Plant Clinic

Small trees perfect for little front yard


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Q. I have a little front yard where I want to plant a small tree. First of all, it must only grow to about 10 - 15 feet high, and 10-12 feet wide. Second, I would like the tree to be evergreen and carry flowers. Does this wonder tree exist?

M.R., Miami

Almost all trees in South Florida are evergreen or are briefly deciduous. You can choose a tree species that naturally stays small or you can prune it to keep it small. And tall-growing shrubs can be pruned to form a single trunk so that it looks more like a tree.

The flowering tree vera wood ( Bulnesia arborea) is fairly slow-growing and can be kept small by pruning every few years. The leaves are naturally dark green and evergreen. This tree produces copious amounts of buttercup-yellow flowers in the spring, summer and fall. It can be breathtaking when flowering. It’s also drought-tolerant and usually doesn’t require fertilizer.

Some of the native shrubs such as the stoppers produce edible fruit for birds and interesting flowers. They can be trained as small trees.

Other plants to consider are sweet acacia, cinecord, carambola, angel’s trumpet, locustberry, Jamaica caper, cassia, yellow geiger, white geiger, Snow-bush ( Euphorbia leucocephala), West Indian fire-bush ( Hamelia cuprea), fire-bush, tropical lilac ( Lonchocarpus violaceus), tabebuia and others.

Small trees should be planted at least 15 feet from the house and utility lines.

For a listing of small trees, visit Click on “publications” and look for “Small trees for Miami-Dade landscapes”.

Adrian Hunsberger is an entomologist/horticulturist with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension office. Write to Plant Clinic, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead, FL 33030; e-mail

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