Small Trees


Landscape Significance

Crape myrtle is valued mainly for its long period of striking summer flowers.

It can be planted as a specimen or in groups, and looks attractive when underplanted with a ground cover; the dark green of the groundcover contrasts well with the handsome bark.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
This photo was taken on Gregg Drive, James Island, SC.

Although it is not native to North America, this summer-flowering, deciduous small tree is a favorite among Southern gardeners because of its beauty and low maintenance. It has been called the lilac of the south.  Large clusters of showy flowers appear on the tips of new branches beginning in early summer and continue into fall. After flowers fade and fall from the tree, fruit remains in the form of small brown capsules. These fruits remain throughout the winter. The plant typically develops several main stems.

The height range is from 10 to 30 feet, and width range is 15 to 25 feet. The ideal planting site is with full sun exposure and good air circulation. This drought tolerant tree loves summer heat and needs sun to meet its full flowering potential. Crapemyrtles planted in partial or full shade will have reduced flowering and increased disease susceptibility. It has few insect pests, but powdery mildew is a common problem.

Identifying characteristics

In an opposite leafe arrangement, the lustrous green oval leaves are 2 to 4" long. The large spectacular flowers form in large panicles ranging from from 6 to 8 inches in length and 3 to 5 inches in width and white to purple in color. The delicate paper thin petals have a crinkled appearance like crepe paper. The exfolliating bark creates a beautiful smooth trunk that looks like it has been shaved.

More information on the Crapemyrtle is available at the Clemson Home & Garden Informaton Center: Clemson HGIC - Crapemyrtle

Eastern Redbud

Landscape Significance

The Eastern Redbud's native habitat ranges from stream bank to dry ridge, demonstrating its adaptability.

This tree is best used in naturalized areas, where the flowers are contrasted against evergreens or woodlands. It can be used as a specimen or in groupings in a shrub border.


Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
This photo was taken in the fall at Trident Technical College, N. Charleston, SC.

Eastern Redbud, also called Judas-tree, is a small deciduous tree native to the eastern United States. Its form is a spreading single to multi-stem tree.  Its magenta buds open to purple-pink blossoms early in spring before the leaves emerge.  The blossoms are as colorful as any flowering spring tree in the landscape. This tree is adapted to all areas of South Carolina.

Redbuds always remain small, maturing at 20 to 30 feet in height and 15 to 35 feet in width. When grown in the sun, it will be compact and rounded; when grown in shade, the form is loose, open and tall.  Irrigation may be needed in summer dry spells.

With thin bark, Canker is the most destructive disease. Insects such as treehoppers, caterpillars, scales and leafhoppers can also cause damage. Due to disease, they rarely live longer than 20 years.

Identifying characteristics

Its 4 to 8 inch-long leaves are heart-shaped with smooth margins arranged alternately .  They are reddish in the spring and gradually turn dark green in summer. Pea-like, rosy-pink flowers appear from late March to mid April.  The fruit are long, flat pods (3 inches) which are produced from late summer into fall, and remain on the tree during winter.

More information on the Eastern Redbud is available at the Clemson Home & Garden Informaton Center: Clemson HGIC - Eastern Redbud

Savannah Holly

Landscape Significance

Often used as a screening plant, this tall, narrow holly is suitable for areas where plant width is a consideration.

The American Indians used preserved berries as decorative buttons and used as barter. The wood has been used for canes and furniture.

Savannah Holly (Ilex attenuate 'Savannah')
This photo was taken at Trident Technical College, N. Charleston, SC.

Savannah Holly is a beautifully shaped evergreen tree, with a narrow, open pyramidal to columnar form.  It bears a heavy crop of red berries that persist during fall and winter when both male and female trees are both planted.  A native tree, it grows fast up to 30 feet with a spread of 6 to 10 feet.

This plant gives the best berry production when planted in the sun, but also does adequately in part shade. Savannah holly is drought tolerant, generally pest free and is not normally infected with disease.

Identifying characteristics

The spiny, dull, dark green leaves are 2 to 4" long, have wavy margins and are alternately arranged on green twigs. Heavy clusters of red berries appear in the fall.

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