Revised 9/93 -- Author Reviewed 4/96


M.A. (Kim) Powell
Extension Horticultural Specialist
Department of Horticultural Science
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State University

We depend on plants to solve our functional and aesthetic needs in various landscape situations. A popular group of plants being recommended and used in modern landscapes is intermediate and small-sized trees. The trees in this category mature to a particular size and are quite "well-behaved" in the landscape. Generally, the trees, both evergreen and deciduous, mature to a height of 35 feet or less.

When specifying any plant material, one or more particular landscape characteristic is considered. For example, leaf texture, flower color, bark patterns and canopy form are all important, but the one common denominator for this group is size. Quite often this could be the most important determining factor in plant selection.

Intermediate or small ornamental trees can be planted because of their low maintenance requirements. Most require little pruning and with many being native species to North Carolina, they are quite tolerant to a wide range of climatic conditions, soils, insects and diseases.

Selecting "foundation plants" can be troublesome for many people as overplanting and overgrown plants are common problems. These trees can be implemented into many designs and planted as close to 6-7 feet of the foundation. The design can be complemented by underplanting with a ground cover or mulching with some type organic matter.

Several trees are tolerant to various degrees of shade and can thus be planted as understory trees for both beauty and screening. Urban landscapes often demand trees to grow in a restricted rootzone area or planter. Most are recommended for these areas as the root systems are more tolerant than full-sized shade trees.

The multi-trunk trees are becoming a familiar landscape characteristic. This added dimension to design is very helpful in creating a focal point.

Listed below are several intermediate or small-sized trees recommended for N.C.

Scientific name                         Common name
Acer palmatum                           Japanese Maple
Albizia julibrissin                     Mimosa
Betula Nigra                            River Birch
Cercis canadensis                       Eastern Redbud
Cornus florida                          Dogwood
Cotinus coggygria                       Smoke Tree
Crataegus spp.                          Hawthorne
Diospyros kaki                          Ornamental Persimmon
Eriobotrya japonica                     Loquat
Ilex opaca                              American Holly
Koelreuteria paniculata                 Goldenrain Trees
Laburnum anagyroides                    Golden Chain Tree
Lagerstroemia indica                    Crapemyrtle
Magnolia soulangeana                    Saucer Magnolia
Magnolia stellata                       Star Magnolia
Malus spp.                              Crabapple
Oxydendrum arboreum                     Sourwood
Pistachia chinensis                     Chinese Pistachio
Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea'        Purple Leaf Plum
Prunus serrulata                        Japanese Cherry
Pyrus calleryana                        Callery Pear
Sorbus aucuparia                        Mountain Ash
An acceptable horticultural practice for some overgrown evergreen shrubs is pruning to create a "tree-form". Generally, this is accomplished by selectively pruning lower branches to expose the main trunk(s), thus creating an evergreen tree 15-25 feet in height. These shrubs are commonly pruned into tree-form.
Scientific name                         Common name
Ilex cornuda Burfordi                   Burford Holly
Ligustrum lucidum                       Ligustrum
Camellia japonica                       Camilla
Camellia sasanqua                       Sasanqua
Myrica cerifera                         Waxmyrtle
Be certain the particular tree is climatically adaptable to your area in N.C.

Published by
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.