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Trees are a healthy way of ensuring your home activities are yours to share with whom you choose without them being out in the public domain.
Whether you choose narrow trees or columnar plants, trees are a great way of establishing a non-offensive border between your home and overly inquisitive neighbors. Even columnar deciduous trees can be sculpted by topiary pruning and shaping to add privacy and value to your property.
Table of Contents
- Tall Skinny Trees for Landscaping
- 6 Columnar Deciduous Trees
- 3 Broadleaf Evergreen Columnar Trees
- Narrow Evergreen Trees
- American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘De Groot’s Spire’)
- Canada Spruce (Picea glauca)
- Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens var. glauca)
- Columnar Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’)
- Concolor Fir (Abies concolor)
- Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara ‘Golden Horizon’)
- Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
- Emerald Tower Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Holmstrup’)
- Gold Rider Cypress (x Hesperotropsis leylandii ‘Gold Rider’)
- Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja ‘Green Giant’)
- Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
- Living Christmas Tree (Araucaria heterophylla)
- Moonglow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’)
- Pencil Point Juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’)
- Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’)
- Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika)
- Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’)
- Slender Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’)
- Taylor Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’)
- Upright Juniper (Juniperus virginiana’ Emerald Sentinel™’)
- White Pine (Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’)
How tall and narrow a tree grows depends on the spacing between trees, and a compact columnar tree can be trained to be relatively narrow or bordered by other competing trees. Below is a list of 30 tall, skinny trees you can choose from to sculpt a landscaped border for any property.
Tall Skinny Trees for Landscaping
|Common Name||Botanical Name||Plant Traits|
|American Holly||Ilex opaca||Broadleaf Evergreen|
|Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata)||Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’||Broadleaf Evergreen|
|Wax Myrtle||Myrica californica||Broadleaf Evergreen|
|Flagpole Cherry Tree||Prunus serrulata ‘Amanogawa’||Deciduous|
|Goldspire Ginkgo||Ginkgo biloba Goldspire™||Deciduous|
|Kindred Spirit Oak||Quercus x ‘Nadler’ KINDRED SPIRIT®||Deciduous|
|Lombardy Poplar||Populus nigra ‘Lorbardi Gold’||Deciduous|
|Slender Oak||Quercus canbyi||Deciduous|
|Swedish Columnar Aspen||Populus tremula ‘Erecta’||Deciduous|
|American Arborvitae||Thuja occidentalis ‘DeGroot’s Spire’||Needled Evergreen|
|Canada Spruce||Picea glauca||Needled Evergreen|
|Colorado Blue Spruce||Picea pungens var. glauca||Needled Evergreen|
|Columnar Japanese Plum Yew||Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’||Needled Evergreen|
|Concolor Fir||Abies concolor||Needled Evergreen|
|Deodar Cedar||Cedrus deodara ‘Golden Horizon’||Needled Evergreen|
|Douglas Fir||Pseudotsuga menziesii||Needled Evergreen|
|Emerald Tower Arborvitae||Thuja occidentalis ‘Holmstrup’||Needled Evergreen|
|Gold Rider Cypress||x Hesperotropsis leylandii ‘Gold Rider’||Needled Evergreen|
|Green Giant Arborvitae||Thuja ‘Green Giant’||Needled Evergreen|
|Italian Cypress||Cupressus sempervirens||Needled Evergreen|
|Living Christmas Tree||Araucaria heterophylla||Needled Evergreen|
|Moonglow Juniper||Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’||Needled Evergreen|
|Pencil Point Juniper||Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’||Needled Evergreen|
|Rocky Mountain Juniper||Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’||Needled Evergreen|
|Serbian Spruce||Picea omorika||Needled Evergreen|
|Skyrocket Juniper||Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’||Needled Evergreen|
|Slender Hinoki Cypress||Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’||Needled Evergreen|
|Taylor Eastern Red Cedar||Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’||Needled Evergreen|
|Upright Juniper||Juniperus virginiana Emerald Sentinel™||Needled Evergreen|
|White Pine||Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’||Needled Evergreen|
6 Columnar Deciduous Trees
In the Netherlands, trained topiaries made from deciduous trees add a unique touch to the landscape. Even fruit trees are used as topiary trees shaped as windbreaks without much width. If ever I’ve seen skinny trees, the Dutch have redefined the term “slender tree.”
Flagpole Cherry Tree (Prunus serrulata ‘Amanogawa’)
This lovely flowering Japanese cherry is an exquisite example of a slender growth habit, making it the perfect tree for creating a tall, colorful border. It blooms in early spring when the branches are covered in pale pink flowers.
This tree is indigenous to Korea, Japan, and East and South China. The cherry blossom, which represents life, health, and happiness, is the national flower of Japan.
The Japanese cherry tree prefers moist, well-drained soil and needs full sun for optimal flowering. Ensure adequate airflow to lower the risk of disease and
Goldspire Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba Goldspire™)
As the sun passes through its canopy, it emits a lovely golden-yellow light quality and has a distinctive shape. With some shaping, the Goldspire Ginko is an excellent example of a columnar tree.
Plant in full sun in well-draining soil. Ginkgo trees thrive in most environments, withstanding heat, drought, salinity, and air pollution.
The Ginko is one of the oldest surviving tree gena, and the Goldspire™ was cultivated to offer a narrow growth habit.
Kindred Spirit Oak (Quercus x ‘Nadler’ KINDRED SPIRITⓇ)
Kindred Spirit® Oak is a hybrid of the Columnar English Oak (Q. robur ‘Fastigiata’) and the Swamp Oak (Q. bicolor). These are amazing columnar trees bred to be powdery mildew resistant.
Despite being a hybrid, it still produces acorns, serving as a food source for small mammals. The Kindred Spirit is ideal for a tall hedge or, as a specimen, for planting trees in large numbers. It tolerates salt and clay well once established and is also drought-tolerant.
Most trees require full sun and some well-drained soil to get established. Including compost in the area surrounding the hole will encourage roots to spread and strengthen the anchorage of narrow trees.
Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra ‘Lombardy Gold’)
Also known as the Old English poplar, this deciduous tree is included in my list of tall, narrow trees. Still, I don’t advise planting it as it has several challenges. Its inclusion is because it is such a stately example of columnar trees.
Poplars are slow-growing trees, and the Lombardy Gold has yellow foliage. This plant grows to about 100 feet tall and is hardier than the black poplar.
Slender Oak (Quercus canbyi)
Also known as the Chisos Oak, the narrow oak tree is a columnar tree native to Mexico and Texas. When the plant matures, some of its pyramidal forms are lost. Still, the slender oaks are excellent columnar trees for the first twenty years of their life.
The narrow oak tree grows to about 60 feet, offering lush green foliage and creating a slender silhouette border tree that is drought tolerant once established.
Swedish Columnar Aspen (Populus tremula ‘Erecta’)
Our last deciduous tree suggestion is the Swedish columnar aspen, which offers a beautiful shade of emerald green that turns into golden yellow during the fall season.
Whereas the poplar generally has a short life span, this deciduous tree can live as long as 50 years and offers a brilliant choice of narrow trees.
3 Broadleaf Evergreen Columnar Trees
American Holly (Ilex opaca)
Use this large evergreen tree of the Aquifoliaceae family to create the ultimate privacy screen or hedge. With branches that grow low off the trunk and often reach the ground, it can be shaped like a narrow evergreen tree.
If not pruned, it may need some space and becomes a beautiful plant when given room to grow. The evergreen leaves and fruits on female plants add beautiful color and interest in winter gardens. This species’ branches are frequently used to make Christmas wreaths.
Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’)
There’s a reason for this evergreen tree’s name. The Ilex crenata (Sky Pencil) is the epitome of narrow trees. Though not the tallest species, standing only six to ten feet tall, this compact columnar tree is 30 inches wide.
Sky Pencil Holly has dense, upright branches that help create its exceptional columnar growth. This holly is an excellent example of the fastigiate growing form, branches with an upright growth habit, almost parallel to the trunk.
It is a good accent or container plant for formal gardens because it adds a lovely vertical accent to mixed borders.
Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica)
On the Pacific Coast, the Pacific Wax Myrtle is reputed to be the best native shrub for screening. It can be pruned to become a hedge. Due to its poor soil and salt spray tolerance, this shrub is perfect for coastal planting and helps stabilize banks.
This ornamental shrub makes a lovely specimen, informal screen, or background interest in the garden thanks to its showy berries and bright green foliage.
Narrow Evergreen Trees
Conifers, including spruce, yew, cypress, fir, juniper, cedar, and pine, are tall, skinny trees with deep green, blue-green, and greenish-brown foliage.
American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘De Groot’s Spire’)
“De Groot’s Spire” thrives in full sun to partial shade and loamy, wet, well-drained soils. It does better in acidic than neutral soils, and mulching is essential for keeping the soil moist around the plant’s roots.
Because of its sensitivity to drought, this plant is best situated in protected areas where it will be protected from the winter wind and other environmental hazards. Snow and ice can harm this plant, and prolonged cold can cause the foliage to become dull yellow or green.
This evergreen shrub would brighten up a cottage or rock garden in the dead of winter. When handling this plant, be cautious and wear protective gear, as the vegetation may irritate your skin.
Canada Spruce (Picea glauca)
When young, this evergreen conifer takes on a broad, columnar pyramid shape; as it matures, becoming more compact and symmetrical, with its branches growing upwards. It needs a cool environment to flourish and won’t survive in the heat and humidity of a typical American summer.
For the dense foliage to shed excess moisture, air circulation is essential, so it’s important to leave some room between trees. Their seed cones droop and are cylindrical, with thin, flexible scales. They change from green or red to brown four to eight months after pollination.
Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens var. glauca)
The Colorado blue spruce is a huge evergreen tree that can grow to a hundred feet tall. It has a columnar shape, horizontal branches, and needles that range in color from blue-green to silvery-blue. As a result of its attractive appearance and vibrant coloration, this tree is often used as a decorative focal point.
Its height and width (up to thirty feet for a windbreak and ten feet for a vertical accent) make it a versatile and attractive landscape feature. It does well in dry and moist soils but cannot stand in water for long periods.
Columnar Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’)
“Fastigiata” describes a particular type of tree growth in which the branches are vertically ascending and nearly parallel to the trunk. An evergreen member of the yew family, the Japanese plum yew can be either a small tree or a shrub. Moist and well-drained soil is ideal, but the plant can survive in drier conditions or in sandy or clay soil.
If your summers are mild, plant it in full sun; otherwise, give it a spot in the shade. The narrow evergreen tree can handle the shade better than most others.
Concolor Fir (Abies concolor)
The White Fir tree is a native of the western United States and northern Mexico. It is a narrow columnar evergreen with drooping bottom branches. Soil with a decent drainage system and some moisture is ideal.
As a heavily branching tree, it is highly sought after for its ability to provide shelter and nesting materials and its resistance to heat and drought compared to other firs. However, it is not tolerant to saline sea spray.
Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara ‘Golden Horizon’)
Afghanistan is home to the fine-textured evergreen tree known as deodar cedar, which belongs to the Pinaceae (pine) family. It takes on a roughly pyramidal shape early on and can reach fifty feet or so in urban areas.
It should be planted in a rich, well-drained, moderately dry, sunny, and sheltered area, and it is sensitive to both frost and poorly drained waterlogged soils. When choosing where to plant a Deodar Cedar, consider its eventual size.
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
The Douglas-fir is a member of the Pinaceae family of evergreen conifers that may reach heights of 40–80 feet in a city setting and is one of the world’s tallest trees in its natural habitat. Typically, the lower branches of young trees droop while the top branches rise, giving the tree a thin and spired pyramidal appearance.
The tree loses its lowest branches as it ages and takes on a more columnar shape. Bracts on the tree’s cones are forked in a way that isn’t seen on most other conifers. The needles, which are flat and spirally organized and can grow an inch and a quarter in length and include white striping on their undersides, release a pleasant scent when bruised or crushed.
Emerald Tower Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Holmstrup’)
The evergreen conifer Holmstrup Arborvitae is native to North America and belongs to the cypress family. It takes ten years to reach 10 feet in height and 2.5 feet in width because of how slowly it grows.
There are lovely, scale-like leaves that grow in dense horizontal sprays and keep their emerald-green foliage far into the winter. The structure has the form of a thin column.
Gold Rider Cypress (x Hesperotropsis leylandii ‘Gold Rider’)
The hybrid Leyland Cypress grows quickly into a tall, straight, evergreen tree with needles. It can add up to three feet to its height in its first few years and thrives in a wide range of soil conditions.
The lovely splays of gray-green needles contrast nicely with the scaly reddish-brown bark. In normal conditions, their lifespan can extend to fifty years.
While useful as a screening, hedge, or windbreak, the Gold Rider Cypress is highly susceptible to pests and diseases and requires constant pruning to stay in check.
They will both have the same symmetrical crown shapes and sleek profiles. The branches are strong, grow straight, and don’t bend.
Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja ‘Green Giant’)
This tree is a cross between Japanese arborvitae and western red cedar, hence the name “green giant.” The adult height of this tree is around fifty feet, and its width at maturity is approximately fifteen feet; it lives for about fifty years and has a low-branching, dense columnar-pyramidal habit.
This hardy tree grows uniformly and needs very little pruning to keep its pyramidal shape and is, therefore, a low-maintenance sweetheart. Closely spaced plantings are employed to block the wind or muffle noise and as windbreaks and dividers.
Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
Originally from Europe and Asia, the Italian cypress is a tall columnar tree with bluish-green needles. The commercially marketed varieties tend to be columnar in shape and provide rapid development. Mature trees, on the other hand, grow at a glacial pace, if at all.
The Italian cypress can be pruned into a tall, skinny shape and serves well as an ornamental or screening plant; its fragrant needles also deter pests.
Living Christmas Tree (Araucaria heterophylla)
This popular tree grows up to 100 feet high and 30 feet wide in an urban setting. It grows best in open, full-sun locations that offer well-drained soil. The tree has some risks, including surface roots that may lift sidewalks and damage lawns.
It is most often grown for its juvenile dark green beauty, as the older trees have the risk of toppling over in storms.
Moonglow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’)
The Rocky Mountain juniper grows best in dry, sandy soil with full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It can survive in harsh conditions such as high temperatures, wind, salt spray, dry soil, and air pollution. The tree is resistant to drought and may thrive in various soil conditions.
In addition to being intolerant of ice, damp soil, high humidity, and high nighttime temperatures kill it. The Rocky Mountain juniper is easily damaged or destroyed in a fire due to its thin, stringy bark and the volatile oils in its branches.
Pencil Point Juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’)
The common juniper, Juniperus communis, is a wonder plant. It is the most extensively grown conifer because it can survive in a wide range of climates, from extremely cold to extremely hot and humid, and exemplifies a tall, skinny tree.
It does well in medium moisture and full sun. It adapts to its environment and can take on various forms, but most commonly, it is an upright, multi-stemmed shrub up to about three feet in height.
Under adverse conditions, it grows to only a few feet and spreads out slightly above the ground, and plants can reach heights of 40 feet under optimal conditions. The juniper berry or seed has several uses, but perhaps the most well-known is as the primary flavor in gin.
Dwarf and thick, ‘Compressa’ is a narrow tree that stands tall and straight with narrowly upright branches. Its silvery-blue leaves aren’t often the most comfortable to walk through. A mature specimen of this dense evergreen can reach a height of six feet and a width of just about 18 inches.
Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’)
The silvery blue leaves of the ‘Blue Arrow’ is a common reason for growing this plant, and the fact that it thrives despite poor soil, high temperatures, and lack of water makes it a popular choice.
This narrow tree is a good option for screening an area or blocking noise in small gardens.
Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika)
This evergreen conifer has thin, arching branches and a skinny trunk, making it one of the most visually appealing and versatile spruces. It does well in sheltered, cool areas with little humidity and wind, and it may not thrive in hot and humid environments, but it may be more tolerant of those conditions than many other spruces.
The Serbian spruce is a narrow tree and a good option for small gardens as screening or noise blocking.
Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’)
The Rocky Mountain juniper, Juniperus scopulorum, is a conifer endemic to the western United States and Mexico. It is also known as the Colorado red cedar. Above 5000 meters (16,000 ft.), it is most common in the dry, stony foothills of the Rockies.
‘Skyrocket’ grows to a maximum height of 20 feet and has a compact, narrow-tree shape, making it ideal for small gardens.
Slender Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’)
The fake cypress, or hinoki, is an evergreen tree in the Cupressaceae family. Compared to other members of its genus, this tree is more compact and ideal for small gardens. Its shape ranges from pyramidal to conical, and its dark green branches are short, spreading, and irregularly spaced.
The optimal growing conditions for hinoki cypress are full sun, but it can also thrive in partial shade. It thrives in many soil conditions, save for those with poor drainage. Don’t let the soil dry up the first year; your tree can handle a little drought afterward.
Taylor Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’)
Cupressaceae (cypress) Taylor Eastern red cedar is a tall, slim cultivar. This tree can reach heights of 20–25 feet, and its blue-green foliage will spread to a width of 3–4 feet, ideal for small gardens.
The Taylor cedar is a tough tree that can thrive in full or partial light and a wide range of soil types. Wet soil is the only thing it can’t handle. Avoid planting this tree in humus-rich soil and supplying it with excessive fertilizer.
Upright Juniper (Juniperus virginiana’ Emerald Sentinel™’)
The Eastern Redcedar is a sun-loving tree that thrives in medium moisture levels and well-drained soils. It may flourish in many environments, from wet swamps to dry rocky glades. It may succeed in poor soils where most plants die.
It favors damp soils but is intolerant of continually wet conditions. Only a young plant will be able to adapt to the shadow. Of all the eastern United States native conifers, this one is the most resistant to drought.
Although it is a hardy, dependable, and simple-to-transplant tree, many gardeners view it as a weed, and it is highly salt-resistant. These tall columnar trees thrive in open, sunny areas, where they can be enjoyed as a single specimen, in a group, or as a privacy screen.
White Pine (Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’)
The term “Fastigiata” describes a specific type of tree growth in which the branches are vertically ascending and nearly parallel to the trunk. Native to the northeastern United States and Canada, the Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata,’ often known as Eastern white pine, is a fast-growing, long-lived, needled evergreen tree.
Although initially pyramidal, it eventually develops an oval habit and an uneven crown when it reaches around fifty feet in height when grown in a garden. However, white pine can be cut and grown as a hedge, allowing for more precise control over landscape size and shape.
Needles on this plant are light blue-green and about five inches long. The tree takes nearly seven years to bear its distinctive cylindrical, brown cones. Small to medium in size, the ‘Fastigiata’ grows quickly and has a slender, upright, columnar form.