The Best Low Maintenance Trees For Your Garden [+Images]
All gardens need trees — as focal points, to attract birdlife, for shade, and for the well-being of the environment and ourselves. And there is nothing better than popping out to your courtyard to grab a fresh lemon from a potted citrus tree or seeking out a cool spot in the shade of a tree on a hot summer’s day. But regardless of whether you are after a fast-growing or evergreen tree, there is one thing that time-poor gardeners will see as a priority when choosing trees. Low maintenance trees. Here are some of the best.
Low maintenance fast-growing shade trees
Low maintenance fast-growing shade trees, including fast-growing trees for quick privacy, offer a wonderful combination of shade and aesthetics.
Magnolia “Teddy Bear” (Magnolia grandiflora)
This beautiful tree has glossy deep-green leaves with a bronze reverse. It is a compact, upright tree that grows up to six metres tall. It displays large white, fragrant flowers in the warmer months and is ideal as an informal screen, as a feature tree, or in large planters. Magnolia “Teddy Bear” will grow in most climates — even in coastal conditions.
However, they grow best in full sun (at least five to six hours per day), otherwise poor growth may result. They prefer regular water as they will lose their lushness if they are constantly water-stressed. Like other M. Grandiflora varieties, they suffer few disease and pest issues if grown properly. Poor growth is often due to poor soils or insufficient feeding or light.
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Ideal for small gardens or as attractive street trees, the Japanese Maple has delicate leaves and light green spring foliage that turns into a glowing deep orange and crimson colour in autumn. They can vary in height and size but typically grow to around five metres tall.
They suit cooler climates, ideally with rich, well-drained soil and protection from winds and the hottest sun as the leaves can be easily spoilt, so a part-shade or afternoon shade position is ideal.
In terms of ongoing care, they should be watered in well, and the soil kept moist until the tree is established. When planting, be sure to fertilise and again after new growth appears. This tree can be pruned to encourage new growth.
Golden Robinia (Robinia Frisia)
The deciduous tree grows fast and up to six metres high. It provides soft, filtered shade with its leaf shape and open habit, and the leaves are a striking lime green that turn to a rich, golden-yellow colour from spring through to autumn. It will give your garden a brilliant splash of colour!
Long white, pea-like flowers are fragrant and appear in early summer, followed by smooth brown seed pods. It can tolerate poor soil, is reasonably drought-tolerant and suitable for coastal conditions and hot, dry climates. However, this tree does need shelter from strong winds as otherwise, the branches can tend to be brittle.
It’s worth noting that damage to their roots (for example, by mowing or whipper snipping) can lead to suckering. Suckering is when a bushy clump of young stems sprout from the trunk or base of a tree. They take water and nutrients from the main tree and are not only unhealthy for the tree, but they are also unsightly.
Dwarf Lemon Scented Gum (Corymbia citriodora)
Image from Ian Baker Gardens
When people think of fast-growing Australian native trees, it’s usually gum trees that spring to mind. However, many species of gum are far too big for a suburban garden. The good news is that plant breeders have developed dwarf varieties with all the benefits of a large gum tree (including fast growth and shade) without turning into forest giants.
The dwarf lemon-scented gum ‘Scentuous’ has the slender white trunk and lemon scent of the forest giant, however, it reaches just seven metres high. It is a slightly narrow domed tree that doesn’t shed its branches and a smooth trunk that may be slightly mottled. It also has white flowers in summer and colourful pink stems.
This tree thrives best in coastal gardens with a sub-tropical or warm temperate and loves full sun and well-drained soils.
Blueberry Ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus)
One of the best fast-growing garden trees is the Australian native Blueberry Ash, and it does actually have blue berries, which birds love. The blue berries follow the tree’s dainty pink or white feathery flowers, which have fringed petals and hang like tiny lampshades during spring and summer. In addition to this, the older leaves turn a red colour making this a spectacular tree for year-round interest.
This tree is an ideal choice for a tall screen planting in sun or shade, and it can reach a height of 10 to 15 metres. It is hardy, tolerant of a variety of conditions and can be found naturally along the Eastern coast of Australia from the northern parts of Tasmania extending through to Fraser Island in Queensland.
Low maintenance evergreen trees
Low maintenance evergreen trees are an ideal choice for your garden as they retain their foliage throughout the year. These are unlike deciduous trees that transform with the seasons.
Tahitian Lime (Citrus x latifolia)
This tree is a medium-sized rather showy tree that is easy to grow and care for and produces stunning specimens ideal for the garden or grown in a large pot. They also make great plants for hedging or as feature trees. Their glossy, evergreen foliage looks great all year round and provides a wonderful backdrop for the fragrant, white flowers and edible green fruits. As an “everbearing” plant, this tree can provide you with flowers and fruit throughout the year.
They prefer warmer climates and grow to around three metres high. The Tahitian Lime Tree is considered the best choice of lime tree because it is typically pest and disease-free and tolerates cold better than other species.
In terms of fruit, this tree produces lime green citrus fruits (also known as Bearss or Persian limes) in its first year after planting and fruit production will increase every year. They prefer a protected, sunny position and rich, well-drained soil.
White Cypress Pine (Callitris columellaris)
Image from Gardening With Angus
Native to Australia and hardy and low maintenance, the White Cypress Pine is a beautiful evergreen tree that bears bushy foliage, clusters of cones, and has bluish-grey foliage. It grows up to 12 metres in height and is upright in habit with spreading branches.
It is ideal as a street tree, for erosion control and as a bird nesting plant. It performs best in full sun but also tolerates light shade, light frost, drought and poor soil conditions. Water it regularly to establish in dry and poor soils.
Flowering Gum (Corymbia ficifolia)
One of Australia’s most widely cultivated eucalypts, this red flowering gum can reach 15 metres in height. It is evergreen and fast-growing and has masses of vibrant flowers that bloom in spring. These come in a range of colours from reds and pinks to oranges, and nectar-eating birds and bees love them! Its bark is rough, and it has a dense canopy of large gum leaves and foliage that is dark and glossy green.
Flowering Gums are best suited to temperate climates with low rainfall and summer humidity and rainfall, however, they can be grown in well-drained, sunny positions in subtropical areas.
Peppermint tree (Agonis flexuosa)
Image from Inland Valley Garden Planner
The evergreen Peppermint Tree is a distinctive and elegant tree that grows at a moderate rate into a medium-sized tree with dense foliage and a broad and distinctive weeping habit. Its foliage is yellow and bi-colour, and it produces fragrant white flowers in spring, and when its leaves are crushed, a peppermint aroma is released.
It can grow to a height of 15 metres so needs plenty of space, but is low maintenance, needing just a light fertilising once a year in early spring with a phosperous-free fertiliser. It will grow in a range of soil types but does prefer well-drained soil. It will tolerate some cold in winter and can be grown in a range of climates but prefers full sun.
Ornamental Pear – (Pyrus Calleryana)
This evergreen tree is ideal for street planting, as a feature plant or as a screening tree. It has luscious, shiny green leaves that hang vertically from branches with an attractive curl in the foliage that adds further interest. It has a narrow growth habit and a slender columnar shape that lends itself to tight spaces.
In Autumn, leaves turn a purpley-red colour which adds wonderful colour to a garden, and in spring, it brings a beautiful display of lovely white flowers followed by small, russet-coloured fruits.
This tree grows best in full sun with rich, well-drained soils. However, it can tolerate dry conditions as well as occasional wet periods.
Evergreen Ash (Fraxinus Griffithii)
This evergreen tree is also known as the Flowering Ash tree and is a hardy, fast-growing tree that grows to a height of up to seven metres. Its form is rounded, and it boasts lush green leaves and abundant white flowers that appear in Spring.
It is an excellent choice for smaller gardens and can be used as a small shade tree. It complements a “tropical look” garden and is relatively hardy, tolerating mild wind exposure and drought conditions once established. It prefers moist, well-drained soil but will tolerate a range of conditions. Pruning is not required unless gardeners want to shape the tree as a hedge.
- 2021, 5 fast-growing shade trees, Homes to Love
- Natalie Crofts, 2021, Easy-to-grow Evergreens, Hoselink Gardening Solutions
- 2021, Magnolia “Teddy Bear”, Oxley Nursery
- 2021, Acer Palmatum, Specialty Trees
- 2021, Tahitian Lime Tree (Citrus x latifolia), Designer Trees
- 2021, Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’, Specialty Trees
- 2021, 5 trees for garden shade, Jim’s Mowing
- 2021, Corymbia citriodora ‘Scentuous’ syn. ‘Dwarf Pink’, Specialty Trees
- 2021, Elaeocarpus reticulatus, Specialty Trees
- 2021, Callitris columellaris – White Cypress-pine, Gardening with Angus
- 2021, Tristaniopsis Luscious – water gum, Australian Plants Online
- 2021, Pyrus calleryana ‘Capital’, Specialty Trees
- 2021, Fraxinus griffithii – Evergreen Ash, Blerick Tree Farm