Ball Trees: The Best Species For The Garden

Spherical trees enable attractive garden design even in small areas and confined spaces. The woody plants remain comparatively low and create a visual highlight with their compact spherical shape. The fact that they also provide hiding and nesting opportunities for our birds is another aspect in their favor.

Kugelbaum im Garten

Ball trees: the most important things at a glance

  • There are trees with natural ball crowns and those that require selective pruning.
  • Most trees with a ball crown are grafting.
  • Ball trees are usually small trees that do not require much space. This makes them the first choice for front yards, small gardens, patios and – in pots – balconies and roof terraces.
  • The right location is crucial for optimal growth and good health.
  • What is meant by globe trees?
  • The term ball tree is colloquial; there is no official definition of the term. However, two different varieties of ball trees can be distinguished.

Trees with natural ball crown

There are trees that naturally form a visibly round crown. In addition, there is a rather stocky, compact growth form, which reinforces the visual impression of the spherical crown shape.

Trees with trimmed spherical crown

These trees are woody plants, mostly graftings, whose crown is brought into a perfect spherical shape with specific pruning measures. For grafting, a scion of the desired height is grafted, for example as a high trunk or half trunk, onto a weak-growing rootstock. Noble varieties are chosen that naturally have a strongly branched and dense round crown. This is additionally pruned to achieve a perfect spherical shape.

Through grafting, the final height of the trunk is already fixed. The trunk will increase in thickness over the years, but will no longer grow in height. The trunk height remains, the crown alone provides the height growth. For this reason, large ranges are sometimes found in the height specifications of grafted woody plants.

Pruning of globe trees

Generally, globe trees are pruned back in late winter. This involves shortening the main branches to about 15 to 20 cm, and if possible to just before an eye from which a fresh shoot can sprout.

Frau schneidet Kugelbaum

Mixed form: trees with round crown plus pruning measures.

Between trees with natural and with pruned sphere, there are trees that bring both characteristics. They already naturally have a spherical crown, which is accentuated even more by a topiary.

Which ball tree for the private garden?

There are numerous ball trees that are suitable for the private garden. For example, you can find amber tree, globe ash, globe maple, globe robinia, globe trumpet tree, globe cherry and others more in the assortment of your local nursery.

Small-growing woody plants with a ball crown are popular. They are easy to care for, tolerate pruning and are suitable for confined spaces such as front yards. The spherical crown is easily recognizable in small, compact-growing woody plants, making them a grateful design element.

It is important not to place the woody plants too close to a wall, because even the smallest spherical tree needs space to develop and form the desired spherical growth. Otherwise, it will lean away from the wall at an angle and the sphere may lose its typical shape.

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For a sphere tree to develop optimally, the right location is important. While many trees will adapt to an unfavorable location, other essential aspects suffer, such as resistance to pests, the formation of healthy leaves or sufficiently branched roots. The result is a more or less stunted tree that does its best to cope with unfavorable site conditions. If trees are planted in an optimal location, they will develop into magnificent specimens.

Buy your globe tree at the nursery. There you will get woody plants of good quality.

Portrait of 5 globe trees: special features and location tips

The following five globe trees are among the most popular species for the garden. They are suitable for different locations from sun to shade. The selection presents trees between three and seven feet tall.

Globular Maple (Acer platanoides ‘Globosum’)

Habit/Growth: The globe maple comes with a dense crown that remains in its natural shape without pruning. It retains the closed crown pattern into old age, although the shape changes to a flat sphere as the years go by.

Uses: Because of its size, the globe maple needs more space than other globe trees. It is suitable, for example, as a house tree, planted in pairs or in rows to mark the property entrance or border. It is also recommended for use as a specimen tree on a lawn with a colorful underplanted tree disc. A garden bench will also find a shady spot under the broad crown.

Special features: It has proven useful to thin out the maple occasionally, removing dead wood and diseased plant parts. This has the effect of rejuvenation. Radical pruning is also possible, for example, if the crown is to be rebuilt. In this case, all branches are cut back to just above the grafting point.

Size: The shrub reaches an impressive growth height of up to six meters and a crown diameter of five to six meters.

Foliage: The decorative fall color of the deeply slit 5- to 7-lobed leaves is bright golden yellow. When emerging, the foliage is reddish brown and gradually takes on a fresh light green color.

Flower: The globe maple blooms yellow-green before foliage emergence in profuse upright umbels. The fruits have wings that are arranged almost horizontally.

Habitat: The globe maple prefers sunny to semi-shady locations. The woody plant is extremely resistant to urban climates. This means that even great heat, drought and dust have little effect on it. In addition, the globe maple is very wind resistant. The tree is extremely tolerant of the existing soil type, with one exception: it does not tolerate boggy and peaty sites.


Ball Trumpet Tree (Catalpa bignonioides ‘Nana’)

Habit/Growth: The spherical crown becomes broadly spreading with age and the spherical shape gives way to an oval.

Special Features: Birds like to seek out the canopy of the globe trumpet tree to build their nests, as the many branching branches provide enough support for this and the large leaves serve as protection from wind and rain. The ball trumpet tree is pruned back moderately on a regular basis. Every three to five years, the crown can tolerate a severe pruning to 20 cm.

Uses: This attractive woody plant is a popular small tree for the home garden and is often set as a specimen in the back garden or as a house tree in the front yard. In perennial beds, the trumpet tree’s fresh green foliage enhances the overall planting and is a decorative eye-catcher. A seating area can also be created under the crown of a trumpet tree.

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Size: depending on the grafting height, the globe trumpet tree reaches a total height of four to seven meters and becomes just as wide.

Foliage: The special feature of the trumpet tree is its enormously large, heart-shaped leaves, which reach a length of up to 15 centimeters. The leaves are arranged on top of each other like roof tiles, and their fresh green color creates a lively accent in the garden. In the fall, the leaves turn a bright shade of yellow.

Flower: Upright panicles of numerous bell-shaped white flowers appear in June and July.

Habitat: The globe trumpet tree tolerates sunny and semi-shady sites well, but prefers sheltered locations. Strong winds can be hard on it. The tree has no special soil requirements and can cope with many conditions. Ideally, the tree stands on fresh and fertile soils. The tree is resistant to urban climates and industrial conditions. It can cope with a harsh environment with low maintenance and along busy roads.


Globular Robinia (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Umbraculifera’)

Habit/Growth: This small, densely branched tree forms a spherical crown that becomes broadly ovoid with age.

Special Features: Robinia has little tendency to form runners, which is typical of the species. The tree tolerates pruning well and sprouts reliably afterwards. If the crown develops too large a diameter over the years, it can be cut back to the old wood.

Use: A globe robinia is recommended as a solitary as well as planted in a row or in pairs. The woody plant is suitable as a house tree, as an accompaniment to paths or driveways – then set at regular intervals – or as an eye-catcher for the design of patios.

Size: The globe robinia reaches a size of up to six meters and a width of up to four meters. The annual growth is about 15 centimeters.

Foliage: The leaves are dark green and pinnate. The foliage appears very dense overall.

Flowering: The globe robinia does not flower.

Habitat: The globe robinia is a real sun worshipper, it prefers full sun locations, but can also cope with a partial shade location. Overall, the tree does not make high demands on the soil. Ideally, however, it should be protected from the wind in loose loamy soils that are fresh to moderately dry and rich in nutrients. The woody plant also tolerates dry sand and gravel soils, as the roots have a high air requirement. Wet, oxygen-poor, heavy, impermeable or dense soils, on the other hand, are not tolerated by the woody plant.

Ball Trees: The Best Species For The Garden

Globe Plane (Platanus x hispanica ‘Alphen’s Globe’)

Habit/Growth: The Globe Plane is characterized by an oval, almost ovoid crown with branches that are heavily branched.

Special Features: The globe plane forms woolly hairs that can cause allergies in sensitive people when pruning or raking leaves. For this reason, it is also recommended to wear a mouth guard when performing maintenance tasks.

Uses: The globe plane tree does well in urban gardens and courtyards. It is suitable as a house tree and, planted in a container, can also be used for roof terraces to provide shade.

Size: The overall height of the tree depends on the height at which the grafting was done. Sizes between four and a half and six and a half feet are common. The crown can reach a width of three to four meters.

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Foliage: The foliage of the globe plane is dark green, has three to five lobes and has a width of up to 15 centimeters. Fall color ranges from dull greenish yellow to golden yellow. The leaves fall late in the fall.

Flower: In May, drooping, green-yellow flowering catkins form.

Habitat: The plane tree does best in a sunny location, but is also suitable for off-sun locations. The globe plane tree tolerates drought and adapts to unfavorable soil conditions. It is important that the soil be permeable. Ideal soil conditions for the globe plane are deep, well supplied with nutrients and sufficiently moist. On the other hand, it does not tolerate compacted soils. The globe plane is one of the woody plants that is resistant to urban climates and industrial conditions, which generally requires little maintenance. It copes just as well with the dry heat in the city as with the side effects of busy roads.

Ball fanleaf tree (Ginkgo biloba ‘Mariken’)

Habit/Growth: This small fanleaf tree has a dense crown with thick branches and makes a very stocky and compact impression overall. The crown shape is reminiscent of a slightly flattened globe.

Special features: The Ginkgo is a very special woody plant, because it can be classified neither as a deciduous tree nor as a conifer. In addition, the has been on earth for more than 250 million years and can rightly be called the most famous living fossil. Older specimens develop outgrowths on the trunk that lead vertically downward, resembling aerial roots.

Uses: Because of its very small size and slow growth, the globe ginkgo is ideal for planting in confined areas. It does just as well in narrow urban front yards as it does in a small patio or in containers on a rooftop terrace or balcony.

Size: grafted globe ginkgos grow three to four feet tall, with annual growth between 10 and 15 inches.

Foliage: The particularly pretty leaves are shaped like a double fan that sits on a long stem. The texture of the leaves is firm and reminiscent of leather in feel. From budding throughout the growing season, the leaves exhibit a fresh green. The autumn color is intense golden yellow.

Flower: There are female and male globe ginkgos. The male flowers are hanging catkins, the female flowers sit on a stalk at flowering time in April and May.

Habitat: The globe ginkgo prefers sunny to off-sun locations and is quite soil tolerant overall. Fresh to moist soils that are not compacted but are well-drained and nutritious are ideal.



  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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