign to water it a little more.

Other Common Names: Tricolor Dragon Tree

Growing Zones: 10-12

Average Size at Maturity: 6-15 feet tall, with a 3-10 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

3. White Frangipani (Plumeria alba)

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White Frangipani boasts some of the most beautiful tropical flowers in the world, with their pristine, perfectly formed white petals and a dash of bright yellow in the center. They also bring a lovely floral fragrance to your garden, as well as providing exotic color for months at a time.

The White Frangipani tree is small and slow-growing with its own ornamental appeal. Once mature it forms a vase or umbrella shape, and has thick fleshy branches and dark green leathery leaves. Despite being a tropical tree that thrives in warm climates, its foliage is deciduous, not evergreen.

This tree is unlikely to experience any serious pest or disease issues, however, according to the University of Florida Extension, it can commonly be affected by scale, nematodes, and Frangipani caterpillars.

Plant the Frangipani in full sun and rich, well-draining soil. Occasional water, pruning, and annual fertilizer should be enough to keep it thriving and flowering.

Other Common Names: White Plumeria, Nosegay, West Indian Jasmine

Growing Zones: 10-11

Average Size at Maturity: 20-25 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring to Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

4. Chinese Anise (Illicium henryi)

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A Chinese native that is highly underused in US gardening, the Chinese Anise tree is a small species that reaches up to just 8 feet tall and can be used to decorate your garden and fill in any small gaps or spaces.

This tree is shrubby and evergreen, with lustrous lance-shaped dark leaves, a dense, compact form, and sweeping lower branches. The leaves can be crushed to release a pleasing and highly aromatic anise fragrance. In spring these trees dazzle with their delicate waxy pink blooms.

It also produces seed pods that can be used as a spice, but be aware that it is the only part of the tree that is edible. Every other part, including the flowers, is highly toxic if ingested.

Plant the Chinese Anise in full sun to partial shade, with moist, acidic, well-draining soil. It can be used as a specimen or even as a privacy hedge.

Other Common Names: Henry Anise

Growing Zones: 7-9

Average Size at Maturity: 6-8 feet tall, with a 4-6 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

5. Zuni Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei ‘Zuni’)

Crape Myrtle trees are some of the most colorful and reliable flowering trees to plant in warmer US zones. And if you’re specifically looking for a more compact tree, the Zuni Crape Myrtle cultivar is an excellent place to start.

This small but handsome flowering tree can be grown as a small single-trunk tree or multi-stemmed shrub. It has long graceful sprays of bright green foliage and in summer it lights up with long panicles covered in vibrant lavender flowers.

In fall its foliage will turn shades of orange and maroon. Its peeling bark will also provide four seasons of interest.

There is no doubt that the Zuni Crape Myrtle is an easy choice of ornamental tree. You can use it as a pretty privacy hedge, as part of a backdrop or border, as a single specimen tree, and more.

Plant the Zuni in moist, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH.

Growing Zones: 6-10

Average Size at Maturity: 8-10 feet tall, with a 7-9 foot spread

Flowering Season: Summer to Early Fall

Available at: Nature Hills

6. Little Ollie Dwarf Olive (Olea europaea ‘Montra’)

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A lovely ornamental tree for small gardens in zone 10 is the Little Ollie, a dwarf olive cultivar. It has a naturally neat, rounded shape and dense growth habit, with narrow evergreen leaves that grow on thin, long, and gracefully nodding branches.

Keep in mind that the Little Ollie is not a fruiting variety, so don’t purchase it if you’re hoping to produce any olives! And while it does produce flowers they are fairly small and inconspicuous.

This Mediterranean-style evergreen shrub does a great job of providing year-round color and structure to your property. Use it as a short formal hedge or add it to mixed borders and foundation plantings. It also does very well in topiary.

Plant the Little Ollie dwarf in a location with full sun and well-draining soil. This tree is naturally resistant to heat, drought, and salt, so it will do very well in a coastal garden.

Other Common Names: Dwarf Olive Tree

Growing Zones: 8-11

Average Size at Maturity: 4-6 feet tall, with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Available at: Nature Hills

7. Coast Sandalwood (Santalum ellipticum)

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An endemic species of the Hawaiian islands, the Coast Sandalwood is a tropical evergreen species that can be planted as a tree or shrub. It is slow-growing with an open, spreading canopy and has leathery, gray-green leaves.

Though it is typically a small tree that reaches less than 16 feet on average, in very moist and humid conditions (similar to that of its native climate) it can potentially grow much higher. Shape and size can vary.

The Coast Sandalwood has a wide range of historic uses. Various parts of the tree were used to create oils, perfumes, carved objects, and medicine to treat different conditions.

It is at its best when planted in full sun or partial shade, and loamy, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH. However, these trees can tolerate a variety of growing conditions including dry, poor soil, and highly acidic soil.

Other Common Names: Iliahialoʻe, Coastal Sandalwood

Growing Zones: 9-12

Average Size at Maturity: 3-16 feet tall, with a 3-10 foot spread

Flowering Season: Year-round

8. Golden Dewdrop (Duranta erecta)

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Native to Central and South America, and the Caribbean, the Golden Dewdrop is a small tree or large shrub that is part of the verbena family. This broadleaf evergreen has a sprawling habit with vine-like branches covered in vibrant green leaves.

In spring these branches are decorated with incredible violet-purple flowers tinged with white. The purple of the flowers can vary from vivid to pale, but either way, they are guaranteed to grab attention.

While the Golden Dewdrop will remain very small and die back in winter in cooler climates, in zone 10 and 11 it can grow up to 18 feet tall. Use this stunning shrub as a specimen, container, or patio plant, and as a privacy screen or hedge.

Plant the golden dewdrop in full sun and rich, loamy, well-draining soil. Be wary of planting it near where children or animals can reach it. According to the NC State Extension, this plant is highly toxic and in some cases can be lethal.

Other Common Names: Duranta, Pigeon Berry, Sky Flower, Duranta

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 10-20 feet tall, with a 5-10 foot spread

Flowering Season: Spring

9. Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

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Often referred to as ‘Dwarf Poinciana’ due to its similarities to the larger flowering Poinciana tree, the Red Bird of Paradise is a stunning small tree and shrub that is native to the Americas, from Mexico to the Caribbean.

Of all the US states it is most commonly planted in Hawaii, but it can also grow in hotter southern states on the continent.

This tropical tree is evergreen with an upright habit and bright green, feathery pinnate leaves that add vibrancy and softness to the landscape year-round. Its most famous feature is its flowers, which grow in clusters on long stamens and are a fiery combination of orange, yellow, and red.

Plant it in mixed flower beds and borders, or in rows as a flowering hedge. It also grows well in containers. For best results plant in full sun with moist, well-draining soil.

Other Common Names: Barbados Flower Fence, Barbados Pride, Dwarf Poinciana, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Peaco*ck Flower, Pride of Barbados

USDA Growing Zones: 9 – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 10-20 feet tall, with a 6-12 foot spread

Flowering Season: Summer

Petite Trees And Shrubs for Compact Spaces

Make the most of small spaces on your property with these trees. Whether you want an accent tree for a small backyard or a short hedgerow or marker for your driveway, you’ll find a suitable option here.

Related Articles:

  • 8 USDA Zone 10 Shade Trees (Including Fast-Growers)
  • 14 USDA Zone 10 Fruit Trees to Grow in Your Garden
  • 10 Beautiful Flowering Trees for USDA Zone 10
  • 9 Evergreen Privacy Trees for USDA Zone 10
9 USDA Zone 10 Small & Dwarf Trees for Tight Spaces (2024)
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