One of the more frequent plant questions I get concerns what small tree will do well in this area.
The species of tree to use will depend on the amount of sun that the area gets, whether the tree is to be used as a screen, and whether flowers are wanted. Below are some of the best small trees to use in our landscapes.
Little Gem Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora "Little Gem") has a medium texture and upright form. It will grow from 15 to 20 feet tall with an 8- to 10-foot spread. This evergreen tree grows at a medium rate. Also, it will flower at a younger age than the traditional magnolia grandiflora. The flowers appear in the spring and continue blooming into November. "Little Gem" magnolia has no serious diseases or insect problems. This plant can be grown in either full sun or partial shade.
Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) has a coarse texture and a rounded form. It will reach 20 feet in height with a 10- to 15-foot spread. This is a deciduous tree that has a slow to medium growth rate. It will bloom at a young age. The flowers are white, star-shaped and fragrant.
The peak flowering time is April. The leaves, which appear shortly after bloom, are dark green when mature and turn yellow in the fall. Star magnolia has no serious insect or disease problems; however, spring frost can damage the flowers. This tree does best in full sun areas.
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) has a coarse texture and a rounded form. It will grow from 10 to 20 feet high with a 10- to 15-foot spread. Loquat is a broad-leaved evergreen tree with dark green foliage.
This tree flowers in November through January on buds formed the summer prior to flowering. Loquat has a medium to fast growth rate. The fruit is edible and is similar to pears. The fruit ripens from April to June. There is only one disease problem that affect loquat: Fireblight.
Henry Anise-tree (Illicium henryi) has a fine to medium texture, a dense, pyramidal form, and grows from 6 to 15 feet with a similar spread. Henry Anise-tree has evergreen leaves that are shiny, dark green above and dull gray-green below. When crushed they emit an anise-like aroma. They will have pink to red waxy flowers that appear from April to May.
The flowers are not fragrant. Henry Anise-tree performs well in both shade and semi-shade, and is also sun-tolerant. It likes moist but well-drained soil. There are no serious insect or disease problems that attack this tree.
Nellie R. Stevens holly (Ilex x "Nellie R Stevens") has medium to coarse texture. It has an upright form with a height ranging from 10 to 20 feet and an 8- to 10-foot spread. This holly has a medium to fast growing rate. It is a broad-leaved evergreen tree or shrub with leathery, lustrous, dark green leaves. The female plant flowers open at the end of March and blooms through April, followed by bright red fruit that ripens in the fall. It can grow in full sun or partial shade. In order to produce numerous fruit, this holly needs a pollinating plant. Male Chinese Holly can be planted in the neighborhood to serve as pollinators since its flowers open at a similar time. Scale insects, aphids and leaf miners can be minor problems.
Japanese maple (Acer Palmatum) has a horizontal branching form and will reach 15 to 20 feet in height with a 10- to 15-foot spread. This is a deciduous tree with a slow to medium growth rate and red or green foliage, depending on the cultivar.
Also, the amount of sun received will affect the color. The more sun it receives, the redder the color. Japanese maple has few diseases and insect problems. There are many cultivars available, several of which can be expensive depending on the size purchased.
The cultivars are propagated by grafting. Japanese maples do best when planted in areas receiving filtered shade. Planted in full sun, they may suffer leaf scorch.
Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (706) 836-2152.