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7 Best High Altitude Fruit Trees To Grow in Colorado

It’s a dream for many people to have a garden filled with fruit trees you can harvest and eat yourself.

Many people wonder whether it’s possible to grow fruit trees at high altitudes in the Rocky Mountains, and the answer is, yes it is!

For fruit trees to bear at high altitudes, they need to be able to deal with shorter and cooler growing seasons and cold winters.

Trees should be late flowering to ensure pollination and fruit set and be early bearing varieties wherever possible to maximize your chances of success.

7 Best High Altitude Fruit Trees For Colorado

1. Apple (Malus domestica)

Apple on Apple Tree
Image by Emily Carlin via Flickr

Colorado offers a great climate for the cultivation of many varieties of apples. Apples are deciduous trees that need a warm summer and a long period of cold weather to thrive.

When growing apples in CO, aim for varieties that ripen in October for the best chances of success. Avoid varieties that may flower and ripen when the threat of frost is still present.

Apples are one of the most popularly grown fruit trees in the US. Whilst they thrive best in the plains of CO, according to the Denver Post, they’ll grow up to at least 8,000 ft up in the Rocky Mountains.

Other Common Names: Common Apple

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 12-15 ft tall and 12-15 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Colorado: Red Delicious, Golden, Lodi, Granny Smith, Haralson, Fireside, Cox Orange, Harlared

Flowering Season: Spring

2. Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)

Sour Cherry (Prunus cerasus)
Image by Gabriel via Flickr

Sour cherries can be grown on the eastern and western slopes of the Rocky Mountains with success. However, the unpredictable weather on the Front Range makes their cultivation in this area risky. Sweet cherries (Prunus avium) aren’t as cold hardy as sour cherries so tend not to do very well in CO.

The best cherries in Colorado come from the western slopes. One notable exception is the Bali Cherry (Prunus cerasus ‘Bali’) which will reportedly grow up to 9,000 ft in the Front Range.

Cherry trees also have the added benefit of being prized flowering trees, rewarding growers with beautiful blossoms as well as with their delicious fruit.

Other Common Names: Tart Cherry

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 8-10 ft tall and 6-8 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Colorado: Bing, Montmorency, Rainier, Lapins, Lambert, Black Tartarian, Early Richmond. Royal Ann, Meteor, Van, Stella. Bali (AKA Evan’s Bali/Evan’s Cherry), Northstar

Flowering Season: Spring

3. Peach (Prunus persica)

Peach on Peach Tree
Image by Peter Stenzel via Flickr

Peaches can be grown in certain areas of CO. However, late spring frosts can limit production, so they aren’t always the most reliable crop to grow. To avoid this problem, make sure to avoid planting peach trees in low-lying areas that are more susceptible to frost. Place in full sun in well-draining soil.

For success in cultivating peaches in CO, aim for varieties that bloom later in the season.

Other Common Names: Peach Tree

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 ft tall and 15-25 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Colorado: Elberta, Polly, Haven, Hale Haven, Ranger, Reliance, Harken, Palisade Crest Haven, Suncrest, Golden Jubilee, White Lady

Flowering Season: Spring

4. Pear (Pyrus communis)

Plant pear trees in full sun in well-drained soil for best results. Avoid low-lying areas so frost pockets won’t harm the trees, flowers, or fruits.

Planting near south or southwest sides of a building can give trees a warmer microclimate, and force them to flower earlier. However, the early bloom can be killed be late frosts.

According to Colorado State University Extension, two different varieties of pear trees will increase your chances of a good crop, as the bloom season is short and the blossom aren’t overly attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Other Common Names: Common Pear

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 ft tall and 30-40 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Colorado: Anjou, Luscious, Parker, Summercrisp, Bartlett, Bosc, Flemish Beauty, Seckle, Sueri Asian, Twenty-First Century Asian, Surecrop, Ubileen

Flowering Season: Spring

5. Plum (Prunus domestica)

Plum (Prunus domestica)
Image by Peter O’Connor via Flickr

Plum trees are typically much smaller than larger, common fruit trees such as apples, pears, and peaches, so are suited for those with smaller spaces who still want to cultivate some fruit at home.

Plant plum trees in full sun in well-draining soil on the highest point on your property to avoid any frost pockets which could damage or kill your tree.

Plums are considered one of the most reliable fruit crops in CO, according to the Colorado State University Extension. Plant two different varieties of plums for cross-pollination, but make sure these are both either European or Japanese plums, as they flower at different times.

Other Common Names: Common Plum, European Plum

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 18-20 ft tall and 8-10 ft tall

Varieties Suitable for Colorado: Stanley, Green Gage, Mount Royal, Blue Damson, Sapalta, Waneta

Flowering Season: April

6. Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)
Image by Malcolm Manners via Flickr

Apricots aren’t the most reliable fruit crop to grow in Colorado due to their tendency to flower early. Early blossoms can be killed by late cold snaps and frosts which will kill the buds. However, they can often be grown successfully in CO at altitudes up to 6,500 ft.

Spring flowering can be delayed by applying a thick layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips after the ground freezes.

Even if apricot trees don’t produce, they have a pleasing profile thanks to their glossy leaves and shape, which is uncommon in other trees of this size.

Apricots are small-sized trees that offer architectural interest alongside their delicious fruit. Moorpark and Goldcot bloom later, and could be worth trying in the Rocky Mountains.

Other Common Names: Apricot Tree

Growing Zones: 5-8

Average Size at Maturity: 20-25 ft tall and 20-25 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Colorado: Chinese Mormon, Harcot, Moorpark, Goldcot, Sungold, Moongold, Plumcot, Tilton

Flowering Season: April

7. Fig (Ficus carica)

Fig on Fig Tree
Image by Jesús Cabrera via Flickr

Fig trees could survive and produce fruit in Western Colorado with a little bit of care and attention. Plant in the warmest and sunniest area of your yard. Trees can be mulched or tarped to reduce cold damage.

In the coldest areas, figs can be grown in containers and brought indoors during the winter. Figs respond well to container growth and even produce better when root-bound.

Other Common Names: Common Fig

Growing Zones: 5-10

Average Size at Maturity: 10-20 ft tall and 10-20 ft wide

Varieties Suitable for Colorado: Hardy Chicago, Celeste, Brown Turkey, Black Mission, Desert King, Kadota, Violette de Bordeaux

Flowering Season: Spring

Mountain Fruit

Living in high elevations doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate fruit trees. As long as you keep in mind the cooler winter temperatures and shorter growing seasons, and plant appropriate varieties, you can obtain a bountiful harvest from your fruit trees in the mountainous areas of Colorado.

Aim for late-flowering varieties after the last frost date to ensure flowering, pollination, and fruit set.

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