NC State Extension Publications


Small and intermediate size trees play an important role in the landscape. They can be quite functional and offer seasonal beauty. These trees are generally very easy to maintain and require a minimum of pruning.

The limited space in urban settings requires the extensive use of small and intermediate sized trees. This is especially true in street, mall, and plaza projects, where a pavement will completely surround the tree and utilities (telephone, electrical) wires are either above or below ground. One needs to choose a tree which will remain relatively small in stature but offer large aesthetic benefits.

Residential landscapes utilize many of these trees as "understory" trees in natural areas where shade is a factor.

Blooms, berries and foliage color are also strong assets for most of the trees in this group.

Several of these trees are native to North Carolina, i.e., Flowering Dogwood, Redbud and River Birch. Care must be taken to assimilate these environmental conditions so the trees will grow and mature with a minimum of problems.

Botanical Name Common Name Hardiness Zone Group Growth Rate Exposure Texture Form Height Spread Landscape Remarks Cultivars
Acer palmatum JAPANESE MAPLE 6,7,8 D slow part shade medium to fine dense rounded top 15-25' 10-15' excellent specimen tree; several varieties with interesting habits
Albizia julibrissin MIMOSA 7,8 D rapid sun fine spreading low open 20-30' 20-30' relatively short-lived, good summer color
Betula nigra RIVER BIRCH 6,7,8 D moderate part shade medium upright open 25-40' 10-15' multi-trunk is desired - excellent, native tree which can be transplanted
Betula pendula EUROPEAN WHITE BIRCH 6,7,8 D rapid sun medium umbrella crowned 25-40' 10-15' excellent for white bark and yellow fall foliage
Carpinus caroliniana AMERICAN HORNBEAM 6,7,8 D slow sun to part shade medium irregular crooked stem with horizontal branches 25-35' 20-25' very slow growing but should be planted more
Cercis canadensis EASTERN REDBUD 6,7,8 D slow sun to part shade medium wide spreading branches 20-30' 15-20' good tree tolerant of adverse conditions
Cornus florida FLOWERING DOGWOOD 6,7,8 D moderate sun to part shade medium broad crowned small tree 20-30' 20-25' excellent landscape tree for good soils; many varieties to plant 'Cherokee Chief' - dark pink; 'Cloud 9' - white; 'White Cloud' - white; 'Rubra' - pink
Cornus kousa KOUSA DOGWOOD 6,7 D moderate sun to part shade medium horizontal branching habit 10-15' 8-10' beautiful specimen landscape tree
Cotinus coggyria SMOKETREE 6,7,8 D moderate sun medium oval crown 10-15' 10-12' 'Daydream' - purple form very interesting habit
Crataegus phaenopyrum WASHINGTON HAWTHORN 6, 7, 8 D moderate sun medium to fine dense, rounded top 25-30' 20-25' nice fall color, berries persisting through winter
Eriobotrya japonica LOQUAT 7,8 E rapid sun to part shade coarse short trunk dense head 10-20' 8-10' excellent accent plant; fruits on coastal areas
Halesia carolina CAROLINA SILVERBELL 6,7 D moderate shade medium to coarse rounded open crown 20-40' 15-20' beautiful multi-trunk tree
Ilex cassine DAHOON HOLLY 7,8 E medium sun to part shade fine large shrub form, dense branches 20-30' beautiful tree with green foliage, red berries, gray bark
Ilex opaca AMERICAN HOLLY 6,7,8 E slow sun to part shade medium upright and conical 20-30' 10-20' excellent native tree - must have both sexes for fruit
Koelreuteria paniculata GOLDEN-RAIN TREE 6,7,8 D rapid sun to part shade medium upright open 20-30' 15-20' interesting seed display in fall compound leaves
Laburnum x watereri GOLDEN-CHAIN 6,7 D slow sun fine multi-trunked upright form 25-30' 10-15' specimen tree, rather short lived
Lagerstroemia indica CRAPE-MYRTLE 7,8 D moderate sun medium multi-trunk rounded crown 20-25' 10-15' interesting in tree form, showy display of blooms in summer, excellent fall color; Potomac' - pink; 'Catawba' - dark purple; 'Flame' - pink; 'Natchez' - white 'Durant Red' - red
Magnolia soulangeana SAUCER MAGNOLIA 6,7,8 D moderate sun to part shade medium to coarse broad, spreading 20-25' 15-20' frost often claims flowers
Malus spp. FLOWERING CRABAPPLE 6,7,8 D moderate sun medium round spreading crown 15-25' 10-20' very showy for short period of spring color 'Adams'; 'Centurion'; 'Prairifire'; 'Robinson'
Oxydendrum arboreum SOURWOOD 6,7,8 D slow sun or shade coarse slender trunk, upright branches 20-30' 10-15' excellent native tree - interesting panicles in fall
Prunus caroliniana CAROLINA CHERRY LAUREL 7,8 E rapid sun or part shade medium dense rounded head 20-30' 15-20' excellent green foliage, black fruit
Prunus cerasifera PURPLE LEAF PLUM 6,7,8 D rapid sun medium vase shape, dense foliage 15-25' 10-15' foliage is purple from spring to fall Atropurpurea'
Prunus persica PEACH 6,7,8 D rapid sun medium spreading 10-20' 8-10' many varieties for excellent fruiting - good for edible landscaping
Prunus serrulata JAPANESE CHERRY 6,7,8 D moderate sun to part shade medium upright with spreading branches 15-25' 15-20' excellent for spring color and fragrance
Punica granatum POMEGRANATE 7,8 D slow sun medium wide spreading 10-20' 10-15' good shrub-like plant tolerant of adverse conditions
Pyrus calleryana CALLERY PEAR 6,7,8 D rapid sun to part shade medium upright conical shape 20-40' 20-30' excellent street tree; 'Bradford' - better selection
Salix caprea PUSSY-WILLOW 6,7,8 D rapid sun to part shade fine slender trunk, spreading crown 12-25' 8-15' fast growing plant-tolerant of adverse conditions
Sorbus aucuparia EUROPEAN MOUNTAIN ASH 6,7 D rapid sun fine slender trunk, spreading crown 25-30' 20-25' ;very interesting fruit in late summer


Spec (Commercial Landscaping)
Horticultural Science

Publication date: Sept. 30, 1994

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