Bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes it takes a small tree to make a big impact.

That’s when Level Green landscape designer Shelley Russell turns to dwarf trees.

Russell talks about the many reasons she loves these mini landscape stars — and shares her personal favorites.

Why Plant A Dwarf Tree?

Dwarf Southern MagnoliaWhy not?

They’re great in containers when you really need a tree, because their roots don’t need a lot of space.

They nicely frame entryways and signs.

They’re a perfect accent plant in rock gardens, near water features and on patios.

“Sometimes you love the characteristics of a regular-sized tree,” Russell says, “but you don’t have enough space for it.” (Think dwarf magnolia.)

And dwarf trees add cool varying textures to the landscape.

Shelley’s Favorites

Now that Russell has you convinced, here’s a look at a few of her favorites.

Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

This is evergreen, so you get year-round interest. Russell loves it for framing an entryway or sign, without overpowering it.

Dwarf Deodar Cedar ‘Feelin’ Sunny’

Named for its bright yellow foliage, it offers great contrast to darker green trees or shrubs. A beautiful accent plant, it also provides year-round interest.

Semi-Dwarf Crape Myrtle (‘Pink Velour’ or ‘Burgundy Cotton’)

These beauties are stunning in containers where you’d love a tree, but have limited root space.

Dwarf Southern Magnolia ‘Little Gem’

This has the same great features as the regular species, but doesn’t get as big. It can also be trained as an espalier against a wall.

Dwarf Japanese Maple

Everybody loves these little guys. They work great in containers, offer dramatic color and are lovely near water features and entryways. 

They even look great in winter, when they lose their leaves. Their elegant, cascading branches provide an architectural element to the landscape.

These are Russell’s favorite varieties of dwarf Japanese maple:

  • ‘Shaina’ boasts red leaves that turn orange in the fall.
  • ‘Kagiri Nishiki’ has a pretty vase shape, with  variegated red, white and green leaves.
  • ‘Waterfall’ has green leaves that turn burnt orange in the fall.

The Lure Of Dwarf Conifers

Slowmound Mugo PineDwarf conifers have soared in popularity in the last couple years, Russell says.

“People have less time to take care of their gardens,” she says, “and landscapes are getting smaller.”

Why she loves dwarf conifers:

  • They look great year round.
  • They come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
  • They provide strong structure and texture to the landscape.
  • They offer shelter and food for birds and small mammals in the winter.
  • They look great mixed in with perennials, grasses and flowering shrubs.
  • They provide a backbone in winter to the otherwise bare landscape.

Shelley’s Favorite Dwarf Conifers

Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce 

It boasts bright blue foliage and is excellent as a specimen or accent plant

Slowmound Mugo Pine

Prized for its fine texture and deep green foliage, this mini pine is slow growing and great as a specimen plant or in a rock garden.

Tiny Tower Dwarf Alberta Spruce

This little spruce with a pyramidal shape is great as an accent, a small specimen or in containers.

It’s a perfect off-season container plant, Russell says. Try it in the fall with pansies at the base or in winter all dressed up in holiday lights.

Dwarf Juniper (Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’)

This works great as a low maintenance ground cover. It needs little water and it’s tough. It can take foot traffic, or use it on a hillside to help prevent erosion.

At Level Green, Sometimes We Think Small

We love great big trees as much as the next guy, but there’s unique beauty in dwarf trees — and they really come in handy in the landscape.

Let Russell pick the perfect petite powerhouse for your property. You’ll love it.

If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers.

Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.

Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.

We’d love to hear from you.

Request a Consultation

Image Sources: Dwarf Southern MagnoliaSlowmound Mugo Pine