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  • Writer's pictureMartin Ford

Top Trees of Striking Form Under 10 Metres for Urban Home Landscapes (Zone 5)

Our ‘Top Trees’ series highlights Martin’s favourite trees under 10 metres for use in urban home landscapes. This month, we showcase some very unique trees that are sure to stand out and make an impression!

All noted trees are 10 metres or less in height at maturity, designated for Zone 5 (or under), and are native to, or naturalized within, Ontario.


Medium (10m high x 6m wide)

Katsura ‘Red Fox’(Cercidiphylum japonicum)

A beautiful tree with full, rounded form. They are made most notable by their constantly changing leaf colour: they emerge reddish-purple in the spring, mature to a medium green through the summer, and turn gold, orange and yellow in fall. This is a tree which has a ‘solid’ presence as its silhouette shows a consistently even outline.

  • This purple-leaved cultivar is a beautiful tree with 'solid’ presence as its silhouette shows a consistently even outline

  • Full rounded form + compact habit, excellent for small spaces

  • Multi-season appeal, most notable for attractive foliage: heart-shaped leaves that change colour every season + a 'sweet & spicy' fragrance in fall. Leaves are especially attractive when backlit by the sun

Image credits: 1. NetPS Plant Finder; 2-3. Missouri Botanical Garden

Cercidiphyllum japonicum, commonly called katsura tree, is native to Japan and China.

‘Red Fox’ is a purple-leaved cultivar, grown for its beautiful shape and attractive, fragrant foliage.

Heart-shaped leaves are highly ornamental. Although not aromatic, fallen autumn leaves have been described as smelling of cinnamon, burnt sugar or ripe apples.

Deciduous, single or multi-trunked, understory tree with a dense, rounded habit that typically matures to 40-60’ tall in cultivation, but can reach 100’ or more in nature.

Zone, Growing Conditions & Requirements

Zones 4 to 8. Sun: Full sun to part shade. Medium water, low maintenance.

Highlights & Design Tips

  • Compact habit makes it excellent for smaller spaces

  • Responds well to thoughtful pruning which will encourage a majestic winter silhouette · Shaggy brown bark adds an interesting dimension to the landscape

  • Garden Uses: Small specimen shade tree or street tree

  • Location/ Cultivation: Best grown in a woodland setting; the leaves may be damaged by late frosts

  • Suggested planting locations & uses: Small specimen shade or street tree; low maintenance, architectural, city & courtyard gardens, patio & container plants

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Genus name comes from the Greek words kerkis meaning redbud or Judas tree and phyllon meaning a leaf for its appearance to redbud (Cercis)

  • Specific epithet means 'of Japan'

  • ‘Rotfuchs’ translates from German to English as red fox

Sources + more info:

1. Connon Nurseries

2. Oregon State Horticulture


Medium (10m h x 8m w)

Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)

This is a go-to tree when looking for spring interest. The redbud is a small to medium sized tree that brings clusters of rosy-pink to pinky-purple blossom in the spring; definitely photo worthy. With its elegant form, its trunk often splits into many thin branches that form irregular patterns, reminiscent of a Japanese maple. A beautifully gentle green heart-shaped leaf can be as large as 6” across and when in active growth, forms lovely, arching branches which are lovely to sit under.

  • Stunning & fragrant pea-like rose-purple flowers bloom profusely on bare branches in early spring before foliage emerges

  • Deciduous, often multi-trunked, understory tree with a rounded crown

  • Design: Specimen or small groups; lawns, woodlands, shrub borders, or along patios. Attractive in naturalized settings

  • Extremely valuable to pollinators & native wildlife

Image credits (clockwise, from left): 1-2. Missouri Botanical Garden; 3, 4, 5. Walter Muma - Ontario Trees

Cercis canadensis, commonly called eastern redbud, is a deciduous, often multi-trunked understory tree with a rounded crown that typically matures to 20-30’ tall with a slightly larger spread. It is particularly noted for its stunning pea-like rose-purple flowers which bloom profusely on bare branches in early spring (March-April) before the foliage emerges.

Zone, Growing Conditions & Requirements

Zones 4 to 8. Full sun to part shade. Medium water; low maintenance.

Habitat: Forests, fields and open areas.

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Part shade is best in hot summer climates. Performs best in moderately fertile soils with regular and consistent moisture. Avoid wet or poorly drained soils. Since this tree does not transplant well, it should be planted when young and left undisturbed.

Highlights & Design Tips

Suggested Use: Specimen or small groups. Lawns, shrub borders, woodland margins, or along patios. Street tree or lawn tree. Attractive in naturalized settings

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Specific epithet is in reference to Canada (southern Ontario) being part of the native range of this tree

  • Genus name comes from the Greek word kerkis meaning weaver’s shuttle in reference to the resemblance of each seed pod to a weaver’s shuttle

Problems: Canker can be a significant disease problem. Verticillium wilt, dieback, leaf spots, mildew and blights may also occur. Insect pests include Japanese beetles, tree hoppers, leaf hoppers, caterpillars, borers, webworms and scale. Keeping the tree vigorous by regular watering and fertilization and by pruning out dead branches as needed will help keep the tree healthy.

Sources + more info:


Medium to Large (10m high x 6m wide)

Pendula’ Weeping Nootka False Cypress(Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)

An evergreen with arching limbs which have a lovely reaching, curving form so that their foliage falls gracefully like a waterfall towards the ground. They give beauty to our landscapes in every season and are happy to be the focal point of a design, or set near other evergreens to provide context and contrast. Also little maintenance is needed.

  • Pyramidal evergreen with open habit, arching limbs + lovely reaching, curving form so that its foliage falls gracefully, like a waterfall, towards the ground

  • A beauty in every season, its dark grey-green foliage retains colour throughout winter; shaggy Indian-red bark adds interesting dimension

  • Use as a focal point or set near other evergreens for context + contrast

  • Dramatic accent

Image credits: 1. American Conifer Society; 2-3. Monrovia

One of the most beautiful of the weeping conifers for dramatically accenting the landscape. This native selection thrives in cool, humid summer climates with above average rainfall. Evergreen.

Zone, Growing Conditions & Requirements

Zone 5a; native to North America. Fairly low maintenance. Pruning is not necessary but keeps the tree at a manageable height. Grows to an average of 10m (32’) tall at maturity, and is suitable for planting under power lines. Under ideal conditions, it can be expected to live for 70 years or more.

Prefers full sun to partial shade; average to moist conditions, and shouldn't be allowed to dry out. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is quite intolerant of urban pollution and benefits from being planted in a relatively sheltered location; street-side plantings are best avoided.

Highlights & Design Tips

The Weeping Nootka Cypress is a very unusual tree and one of our very favourite conifers (it’s also earned a top spot on our “Top Conifers” list)! Its average texture blends into the landscape, or can be balanced by the use of 1-2 finer or coarser trees/shrubs for effective composition.

Sources + more info:


Medium-Large (8-9m h x 4-5m w)

'Purple Fountain’ Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

A very narrow tree as its limbs fall quickly towards the ground when they leave the main trunk. As with all beech, they hold their leaves over winter so the strong purple colour of the new spring leaves provides a contrast to the bronze of the previous year’s foliage, which we enjoyed over the winter. It’s also a favourite place for birds to shelter in during all seasons, with its dense mass of leaves and overlapping branches.

  • Dressed to impress, this cultivar’s glossy purple foliage, weeping form & upright trunk is sure to make a bold statement in every season

  • Retains its bronzing leaves over winter, providing vivid contrast to the strong purple colour of its new spring leaves

  • Typically more narrow than tall with slender, columnar form - suitable for narrow spaces

  • Majestic shade tree at maturity

Image credits: 1. Chicago Botanic Garden; 2-3. Monrovia

Rich purple, glossy, rounded leaves cloak the cascading branches of this fine specimen tree. Creates a handsome, narrow silhouette with its strong upright form, and because it is much slower growing than a typical beech, it needs no pruning to maintain its graceful shape. Deciduous.

'Purple Fountain' and 'Purpurea Pendula' : These cultivars are weeping forms with purple leaves. They bear upright trunks with branches that hang gracefully. Among the slowest-growing forms, they are typically much more narrow than tall.

Beech trees are long-lived and slow growing hardwood trees. The fruit produced annually is called a beech nut and is beloved by wildlife

Zone, Growing Conditions & Requirements

European beech thrives in a rich, moist, well-drained soil, in full sun or partial shade. While tolerant of a wide range of soils, the genus prefers consistent and moderate moisture.

Highlights & Design Tips

  • Beech are eye-catching specimen trees prized for their shape or foliage colour. 'Purple Fountain' beech is both a weeping and columnar form of the species and thus suitable for narrow spaces in the home landscape

  • This beautiful, purple-leaved specimen, with its erratic, weeping branches is a highlight in any landscape

  • Landscape uses: Firescaping/fire wise, mass planting, privacy screen, specimen, woodland garden

  • Creative pruning and staking can be done to expose its irregular, growth habit, giving it more visual appeal

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Only Fagus grandifolia, the American beech, is native to the U.S. and Illinois

  • Ovate to elliptic, dark purple leaves in the summer; foliage turns bronze in the fall; smooth grey bark is an attractive feature of the species

Sources + more info:

2. Chicago Botanic Garden


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