Amazing Columnar Trees: The Best Tall Skinny Trees (With Pictures)

tall skinny trees

Columnar trees are ideal for adding color, beauty, and elegance to any garden landscape. Tall, skinny trees can create a stunning visual impact when they line driveways, grow along fences, or act as a privacy hedge. Some columnar dwarf trees grow in containers and can make an attractive entrance growing beside a doorway or gate. Their narrow, upright growth habit means that columnar trees are perfect for landscaping small and large yards alike.

The best columnar trees are:

  • The Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) is a fast-growing tall, slender tree that has lush dark green foliage.
  • The Emerald green arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) is a narrow evergreen tree with a pyramid shape that grows to about 15 ft. (4.5 m) tall. Commonly used as a privacy tree or hedge.
  • The Swedish Columnar Aspen (Populus tremula ‘Erecta’) is a deciduous upright, narrow tree that creates a spectacular visual accent wherever it’s growing.
  • The Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’) is one of the most popular columnar conifers. The skinny tree has a thin pyramidal shape and is prized for its miniature nature and neat appearance.
  • The Red Maple ‘Walters Columnar’ (Acer rubrum) is a fine example of a columnar maple tree. This medium-sized deciduous type of tree has a slender growth habit, and flowers in spring. In the fall, the tree foliage transforms into stunning shades of red.

Tall Skinny Trees for Landscaping

One of the features of columnar trees is that some of them have fastigiate branches. Fastigiate trees have branches that grow vertically upward. This growth habit gives the trees an upright, straight and thin appearance. The columnar growing pattern of these vertical trees makes them useful for planting in small gardens where space is tight. You can also plant them close together to create a windbreak or natural privacy hedge.

In this article, you will learn about the best columnar trees, many of which have fastigiate growth. Along with their scientific names and pictures, descriptions of each tree will help you pick the perfect tall, skinny tree for landscaping your yard.

Columnar Trees: Tall Skinny Trees With Their Picture and Name

Although some trees are excellent for shade, narrow trees create bold statements in your yard. Some are small with dense, soft foliage and are perfect for growing along a fence. Other types of tall columnar trees are excellent for growing as a specimen tree or creating a natural border along a driveway.

Columnar Oak Tree (Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’)

Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’

Fastigiate oak tree is tall and fairly narrow tree suitable for large yards

Fastigiate oak trees grow tall and have a minimal spread that results in a slender narrow tree. The columnar oak ‘Fastigiata’ trees are typically slow-growing deciduous trees. This type of narrow oak tree grows to between 50 and 65 ft. (15 – 20 m) tall, so it’s not a tree for landscaping small backyards. Compared to traditional oak trees, this is a slender tree with a spread of only 15 ft. (4 m).

If you have room for this type of oak, the tree’s dark green foliage turns into golden yellow colors when the leaves change in the fall. These upright oak trees grow in USDA zones 5 – 8.

Narrow Kindred Spirit Oak Tree (Quercus x warei ‘Nadler’)

tall skinny oak tree

The tall Kindred Spirit oak is a type of thin tree that will suit smaller spaces

Another stunning example of a tight columnar oak tree is the ‘Kindred Spirit’ cultivar. The fastigiate narrow growth makes this tall, upright tree perfect for landscaping tight, compact gardens. In the fall, the dark, glossy green leaves turn a stunning red color to brighten up an autumn garden landscape.

The ‘Kindred Spirit’ tree is more compact than the ‘Fastigiata’ oak tree. This fast-growing deciduous tree only reaches 30 ft. (9 m) tall and has a spread of 4 ft. (1.2 m). To grow this upright slender tree, you should plant it in full sun in zones 4 through 7.

Red Maple ‘Walters Columnar’ Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

red maple

Columnar red maple trees can grow very tall and give stunning color in fall

If you are looking for an upright tall columnar maple tree, then the ‘Walters Columnar’ cultivar is an excellent choice. Also called a scarlet maple, this fastigiate tree grows tall, narrow, and upright. This maple tree blooms with showy red flowers in the spring. The lush green foliage turns to spectacular deep red color in the fall.

Columnar red maples are excellent trees to add a bold vertical accent to your backyard because of their growing pattern. You can also plant trees together to create a screening hedge. Because the columnar maple can reach 60 ft. (18 m) tall, pruning is required to control its height. Grow red maples in zones 3 to 9.

Other columnar red maple cultivars include ‘Columnare’ with its narrow upright form, ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ that has fastigiate growth, and the ‘Armstrong’ type of columnar maple tree with silvery bark and red fall foliage.

Slender Silhouette Columnar Sweetgum Tree (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’)

Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’

Columnar sweetgums are tall skinny trees with stunning vertical accent

As the name of this tree suggests, the slender silhouette sweetgum is a tall and skinny tree that belongs to the genus Liquidambar. The columnar sweetgum tree has a spread at the top about the same size as the base. The tall, slender tree with its glossy green foliage looks like a bushy telegraph pole. These tall thin trees can grow up to 50 ft. (15 m) tall and only have a spread of 5 ft. (1.5 m).

Slender silhouette sweetgum trees are good choices for small to medium yards where a bold vertical accent is required. These columnar trees can also be planted together to create a tall privacy screen in your backyard. These trees thrive in full sun and in zones 5 to 9.

Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’)

Sky Pencil Holly tree

Sky Pencil Holly has narrow growth habit and is not too tall

As the name of this Japanese holly plant suggests, it has a pencil-thin growing pattern. This short growth of this narrow, columnar evergreen plant makes it an excellent columnar tree for landscaping small, compact gardens. The shrub-like evergreen skinny tree grows in full sun where it grows to between 6 and 10 ft. (1.8 – 3m) tall. The fastigiate branches grow vertically upward, making this slender tree perfect for a garden focal point.

This tall, skinny tree produces small white flowers in late summer. The ‘Sky Pencil’ trees are great for growing in a row to create a narrow hedge or screen. These columnar plants are excellent for borders, growing in containers, planting along driveways, or paths. Grows well in zones 6 to 8.

Dragon Lady Holly (Ilex x aquipernyi ‘Meschick’)

Dragon Lady Holly tree

Dragon Lady Holly trees are excellent trees for privacy

The ‘Dragon Lady’ holly tree is an evergreen tree that has a conical shape and tall, compact growing nature. These hollies are perfect for gardens where space is limited. They grow to about 20 ft. (6 m) tall and have a spread of up to 5 ft. (1.5 m). There is no pruning needed to keep the narrow shape of this columnar tree. These holly trees grow just as well in the shade as in full sun. They thrive in zones 6 to 8.

Swedish Columnar Aspen (Populus tremula ‘Erecta’)

Swedish Columnar Aspen

Columnar aspens are commonly used as tall narrow windbreak trees

The pole-like growth of the Swedish aspen ‘Erecta’ makes this a stunning columnar tree. Its tall, skinny appearance gives an attractive visual height when growing as a specimen tree. This tall slim aspen tree reaches heights of up to 40 ft. (12 m). The slender spread of this tree—as little as 8 feet (2.5 m) across—means you can grow this pillar tree in smaller yards.

The emerald green foliage turns a beautiful golden yellow in the fall. You can also plant these narrow trees together in a row to create tall colorful screening or as a windbreak.

Japanese Flagpole Flowering Cherry Tree (Prunus ‘Amanogawa’)

Japanese cherry tree

Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ has narrow growth habit especially in young trees

The common name of the flagpole cherry tree refers to its tall skinny growth habit. The columnar flowering Japanese cherry tree fills your yard with large fragrant pinkish-white flowers in the spring. The tall, slender growth is more pronounced in young trees. As the cherry blossom tree matures, it has a more vase-like shape. These tall flowering pillar-like trees grow up to 25 ft. (8 m) tall and have a spread of around 4 to 8 ft. (1 – 2 m).

Commonly called urban fruit trees, there are several types of dwarf columnar fruit trees to grow in small yards. Look for varieties of plum, apple, pear, and peach trees. Apple fruit trees are true columnar trees, whereas other types of fruit trees have a narrow, upright growth.

Columnar Tall Spruce Trees

Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Fastigiata’)

Colorado blue Spruce

The conical tall blue spruce is a cold hardy evergreen ornamental tree

Another type of conifer with a tall, upright growth habit is the ‘Fastigiata’ cultivar. This columnar evergreen tree is a slow grower that eventually grows up to 20 ft. (6 m) tall. The foliage of this dense tree is a bluish-green color, and its narrow, upward growth and pyramidal shape add graceful beauty to any backyard. As with most types of spruce trees, this is cold-hardy down to zone 2b.

Colorado Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Koster’)

Colorado Spruce 'koster'

Colorado Spruce ‘Koster’ is a medium sized evergreen tree for privacy

The ‘Koster’ Colorado spruce cultivar is a beautiful conical tree with silvery-blue foliage. This slow-growing columnar evergreen keeps its shape without pruning. It provides a vertical accent growing in containers, along borders, or as a single tree. Grow this type of spruce in full sun and zones 2 to 8.

Columnar White Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Pendula’)

pendula spruce

The tall and slender columnar white spruce with its weeping nature is great for compact yards

The columnar white spruce is an excellent example of a tall, skinny evergreen tree. The fast-growing spruce tree has drooping pendulous branches that make the slender tree resemble a pole. This weeping white spruce grows in full sun and between 12 and 40 ft. (3.6 – 12 m) tall. Plant this specimen evergreen tree where you need a vertical accent in a compact yard.

Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’)

Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Dwarf Alberta spruce is a small columnar tree with slow growth rate

If you are looking for a short, compact columnar tree, then the dwarf Alberta spruce is an excellent choice. The dense, cone-shaped conifer has slow growth at only 4” (10 cm) per year. You can grow this type of dwarf evergreen tree in a row to create a green privacy screening hedge. Or, you can grow the dwarf spruce in containers beside doors to create an elegant entranceway.

Columnar Arborvitae (Thuja) Trees

Thuja occidentalis

In this picture: Thuja occidentalis. This columnar tall trees are great as privacy trees

The two most popular types of arborvitae are the American arborvitae and Eastern arborvitae. The scientific name for this group of columnar conifers is Thuja. Let’s look at some of the most popular columnar conifers for creating “living walls.”

  • American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)—The tall, elongated pyramidal shape of these evergreen arborvitae trees makes them excellent trees for privacy fences. The soft, scaly leaves are densely packed together. Plant in a row to have year-long privacy from this low-maintenance tree.
  • Arborvitae ‘Emerald Green’ (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’)—The cultivar’s name, ‘Smaragd,’ is Danish for emerald. This semi-dwarf skinny evergreen tree has a narrow, conical shape and grows to between 7 and 15 ft. (2 – 4.5 m) tall.
Thuja occidentalis 'emerald green'

Pictures of thuja ’emerald green’ (‘Smaragd’)

  • Thuja occidentalis ‘Yellow Ribbon’—Known better by its common name, American arborvitae, this columnar conifer is a tall, skinny evergreen with a pyramid shape. Soft, dense foliage makes this tree perfect for privacy screens.
  • American arborvitae ‘Degroot’s Spire’—This low-maintenance tree grows in a distinct shape of a column. With this columnar evergreen tree you’ll notice that the base is about as wide as the crown in mature trees.
Thuja 'yellow ribbon' 'Degroot's Spire’

This image shows thuja cultivars ‘yellow ribbon’ (left) and ‘Degroot’s Spire’ (right)

Tall and Skinny Juniper Trees

Moonglow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’)

Juniper 'Moonglow' 'Blue Heaven' 'Compressa'

These picture show various cultivars of skinny juniper trees: ‘Moonglow’ (left), ‘Blue Heaven’ (center) and ‘Compressa’ (right)

The ‘Moonglow’ juniper tree is well-known for its neat, columnar growing pattern and dense evergreen foliage. The branches with their soft foliage grow in a fastigiate way. As the tree grows, it retains its columnar appearance and can eventually reach 20 ft. (6m) tall. This fastigiate juniper species can gracefully line driveways, paths, or grow along fences. You can also plant this as a specimen tree to create a column of dense foliage in a garden landscape.

Other Juniper Cultivars:

There are many more junipers that you can grow as landscape screening trees:

  • Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Heaven’—This medium-sized tree has stunning steel-blue foliage. Its distinct conical shape is due to branches that grow almost parallel to the trunk.
  • Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’ (Common Juniper)—This juniper cultivar is a dwarf, narrow columnar evergreen conifer. This stunning small tree is perfect for compact gardens, patios, or to grace doorways. Another name for the tree is the pencil point juniper. This dwarf tree grows to between 2 and 3 ft. (0.6 – 0.9 m).
  • Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus virginiana ‘Skyrocket’)—The fastigiate foliage creates a stunning, elegant columnar tree that is characterized by its narrow growth.
  • Spartan Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’)—Grow the narrow Spartan’ juniper as an evergreen privacy screen, formal accent tree, or windbreak. The juniper has a natural, symmetrical, columnar shape with bushy green foliage.
columnar juniper trees

This image shows Skyrocket juniper (left) and Spartan juniper (right)

Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Juniperus virginiana

Red cedar (red juniper) is a slow growing tall evergreen coniferous tree. It’s not a true type of cedar tree.

Although known as red cedar, this tree is not a true cedar as it’s a species of juniper tree native to eastern North America.

Some red cedar trees have a columnar growth nature and are also called red junipers. These slow-growing conifers have a slightly rounded shape. The striking appearance of Eastern red cedars has been described by some people as an exclamation point in the garden landscape. These evergreen tall columnar trees keep their color all year long.

Brodie Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana ‘Brodie’)

(Juniperus virginiana ‘Brodie’)

The ‘Brodie’ cedar is a drought-resistant columnar tree which can be used to create a privacy hedge for screening neighbors out

The Brodie cedar (often referred to as Brodie juniper) grows as a narrow evergreen pyramid and is a smaller and more compact cultivar than other junipers. Due to its tall, narrow growth habit, these junipers are also called pencil junipers. These skinny columnar conifers grow in a wide variety of climates. They are very drought-resistant plants that grow in full sun and up to 25 ft. (7.5 m) tall. Plant several Eastern red cedars together to create a privacy screen.

Slender Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’)

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana gracilis'

Slender Hinoki cypress is a small narrow tree that can be grown as a privacy hedge

The short, skinny Hinoki cypress tree is a dwarf variety with a compact growing nature. The slow-growing tree will take about ten years to reach 3 ft. (1 m) tall. In time, the pyramid-shaped slender tree reaches heights of between 6 and 9 ft. (1.8 – 2.7 m). The cultivar name ‘Nana Gracilis’ literally means slender or graceful dwarf. Grow in full sun wherever you need a small living hedge. Other planting ideas are to grow the columnar tree in a container on a patio or beside a front door.

Tall Skinny Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

Cupressus sempervirens

The tall narrow Italian cypress gives a stunning focal point in the landscape

Also called the pencil pine due to its tall, skinny appearance, the Italian cypress is a fast-growing, narrow evergreen conifer. These tall, elegant narrow evergreen trees look like huge poles that taper to a point. The fastigiate species of Italian cypress trees have erect and vertical branches that grow close to the trunk.

Due to its tall, thin appearance, Italian cypress trees make bold statements wherever they grow. The standard varieties cypress trees grow up to 115 ft. (35 m) tall. However, if space is limited in your backyard, you can grow dwarf varieties of this plant that just grow to 9 ft. (2.7 m) and are about 1 to 2 ft. (30 – 60 cm) wide.

Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra)

Populus nigra

Lombardy Poplar is a common columnar tree for blocking wind in large yards

Many poplar cultivars are fastigiate trees that have branches growing vertically to the trunk. The Lombardy poplar is a deciduous tree that grows rapidly in warm climates—expect growth at about 3 ft. (1 m) per year. These majestic, erect trees can eventually grow up to 50 ft. (15 m) and grow for 20 years. Poplar trees produce slim cylindrical flowers called catkins. These columnar deciduous trees are excellent plants for windbreaks, screens, or to grace long driveways. They grow well in zones 3 to 9 and need full sun to grow tall.

Related articles: