Which Small Evergreen Garden Trees to Plant

 In Gardening, Ornamental trees, Trees and Shrubs

Small Evergreen Garden Trees

If you’re wondering which small evergreen garden trees to plant in your garden, read on to see what I recommend!

Hoheria tree

Hoheria sexstylosa

Although we are fortunate in being able to grow a massive range of plants of every sort here in Britain when it comes to small evergreen garden trees, the choice seems limited.

But when you look more deeply there are plenty to choose from and evergreen trees are well worth planting!



They provide good foliage colour, flowers, berries and just so much interest in the garden throughout the year!



Topiary Trees

bay tree in a formal garden

Narrow leaf standard Bay Tree

There are good evergreen trees that lend themselves well to a regular pruning and so are popular subjects for topiary specimens.

This is one way of keeping an otherwise larger tree in check.

One only has to think of the ultimate height of a yew tree to see that, without pruning, this is going to be a tree which will fill the space in front gardens nowadays!

But yew, Portuguese laurel and bay laurel can grow into exceptionally beautiful specimen trees with regular clipping.

I am tempted to add olive trees to these which, with our warming climate, are increasingly being planted.

But, there is a grace to an un-pruned and natural olive tree and so, if there is space, perhaps these should be allowed to grow. When in need of pruning whole branches can be removed as they do in commercial plantations.

Of course holly trees can be pruned too. Most are so slow growing and for many years are just small trees in the garden. But they provide bright glossy leaf which can be green, silver or gold.

If you want your holly to bear berries then make certain that you plant a female variety. You’ll need a male tree somewhere in the neighbourhood too.

I’ve written about holly trees in more detail here.

Flowering Trees

A yellow flowered Acacia tree

Acacia pravissima

If you’d prefer a tree that produces flowers then Californian Lilac [Ceanothus] is a good choice for a sunny garden.

But beware, this is a tree that resents pruning so if you must prune, do it a little and often and always after the main spring flowering period.

Similarly the hardy wattle [Acacia pravissmia] isn’t keen on being pruned back. But the masses of scented yellow blooms in spring are simply spectacular! It is perhaps the hardiest ‘mimosa’ of all.






Some conifers grow into small trees and those that do are often slow growing.

And so it will pay to invest in a part grown larger specimen.

I would recommend planting one of the many junipers or pines rather than perhaps the more commonly planted conifer types. These ultimately have so much more character!


Top Worked Trees

Some trees are “top-worked” by nurserymen so as to offer more evergreen small trees.

Small Evergreen Garden Trees to Plant

Top Worked Euonymus

One of the best groups grown this way are the small leaf evergreen Euonymus.

Several varieties of Euonymus fortunei types make excellent very small trees and lots of these have bright cheery variegated foliage.



For great winter fruits that wildlife enjoy, then Cotoneaster has some serious contenders for you! Most are very suitable for a small garden.

The dramatically weeping Cotoneaster hybridus pendulus produces red berries every year. What is more the clusters of white spring blossoms are a hit with bees too.

Cotoneaster tree in a garden

Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ tree

Where there is more width, Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ or one of the watereri hybrids will provide evergreen screening too.

Although slow growing to start with, the Killarney Strawberry Tree develops into a great tree of character.

A strawberry tree will have shaggy bark as well as those strawberry-like fruits. Sadly they taste a lot less sweet than a real thing! Find out more about the use of these fruits here and a powerful alcoholic drink made in Portugal.

If berries and flowers are less important to you and you want quick results, look no further than Pittosporum! These shrubs rapidly grow into evergreen trees and have small shiny leaves, sometimes beautifully coloured. Their dark spring flowers are small, honey scented and almost hidden.


Cordyline Trees

Torbay palm tree, Cordyline

Torbay palm [Cordyline australis]

Is a Cordyline a tree or should it be regarded as a palm? [It’s actually not a palm but it is frequently called a Torbay palm]

Well it can grow into a small tree and here again its flowers are sweetly scented.

The strap-like long leaves will need to be removed when they die since they don’t readily drop off.

I recommend either tugging them off with a circular action around the trunk. Alternatively you could cut them off short and, when the base of the leaf has dried up, pull them off to reveal the smooth bark.

This is a good choice for a coastal or even a city garden. But beware that a really hard frost will damage a Cordyline.


A couple of my favourites

I’ve saved a couple of my favourite small evergreen garden trees to plant to last.

They are Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’ and Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’.

Both are relatively recent introductions and as yet are not widely planted.

Yellow blooms of Sophora

Sophora microphylla Sun King

The Sophora is from New Zealand and Chile but the selection ‘Sun King’ is a very garden worthy tree.

Some of the small leaves are probably going to be shed in very cold winters but in spring the tree is covered with large golden bell shaped blooms.

It’s a very showy small tree!

I’d much rather plant this than a Laburnum.








Small Evergreen Garden Trees to Plant, Magnolia tree in street

Magnolia grandiflora Little Gem

The ‘Little Gem’ magnolia is in all respects, a much smaller tree than the large growing evergreen bull bay magnolia.

Plant it in a warm and sunny place and it will produce lemon scented blooms with thick petals all summer long!

This is a tree that I am increasingly seeing planted close to roads where its canopy remains fairly upright and neat.


I hope that I’ve given you a few ideas of small evergreen garden trees to plant in your garden. There are many more but I hope that I’ve whetted your appetite!

Are there other small evergreen garden trees in your garden that I have over-looked?

Do you have plans to plant a small evergreen garden tree, and if so, which one?

More about Trees

I’ve written about some trees with good autumn colour here.

Although not evergreen birch trees are good garden trees. I’ve written about the National Collection here.

If you fancy making gardening or horticulture your chosen career then you might find what you are looking for here

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Cordon trained fruit trees on a wall