Favorite Small Trees for Spring Color
Ahh, Spring; the earth re-awakening, birds singing, bees buzzing and flowers blooming. While the first tender spring blooms emerge from the melting snow, the real spring showstoppers are the small trees that fill the air with clouds of color.
The best flowering trees offer more than one season of interest though, they provide colorful fruit to birds, cast dappled shade, offer fall color, then interesting bark and structure in the winter months. Best of all, they often survive in the difficult conditions – part shade, dry soil – available in the understory. Here is a succession of small flowering trees for spring color and beyond.
Witch Hazel – This subtle beauty blooms in late winter. The yellow thread-like petals of its flowers offer a golden sunlit glow to the barren landscape, place them along a path where their delicate beauty can be appreciated and you will be rewarded with unexpected fragrance as well. In fall this native treasure performs its second act: scene-stealing fall color in vibrant red, orange and yellow.
Redbud – Most people couldn’t pick this tree from a line-up all year but when it blooms they certainly know it. Striking pink to lavender buds outline each of its dark brown branches in a display of defiance. After the bloom, it is easily recognizable by its large heart-shaped leaves. If that isn’t enough for you, choose a variety such as Forrest Pansy which maintains a burgundy leaf.
Service Berry – lesser-known but one of the earliest to bloom, in frothy white blossoms, this little tree is a dependable work-horse. Early season flowers give way to tasty blueberry-like fruit enjoyed by birds, brilliant fall color and sculptural smooth gray bark.
Crabapple – An old-fashioned favorite, this multi-purpose tree can overwhelm a small yard with its prolific display of spring flowers, wild tangle of branches and abundance of medium-sized fall fruit attracting wildlife into the winter. It is also prone to disease causing leaf discoloration and drop. However, it is tough as nails and makes a statement in a larger yard.
Dogwood – Beloved and instantly recognizable this classic favorite is available in white and pink native varieties or the faintly chartreuse Kousa. The indigenous species blooms early and gives tiered layers of bloom as well as spectacular fall color. It is plagued by several diseases but tenacious and giving until its last breath. Its imported cousin blooms later and exhibits a more upright habit when young. As it matures though the bark sheds, offering a unique mottled effect.
Thanks to its abundant moisture, early spring is a good time to plant small trees, just be sure to maintain waterings after the rainy season. While flowering trees make excellent specimens, they also look lovely when planted in groves which mimic a natural effect. If you have the room, consider planting I groups of three or more in different sizes.
No matter how you use them, include native trees in your landscape for spring and beyond.