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If you’re looking for evergreen trees that stay naturally short-statured, have no maintenance requirements beyond watering, and stay green all winter long, you’ve come to the right place! While finding all of these traits in a single tree might seem too good to be true, it isn’t. In fact, there are lots of dwarf evergreen trees that offer all of these benefits and more to small-space gardeners. They’re also great choices for anyone who doesn’t want to spend their weekends pruning overgrown plants. Before I introduce you to 15 of my favorite small evergreen trees, let’s take a look at some of the perks these plants provide.
Why plant small evergreen trees?
There are many benefits of planting small evergreen trees in your yard and garden.
- Their naturally compact form means little, if any, pruning is necessary to maintain their small stature
- Their evergreen nature means you’ll have color and texture in the garden year-round.
- Dwarf evergreen trees make great privacy screening without growing too large.
- The small stature of these plants make them easy to plant; there’s no wrestling with a huge root ball or long branches.
- Dwarf evergreens provide winter habitat for many different birds, and those that produce cones provide food as well.
- The compact evergreen trees on this list are low maintenance and tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. This makes them great choices for folks who don’t have a lot of time to maintain their plantings.
Top 15 dwarf evergreen trees for small gardens
While there are hundreds of compact evergreens for small gardens, these 15 are exceptional varieties I’ve personally worked with. As a horticulturist, I see lots of evergreen trees and shrubs worth growing. But, those on this list are among the finest small-statured varieties available to home gardeners.
1. The Blues Weeping Colorado Spruce (Picea pungens ‘The Blues’): This amazing and extremely hardy variety of weeping blue spruce is a total show-stopper. Though it’s fast growing, it tops out at just 10 feet in height with a width between 5 and 10 feet. The blue-green needles are thickly packed on downward hanging branches. Hardy down to -50 degrees F, ‘The Blues’ is among the most deer resistant of the dwarf evergreen trees. It thrives in full sun conditions but will also tolerate some shade.
2. Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa): A compact, extremely slow-growing, soft-needled evergreen with a somewhat pyramidal form, Hinoki cypress have fan-shaped foliage that’s lush and dark green. It gives the plant an almost feathery texture. Winter hardy down to -30 degrees F, Hinoki cypress are 10 to 12 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide when twenty years old. This evergreen requires full to partial sun and well-drained soils. If you’d like an even smaller version of this plant that tops out at just 5 feet tall, look for the cultivar ‘Nana Gracilis’
3. Blue Wonder Blue Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Blue Wonder’): This sweet little spruce is winter hardy down to -40 degrees F. It has beautiful blue-gray foliage and a lovely compact form. This dwarf evergreen is an excellent alternative to dwarf Alberta spruce and it looks great in winter container plantings, too. Slowly reaching 6 feet in height, ‘Blue Wonder’ is only 3 feet wide at maturity and has a naturally dense conical form.
4. Dwarf Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea ‘Nana’): A squat, rounded fir with lush needles, this compact plant deserves a place on every list of dwarf evergreen trees. Hardy to -40 degrees F, the slow growth rate of this variety makes it great for folks who don’t have the time or inclination to regularly prune their shrubs. Like other balsam firs, this compact selection has dark green needles and densely packed branches. It reaches 5 to 6 feet wide after many years of growth.
5. Chalet Swiss Stone Pine (Pinus cembra ‘Chalet’): Swiss Stone pines have long been a favorite of mine, and this dwarf variety is no different. When it comes to dwarf evergreen trees, ‘Chalet’ has so much to offer! Slow growing with a beautiful form, this small evergreen tree is columnar in shape and densely branched. The needles are long and blue-green, lending a soft look to this compact evergreen. With a hardiness down to -40 degrees F, ‘Chalet’ is an exceptional choice that reaches just 8 feet in height with a width of 4 feet.
6. Tip Top Dwarf Swiss Stone Pine (Pinus cembra ‘Tip Top’): So, just to prove I wasn’t kidding about loving Swiss Stone pines, here’s another variety of these dwarf evergreen trees worth planting in small gardens. ‘Tip Top’ is extremely hardy (-40 degrees F) and downright adorable. In 10 years it reaches just 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The white undersides of the needles, combined with their long form and soft feel, make this evergreen look like a shaggy green Muppet. Its growth habit is narrow and conical, and like all of the other dwarf evergreen trees on this list, ‘Tip Top’ requires zero pruning to maintain its small stature.
7. Dwarf Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika ‘Nana’): The dense growth of this compact evergreen tree makes it a super choice for small garden beds and foundation plantings. Like other Serbian spruces, this dwarf form has green needles with white striping on the undersides, giving the tree a soft appearance. Slow-growing and reaching a maximum height of just 3 to 5 feet with an equal width, dwarf Serbian spruce thrives in garden zones with winter temperatures down to -30 degrees F. Loosely pyramidal in form with no pruning required.
8. Green Spire Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Green Spire’): Winter hardy down to -10 degrees, ‘Green Spire’ euonymus is well behaved, giving it a more formal appearance than some other options. The glossy, green foliage is perfect for creating a narrow hedge or screen. Maxing out at 6 to 8 feet in height with a spread of just 1 to 2 feet, this naturally narrow shrub is a fast grower, too.
9. Green Arrow Weeping Alaska Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootakatensis ‘Green Arrow’): Tall and narrow, ‘Green Arrow’ is one of the finest narrow evergreen trees for small yards and gardens. Of all the weeping Alaska cedars, ‘Green Arrow’ offers the most slender girth. Topping out at 20 feet in height and 1 foot wide, you might not consider it dwarf, but it’s super small footprint makes it great for even the tiniest of backyards. The weeping branches have soft foliage with a fan-like appearance. Winter hardy down to -20 degrees F, ‘Green Arrow’ makes a phenomenal addition to the garden.
10. Green Penguin Dwarf Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris ‘Green Penguin‘): A chunky, yet tidy dwarf evergreen, once you see ‘Green Penguin’ you’ll realize how it got its name. With new growth that’s feathery and older growth that’s long-needled, this dwarf scotch pine is very unique. It has a thick, pyramidal form that never has you reaching for your pruning shears, and ‘Green Penguin’ is hardy to -40 degrees F. Maximum height is 6 feet with a width equal to half its height.
11. Dwarf Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Kotobuki’): Fully winter hardy to -20 degrees F, this needled evergreen reaches just 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. The upright candles of new growth in the spring, coupled with its narrow growth habit, make ‘Kotobuki’ an excellent choice for containers and small gardens. Slow growing, with a dense structure, this deer-resistant evergreen has needles that are about half the length of regular Japanese black pines.
12. Dwarf Pencil Point Juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’): Evergreen and columnar in form, dwarf pencil point juniper is both unique and slow growing. With an average height of 5 feet and a width of just 1 foot, this sun-loving evergreen has blue-green needles. Female plants may produce blue “berries” in the fall as well. Its tapered form means it’s a great “exclamation point” accent plant for smaller landscapes. Winter hardy to -40 degrees F.
13. North Star Dwarf White Spruce (Picea glauca ‘North Star’): Extremely hardy, this compact evergreen tree is pyramidal in shape and covered with green needles. Deer-resistant and hardy to -50 degrees F, ‘North Star’ tops out at 5 to 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It prefers full to partial sun and requires little to no pruning to maintain a neat-and-tidy shape. Easy to grow and tolerant of all but the wettest soils, ‘North Star’ is among the finest dwarf evergreen trees available.
14. Upright Japanese Plum Yew (Cephaloxatus harringtoniia ‘Fastigiata’): This broad-needled evergreen is hardy to -10 degrees F. Its upright, slender growth habit maxes out at 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Though it’s non-flowering, Japanese plum yews have dark green needles that are densely spaced on bottlebrush-like, upright branches. Each needle is about 2 inches long. It thrives in full to partial sun, but prefers afternoon shade in hot southern regions during the summer months.
15. Little Gem Dwarf Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’): Like its full-sized kin, this compact southern magnolia is lush and attractive. The leaves are just as dark green and glossy as traditional southern magnolias, but they’re smaller in size. Large, white, perfumed flowers cover this columnar dwarf evergreen tree in late spring through summer. A second bloom may occur again in the fall in cooler climates. While at a mature height of 20 feet tall, ‘Little Gem’ certainly isn’t as petite as some of the other trees featured here. But, it is significantly smaller than a standard southern magnolia and is one of the finest dwarf evergreen trees available. Winter hardy down to 0 degrees F.
The ease of maintenance, beauty, and diversity of these dwarf evergreen trees is hard to deny. There’s no doubt making a home for one or more of them in your garden pays big dividends all year long.
For more on using compact plant varieties in your garden, check out the following articles:
- Dwarf Flowering Shrubs for Small Gardens and Landscapes
- Shrubs that Flower in the Shade
- Narrow Trees for Small Gardens and Tight Spaces
- Evergreen Groundcover Plants: 20 Choices for Year-round Interest
- Colorful Shrubs for Season-long Beauty
- Shrubs for Pollinators: 5 Bloom-filled Choices for Bees and Butterflies
What are your favorite compact evergreen trees? We’d love to hear about them in the comment section below.