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Dwarf Plants for Small Spaces

Dwarf Plants for Small Spaces

How to Choose Dwarf Plants

When choosing plants for your small space there are a few things you need to know to ensure success.

  • Location – Too often plants outgrow their location because the mature size of the plant was not calculated. Choose a plant that will always fit in its designated area.
  • Light Requirements — This will be an issue if not taken into consideration. Some plants need a minimum of 6 hours sunlight per day to maintain their vibrant colour while others will only thrive in low light.

If you’re unsure about something, come talk to our team at the Garden Centre!

Dwarf Trees (125 cm – 4 m/4′ – 13′ Tall)

The most suitable trees for small spaces can also be very decorative.

  • Purpleleaf Sand Cherry (Standard) – has purple foliage all season and fragrant flowers in May.
  • Weeping Pussywillow and Weeping Peashrubs – have graceful trailing branches that “weep” to the ground.
  • Cranberry Cotoneaster Tree – has a round, arching form and attractive, small red berries in fall.
  • Peegee Hydrangea – produces large, cone-shaped blooms in late summer to autumn.
  • Dwarf Lilac (standard) – has perfect globular form and produces mauve flowers in May. It never requires pruning.almond tree blossom
  • Flowering Almond – produces masses of double pink blossoms in the spring
  • Fragrant Snowball – is remembered for its large, very fragrant, white flowers.

Shrubs (40 cm -150 cm/16″ – 5′ Tall)

Consider a Dwarf flowering shrub. They will add colour and contrasting texture.

  • Dwarf Fragrant Viburnum, Nikko Slender Deutzia, Dwarf Lilac, Miniature Snowflake Mock Orange, and Carol Mackie Daphne. Almost all Potentillas and Spireas make good choices for a small garden.
  • If you would like a shrub with showy coloured leaves, look into the Cutleaf Japanese Maple (red), Goldmound Spirea (lime green), or Goldflame Spirea which leafs out orange-red in spring, turns light green for summer, and goes back to orange-red for fall.
  • Dwarf Burningbush is grown specifically for its scarlet red colour in autumn. The branches also have unusual “winged” bark to peak interest in the winter.


There are a few good choices for upright, slow-growing evergreens.

  • Dwarf Alberta Spruce
  • Adams Columnar Yewfir
  • Sargents Weeping Hemlock
  • Bristlecone Pine

For a miniature tree-like appearance consider a grafted standard.

  • Globe Blue Spruce
  • Dwarf White Pine
  • Euonymus

Many evergreens and broadleaf evergreens grow in a natural round form without trimming. These include:

  • Little Giant Globe Cedar
  • Dwarf Mugho Pine
  • Globe Blue
  • Nest Spruce
  • Jeddeloh Dwarf Hemlock
  • Green Gem and Green Velvet Boxwood

If you’d like a low evergreen hedge look no further than the Green Mound Boxwood. If you are looking for a dwarf evergreen with irregular form consider the Dwarf Hinoki or the Golden Dwarf False Cypress.


Perennials can be used in small spaces as long as care is taken to select non-spreading varieties. Many will grow well in a restricted space. Consider the following:

  • Alpine Columbine
  • Fern-leaf Bleeding Heart
  • Bergenia
  • Dwarf Bellflower

dwarf bellflower

  • Coral Bell
  • Stella d’Oro Daylily
  • Blue Elf Delphinium
  • Primula
  • Dwarf Hosta
  • Pinks
  • Thrift
  • Liriope
  • Dwarf Iris
  • Silver Mound Artemisia

The smaller Ornamental Grasses create contrast in the perennial garden with their different textures and forms. Consider these interesting choices:

  • Black Mondo Grass
  • Blue Sedge
  • Blue Fescue
  • Golden Variegated Hakonechloa
  • Japanese Blood Grass

japanese maple

How to Design with Dwarf Plants

Whether designing on a small or large scale, always follow the same principles of balance, proportion, repetition, and variety of form, interesting texture, and a cohesive colour scheme.

In a small space, don’t use *too* many different plants and colours or the area will end up looking busy and cramped. To create the illusion of more space, consider a change in elevation. For a small backyard, you may wish to design two or three levels with steps between, giving the appearance of garden “rooms”. Use layering in the garden to create the interest. For example, under plant Golden Dwarf False Cypress with Blue Chip Juniper, so it emerges from a low blue carpet of a contrasting evergreen texture. You could also under plant a Weeping Japanese Maple with Burgundy Glow Bugleweed.

With a little planning, a small area can be transformed into a collective garden of unusual plants of varying form, colour, and texture. As you choose slow-growing plants that are right for your garden (remember the two key considerations are mature size and light requirements), you will have created a low maintenance garden that you can enjoy for years to come.