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Best trees to plant in a small garden

Small tree in garden

Many gardens in South Africa are small and easy to care for. However, these yards are not suitable for large trees; the massive roots will inevitably damage walls, building foundations and underground pipe systems. Some large trees can also shed their branches in a storm, which poses a serious threat to surrounding homes.

Trees require little maintenance, besides watering and the occasional pruning. They also attract birds and pollinating insects, making a garden more lively and vibrant. This makes them perfect for busy homeowners who like to relax in the garden on weekends. IWESCO offers one-off or routine garden maintenance services. We can keep your plants, trees and lawns looking lush.

If you’re wanting some more shade in a small garden, there are a number of perfect trees that you can plant. Ideally, homeowners should plant indigenous species that require less water. Then, surrounding walls, pavements, foundations and underground pipes need to be taken into account when choosing a place to plant a small tree. Ignoring these factors can lead to costly repairs and damages at a later stage.

Top trees to plant in small gardens

1. Pompom tree (Dais cotinifolia) - This is a beautiful indigenous tree that blooms with pink ball-shaped florets. These pom pom-like flowers comprise many small clove-shaped petals, hence the name. It grows quite fast and can reach heights of up to 10 metres. Typically, the Pompom tree will grow to seven metres. When it blooms, it becomes an eye-catching centrepiece for any small garden.

2. Wild pear (Dombeya rotundifolia) - Like the Pompom tree, the Wild pear grows a beautiful bloom of white orb-shaped florets. It is an indigenous species that can grow up to 10 metres and is fully deciduous (losing its leaves in the winter). It blooms from July to October and will certainly create a stunning display in your garden - attracting bees, butterflies and nectar-feeding birds in the process. Its roots are not much of a threat to buildings and walls, making it an ideal choice for a small garden.

Wild pear tree flowers
Wild pear tree ©Consultaplantas

3. False olive (Buddleja saligna) - This is a very popular tree in South African gardens due to its rapid growth rate. It can reach a height of four metres within a couple of years, providing good shade and screening from neighbours. The False olive has a heavy bloom of delicate little white flowers which can weigh the branches down. This means that it requires a bit more care and should be pruned once a year. The lower branches can be trimmed and the tree can be shaped easily.

4. Lavender tree (Heteropyxis natalensis) - The Lavender tree is semi-deciduous and has pale, patchy bark and often grows in an ornamental shape. It grows more slowly than the other trees in this list, but it is worth the wait. The Lavender tree is truly a beautiful specimen, even when not in bloom. This makes it a great choice for small gardens as it can be a centrepiece in its own right.

Lavender tree
Lavender tree ©Paul Venter

5. River indigo (Indigofera jacunda) - This small tree typically grows between two and four metres tall, making it similar to a tall shrub. It is an ideal species for a very small garden with limited space. It sheds some of its leaves in winter and grows small tubular pods. The beautiful lance-like florets vary in colour between pink and white, attracting many insects and pollinators to the garden. It grows quickly and so needs regular pruning. The branches may break off in heavy thunderstorms, so avoid planting River indigo near delicate garden features or breakable garden furniture.

6. White pear (Apodytes dimidiata) - The White pear tree grows at a medium pace and is an evergreen plant with dense foliage. This makes it an ideal screening tree that can reach heights of up to eight metres. It grows small, bean-like black seeds with a red or orange casing. This tree does not pose a threat to building foundations or paving, making it perfect for small gardens.

White pear tree
White pear tree ©Abu Shawka

These are just a few of the many indigenous trees that can be planted in small spaces. They are often easy to care for and make beautiful additions to gardens. IWESCO can take care of the pruning of these trees during our garden maintenance visits. Our staff members are well-trained in the use of gardening equipment and have sound knowledge of plant species too. For an obligation-free quote or to set up an online assessment, please do not hesitate to contact us today.


IWESCO offers specialised cleaning and waste control services to industrial and commercial customers in South Africa. These services are aimed at minimising our customers’ impact on the environment. Our services also include pest control, garden maintenance, fogging and disinfecting. Our staff are highly trained to offer the most professional services. IWESCO is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with ISO 14001 certification for environmental management.

We are a one-stop shop for all your contract cleaning and waste control needs and have a national footprint. Our head office is located in Tshwane but we can provide services to any industrial and commercial client in the major metropolitan areas around South Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mbombela and more.

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