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Indigenous Trees for a Small Garden

In South Africa, there are many beautiful indigenous trees that are an excellent choice for small gardens, and we’ve created a list of some of the best indigenous trees for Highveld gardens.


In South Africa we are host to a huge variety of indigenous trees, and while not all are suitable for a small, residential garden, there are some that are ideal. We take a look at some of the most beautiful indigenous trees that are suitable for small gardens.

False Olive - Height 3 to 4 metres

Buddleja saligna (False Olive) is one of the most favoured indigenous trees for small gardens, and for good reason. This small specimen achieves up to 1.5 metres of growth per year and is one of the fastest growing indigenous trees that you can add to your garden. When left to grow in its natural shape, this tree will reward you with masses of white flowers. Finally,

Do not confuse False Olive with Wild Olive, since the latter is a much larger tree and unsuitable for small gardens.

With it's fast-growing nature, you won't have to wait long until this tree provides screening or privacy for the small garden and can reach a height of 3 – 4 metres in only a few years. In order to avoid this specimen from becoming straggly it needs to be kept neatly trimmed to obtain a nice shape. Do this by cutting away the lower branches during the first couple of year's growth.

Pompon Tree - Height 6 to 8 metres

Dais Cotinifolia (PomPom Tree) has to be one of the most beautiful of indigenous trees and is grown in many gardens across the Highveld. With an explosion of pastel pink flowers during summer months, this tree provides a stunning display for any smallish garden.

A relatively fast grower, this tree is also frost tolerant, making it ideal for Johannesburg gardens. Do keep in mind, however, that, under perfect conditions, this tree can reach a height of up to 8+ metres, so be sure to allow for this space. Having said that, this is an outstanding choice for a small garden.

Lavender tree - Height 5 to 7 metres

Heteropyxis natalensis (Lavender Tree) has pale bark and semi-deciduous foliage with an elegant ornamental shape. If you love the look of the Leopard Tree or Silver Birch, this tree is an excellent substitute. While slower growing that most other indigenous species,  with patience they offer the home owner a beautiful specimen for their gardens.

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White Pear - Height 6 to 8 metres

Tapodytes dimidiata (White Pear) is a wonderful tree for a small garden. It has a medium rate of growth and is excellent to establishing privacy in a small garden. With its dark evergreen foliage makes it an outstanding screening tree or effective hedge if properly and regularly pruned. While these trees can grow up to 8 metres, it takes around 8 to 10 years to achieve this height.

River Indigo - Height 2 to 4 metres

I planted an Indigofera jacunda (River Indigo) in my small garden and was overwhelmed by the display of pretty pink flowers. This small indigenous tree is semi-deciduous with an explosion of pink flowers that bring a lot of wildlife into the garden. A fast grower, trim off any weak branches, as they can be a hazard during heavy thunderstorm. Prune this tree to encourage a nice shape.

Tree Wisteria - Height 4 to 5 metres

Bolusanthus speciosus (Tree Wisteria), is an absolutely stunning tree that grows at a medium pace and is ideal for a small garden. This tree can be compared to the beautiful Jacaranda, but does not reach anywhere near that height. Filled with lilac flowers in Spring, this tree is a welcome feature for any residential garden.

Things to Consider when Planting a Small Tree

Whether you are planting a small tree or a large shrub, make sure to keep in mind the size and height of the tree or shrub, as well as the roots. While not all trees have an invasive root system, it pays to think ahead to prevent possible future damage to foundations, pools, paving and walls.



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