Small Trees for St. Louis
by Ronda Anson

Following is a wide selection of small trees recommended for the St. Louis area. Several are native Missouri species or nativars (cultivars of Missouri native trees). Others are excellent, non-invasive exotics. All should perform well in St. Louis if planted in a suitable location.

These trees should mature at roughly 30 feet or less. Some of the shortest may indeed be more shrub than tree depending on how they are pruned when young. Some grow well as a multiple-stemmed tree. Expected size is listed with each tree.

To learn what conditions each tree requires, click on the Latin name of the plant (orange text) for more information. Many of these trees were voted "Tried and Trouble-free" by six or more area professionals and should be easy to find at local nurseries. Several are "Plants of Merit." All have or are currently performing well at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Come and take a look at them. Although some may be harder to find, they are worth the search.

Native plant enthusiasts may wish to consult another of our visual guides: "Native Trees for Missouri Landscapes."

To learn how to position trees in Missouri landscapes to get the most benefit from their shade, see the University of Missouri Extension Guidesheet: G6900 "Tree Placement on Home Grounds" And for planting instructions consult the University of Missouri Extension Guidesheet: G6850 "How to Plant a Tree."

Acer buergerianum
Trident maple
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 20-30' tall, 20-30' wide
Fall color: Dark red and orange

Other notable characteristics: Exfoliating bark on mature trunks

Acer campestre
Hedge maple
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals

Average size: 25-35' tall, 25-35' wide

Other notable characteristics: May be pruned to form a tall hedge
Acer griseum
Paperbark maple
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 11 professionals

Average size: 20-30' tall, 15-25' wide
Fall color: Orange to red

Other notable characteristics: Stunning cinnamon-colored peeling bark
Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'
Japanese maple
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 11 professionals

Average size: 15-20' tall, 15-20' wide
Fall color: Crimson-red

Other notable characteristics: Deep reddish-purple summer foliage
Acer palmatum 'Germaine's Gyration'
Japanese maple

Average size: 15-20' tall, 15-20' wide
Fall color: Yellow-orange-red

Other notable characteristics: Bright green, deeply lobed leaves--similar to cutleaf Japanese maples / excellent sun tolerance / a spreading mound of twisting branches
Acer palmatum 'Trompenburg'
Japanese maple

Average size: 15-25' tall, 10-20' wide
Fall color: Showy crimson-red

Other notable characteristics: Reddish purple, deeply lobed leaves--similar to cutleaf Japanese maples / excellent sun tolerance

Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Crimson Queen'
Cutleaf Japanese maple
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals

Average size: 8-10' tall, 10-12' wide
Fall color: Bright red

Other notable characteristics: Red dissected (cutleaf / laceleaf) foliage / retains color throughout the summer / attractive weeping, cascading habit
Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Tamukeyama'
Cutleaf Japanese maple
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals

Average size: 6-8' tall, 8-12' wide
Fall color: Yellow, red, orange

Other notable characteristics: Deep reddish-purple lacey foliage / retains color throughout summer / attractive weeping, cascading habit

Acer triflorum
Three-flowered maple
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals

Average size: 25-30' tall, 25-30' wide
Fall color: Spectacular, vibrant shades of orange to red

Other notable characteristics: Beautiful exfoliating bark

Acer truncatum
Shantung maple
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals

Average size: 20-25' tall, 15-20' wide
Fall color: Attractive shades of yellow and orange, sometime with purples and reds mixed in

Other notable characteristics: Good heat and drought tolerance when mature

Amelanchier canadensis
Amelanchier canadensis and/or Amelanchier arborea
Serviceberry
Missouri native
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 9 professionals

Average size: 25-30' tall, 15-20' wide
Fall color: Orange-red
Flowers: Showy, white in April to May
Fruit: Edible berries (juneberries) resemble blueberries in look and taste and are relished by birds

Other notable characteristics: These two species are sometimes confused in the trade and sold as each other.
Amelanchier × grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance'
Apple serviceberry
Nativar
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 11 professionals

Average size: 15-25' tall, 15-25' wide
Fall color: Brilliant orange-red
Flowers: Showy, white in April
Fruit: Edible berries (juneberries) resemble blueberries in look and taste and are relished by birds
Betula nigra 'Little King' FOX VALLEY
River birch
Nativar
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals

Average size: 8-10' tall, 9-12' wide
Fall color: Yellow

Other notable characteristics: Orange to brown exfoliating bark
Carpinus caroliniana
American hornbeam
Missouri native
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 20-35' tall, 20-35' wide
Fall color: Respectable shades of yellow, orange and red

Other notable characteristics: Smooth, gray trunk and larger branches of a mature tree exhibit a distinctive muscle-like fluting / distinctive clusters of winged nutlets
Cercis canadensis
Eastern redbud
Missouri native
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 9 professionals

Average size: 20-30' tall, 25-35' wide
Fall color: Pale yellow to greenish-yellow
Flowers: Showy pink clusters in April
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'
Eastern redbud
Nativar
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals

Average size: 20-30' tall, 25-35' wide
Fall color: Shades of reddish-purple and orange (variable)
Flowers: Showy pink clusters in April

Other notable characteristics: Purple-leaved cultivar of the popular Missouri native redbud tree
Cercis canadensis f. alba 'Royal White'
Eastern redbud
Nativar
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals

Average size: 15-25' tall, 15-25' wide
Fall color: Pale yellow to greenish-yellow
Flowers: Showy white clusters in April

Other notable characteristics: White-flowered cultivar of the popular Missouri native redbud tree
Chionanthus virginicus
Fringetree
Missouri native
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 10 professionals

Average size: 12-20' tall, 12-20' wide
Fall color: Yellow
Flowers: Fringe-like, creamy white petals; slightly fragrant
Fruit: Olive-like fruits (food for birds and wildlife)
Cornus alternifolia
Pagoda dogwood
Missouri native

Average size: 15-25' tall, 20-32' wide
Fall color: Reddish-purple, often tinted yellow or green
Flowers: Small, fragrant, yellowish-white flowers
Fruits: Bluish-black on red stalks (food for birds and wildlife)
Cornus florida
Flowering dogwood
Missouri native
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 15-30' tall, 15-30' wide
Fall color: Attractive shades of red
Flowers: Showy white bracts April-May
Fruits: Inedible small, bright red / relished by birds
Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief'
Flowering dogwood
Nativar
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals

Average size: 15-30' tall, 15-30' wide
Fall color: Attractive shades of red
Flowers: Showy rose-red bracts April-May
Fruits: Inedible small, bright red / relished by birds

Other notable characteristics: New foliage is tinged with red
Cornus florida 'Cherokee Princess'
Flowering dogwood
Nativar
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals

Average size: 15-30' tall, 15-30' wide
Fall color: Attractive shades of red
Flowers: Showy white bracts April-May
Fruits: Inedible small, bright red / relished by birds

Other notable characteristics: Noted for its consistently early and heavy bloom of flowers with large white bracts
Cornus florida 'Cloud Nine'
Flowering dogwood
Nativar
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals

Average size: 15-30' tall, 15-30' wide
Fall color: Rust red
Flowers: Showy white bracts April-May
Fruits: Inedible small, bright red / relished by birds

Other notable characteristics: Noted for its showy overlapping white bracts and its abundant flowering
Cornus florida 'Comco No. 1' CHEROKEE BRAVE
Flowering dogwood
Nativar
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 15-30' tall, 25-35' wide
Fall color: Attractive shades of red
Flowers: Red bracts fading to white in the center
Fruits: Inedible small, bright red / relished by birds

Other notable characteristics: New foliage is tinged with red
Cornus kousa
Kousa dogwood
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals

Average size: 15-30' tall, 15-30' wide
Fall color: Reddish-purple to scarlet in autumn
Flowers: Showy white bracts in May-June
Fruits: Large bright red raspberry-like / edible (food for birds and wildlife)

Other notable characteristics: Mottled, exfoliating, tan and gray bark on mature trees
Cornus kousa var. chinensis
Chinese dogwood
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals

Average size: 15-30' tall, 15-30' wide
Fall color: Vibrant red
Flowers: Showy white bracts / later than C. florida
Fruits: Large bright red raspberry-like / edible (food for birds and wildlife)

Other notable characteristics: Branches take on a layered habit / mottled bark very rich with grey, green spots
Cornus mas 'Golden Glory'
Cornelian cherry dogwood
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 15-20' tall, 15-20' wide
Flowers: Yellow
Fruits: Edible cherry red fruits in mid-summer

Other notable characteristics: Fruits may be used for making syrups and preserves
Cotinus obovatus
American smoke tree
Missouri native
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals

Average size: 15-30' tall, 15-30' wide
Fall color: Red, orange and reddish purple
Flowers: Long-lasting, fluffy, hazy, smoke-like puffs May-June
Euonymus atropurpureus
Eastern wahoo
Missouri native
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals

Average size: 12-20' tall, 15-25' wide
Fall color: Dull red to greenish red
Fruits: Attractive scarlet red fruits in autumn (food for birds and wildlife)

Other notable characteristics: Grown for its attractive red berries and fall color
Halesia diptera (Magniflora Group)
Silverbell tree
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 1 professional

Average size: 20-30' tall, 20-30'
Fall color: Yellow
Flowers: Showy clusters of bell-shaped white flowers
Fruits: Flattened two-winged fruits that ripen in fall

Other notable characteristics: Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant Award winner in 1995.
Hamamelis vernalis
Ozark witch hazel
Missouri native
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals

Average size: 6-10' tall, 8-15'
Fall color: Golden yellow fall color
Flowers: Yellow with red inner calyx, fragrant, January-March
Heptacodium miconioides
Seven-son flower
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals

Average size: 15-20' tall, 8-10' wide
Flowers: Clusters of fragrant, white flowers in late summer to early fall
Fruit: Flowers are followed in fall by an equally showy (if not showier) purplish-red fruits crowned by five very showy, rose red calyces which elongate after bloom and last into late fall

Other notable characteristics: Butterfly & hummingbird magnet / tan bark exfoliates to reveal attractive brown inner bark
Magnolia 'Butterflies'
Magnolia
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals

Average size: 15-20' tall, 10-15' wide
Flowers: Showy yellow, Fragrant
Magnolia 'Elizabeth'
Magnolia
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals

Average size: 20-35' tall, 12-20' wide
Flowers: Showy yellow, Fragrant
Magnolia grandiflora 'Bracken's Brown Beauty'
Southern magnolia
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 10 professionals

Average size: 20-30' tall, 15-25' wide
Fall color: Evergreen
Flowers: Showy white, Fragrant
Fruit: Rosy colored cone-like fruiting clusters in late summer

Other notable characteristics: Leathery evergreen leaves are glossy dark green above and rusty-brown beneath, lending a bi-color appearance to the foliage

'Ann'


'Betty'


'Jane'


'Randy'


'Ricki'
Magnolia (Little Girl Series)

‘Ann’ (may be more shrub than tree)
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals
Average size: 8-10' tall, 8-12' wide
Fall color: Yellow
Flowers: Purple-red, slightly fragrant


‘Betty’
Average size: 10-15' tall, 8-12' wide
Fall color: Yellow to bronze-copper tones
Flowers: Large reddish-purple flowers with white interiors
Foliage: Leaves emerge with copper-red tints in spring, turn dark green by late spring

'Jane'
Average size: 10-15' tall, 8-12' wide
Fall color: Yellow to bronze-copper tones
Flowers: Reddish-purple with white inside
Foliage: Leaves emerge with copper-red tints in spring, turn dark green by late spring

‘Randy’
Average size: 10-15' tall, 8-12' wide
Fall color: Yellow to bronze-copper
Flowers: Reddish-purple with pink-white tones inside, fragrant

‘Ricki’
Average size: 8-12' tall, 8-12' wide
Fall color: Yellow to bronze-copper
Flowers: Reddish-purple, fragrant
Winter interest: Stunning silhouette

Another excellent but shrubby cultivar in this series is 'Susan'.

Other notable characteristics: Plants in this series flower about 2-4 weeks later than M. stellata and M. x soulangiana, thus reducing the risk of damage to flowers from late spring frosts.
Magnolia × loebneri 'Merrill'
Magnolia
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals

Average size: 20-30' tall, 20-30' wide
Flowers: Showy white with pink blush, fragrant
Magnolia stellata
Star magnolia
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals

Average size: 15-20' tall, 10-15' wide
Flowers: Showy white, fragrant
Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star'
Star magnolia
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 10 professionals

Average size: 10-20' tall, 8-15' wide
Flowers: Showy white, fragrant

Other notable characteristics: Blooms about 2 weeks later than the species, so less susceptible to frost damage
Magnolia virginiana
Sweetbay magnolia
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 10-35' tall, 10-35' wide
Fall color: Showy cone-like fruits with bright red seeds in fall
Flowers: Showy white, fragrant
Magnolia virginiana var. australis
Sweetbay magnolia
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 15-20' tall, 12-16' wide
Fall color: Showy cone-like fruits with bright red seeds in fall
Flowers: Showy white, fragrant

Other notable characteristics: May reach 60' in the deep South / shiny green foliage with silvery underside / flowers more fragrant than M. virginiana
Malus 'JFS-KW5' ROYAL RAINDROPS
Flowering crabapple
Plant of Merit

Average size: 15-20' tall, 15-20' wide
Fall color: Excellent orange-red
Flowers: Magenta-pink
Fruits: Tiny maroon-red crabapples (food for birds and wildlife)

Other notable characteristics: Disease-resistant / purple foliage /
Malus 'Mary Potter'
Flowering crabapple
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 3 professionals

Average size: 10-15' tall, 15-20' wide
Flowers: Reddish-pink buds open to fragrant, white flowers
Fruits: Small, glossy, red crabapples in the fall (food for birds and wildlife)

Other notable characteristics: Moderate disease resistance
Malus 'Prairifire'
Flowering crabapple
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 11 professionals

Average size: 15-20' tall, 15-20' wide
Fall color: Leaf veins and petioles turn orangish in autumn
Flowers: Slightly fragrant, deep pink-red flowers
Fruits: Small, purplish-red crabapples in the fall (food for birds and wildlife)

Other notable characteristics: Leaves emerge purplish in spring, mature to dark green with reddish-tinged leaf veins and petioles in summer
Malus 'Sutyzam' SUGAR TYME
Flowering crabapple
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 11 professionals

Average size: 14-18' tall, 11-15' wide
Fall color: Leaf veins and petioles turn orangish
Flowers: Fragrant, pale pink buds; white flowers
Fruits: Masses of small, glossy, red crabapples (food for birds and wildlife)



Prunus 'Snofozam' SNOW FOUNTAINS
Weeping higan cherry
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals

Average size: 8-15' tall, 6-8' wide
Fall color: Attractive shades of gold and orange
Flowers: Pure white in early spring
Fruits: Small, sparse, black, inedible fruits

Other notable characteristics: Naturally weeping habit / attractive to birds & butterflies / extremely short-lived / susceptible to many diseases and insect pests/ needs excellent drainage to survive / listed here only because of its incredible beauty and small size (making it easier and less costly than a larger tree to remove when it dies)
Stewartia pseudocamellia
Japanese stewartia
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 12-40' tall, 8-25' wide
Fall color: Shades of reddish-orange and burgundy
Flowers: Camellia-like white flowers with showy orange-yellow anthers

Other notable characteristics: Exfoliating, reddish-brown bark
Styrax japonicus (Benibana Group) 'Pink Chimes'
Snowbell
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals

Average size: 15-25' tall, 15-25' wide
Flowers: Pink, showy, fragrant

Other notable characteristics: Wide spreading horizontal branches which tend to weep at maturity / gray bark fissures on older trees revealing an attractive orange inner layer
Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk'
Japanese tree lilac
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals

Average size: 20-25' tall, 15-20' wide
Flowers: Creamy white, fragrant / later than most other species of lilac (late May to early June in St. Louis)

Other notable characteristics: Attractive reddish-brown bark
Syringa reticulata subsp. pekinensis
Chinese tree lilac
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 1 professional

Average size: 15-20' tall, 10-15' wide
Flowers: Showy, fragrant, yellowish-white

Other notable characteristics: Reddish-brown bark furrowed and ridged on some species plants, but exfoliates attractively on others
Viburnum prunifolium
Blackhaw viburnum
Missouri native
Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 3 professionals

Average size: 12-15' tall (sometimes 30'), 6-12' wide
Fall color: Shades of red and purple
Flowers: White
Fruit: Blue-black, berry-like, edible (food for birds and wildlife)