9 Small Trees for Colorado (Ideal for Smaller Yards)

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Written By Thomas Pitto

Propagation Expert & Permaculture Enthusiast

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Home » Colorado » 9 Small Trees for Colorado (Ideal for Smaller Yards)

Colorado is a state known for its stunning natural beauty.

The variance in the topography of the land means that many different types of trees can be admired in the wild, where the planting zones of Colorado extend from zone 3 to 7.

This variety of climatic conditions allows the home gardener to plant many different species in the home landscape.

Even if you’re strapped for space, there are still plenty of species of trees you can plant in your yard.

9 Small Trees To Grow in Colorado

1. Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

Pagoda Dogwood - Nature Hills Lyrae Willis
Images by Lyrae Willis and Nature Hills, Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

The Pagoda Dogwood is a small tree or shrub with a spreading crown of horizontal branches. The branch ends are upturned and the bark and twigs are green to reddish/purple.

Cream-white flowers appear in flat-topped clusters that later turn into reddish/purple berries. Fall sees the foliage turn a dark shade of maroon.

The common name of ‘Pagoda Dogwood,’ refers to the flat-topped crown which has a horizontal branching pattern. The leaves are alternate rather than opposite as is common on most other dogwoods. The bitter berry-like fruit are consumed by wildlife in the fall and winter.

Grows in shade to partial shade in moist, well-drained acid soils. It’ll tolerate clay and poor soils.

Other Common Names: Alternate Leaf Dogwood, Alternate-Leaf Dogwood

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 ft tall and 12-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: May – June

Available at: Nature Hills

2. Hawthorn ‘Toba’ (Crataegus x mordenensis)

Hawthorn Toba
Image by John Johnston via Flickr

The Toba Hawthorn is a compact rounded tree with short horns along the branches. It’s a superb choice for small spaces as it offers interesting foliage, blooms, and fruit. It provides a focal point or accent to the landscape.

The flowers emerge in late spring and are white with a pink blush. They’re followed by small red fruit.

The Hawthorn ‘Toba,’ will adjust to most soil types with good drainage and grows best in full sun.

Other Common Names: Modern Hawthorn

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: June

3. Wafer Ash (Ptelea trifoliata)

wafer ash
Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr

The Wafer Ash is an aromatic small tree or shrub, usually with a slender and crooked trunk bearing ascending branches. It works well as an understory tree. The crushed bark, twigs, and foliage have a musky, lemon-like aroma that many find disagreeable.

The leaves are dark green in the summer and turn yellow in the fall. Small greenish/white flowers emerge amongst the leaves around April. The fruit is a distinct wafer-like samara with broad wings.

The bitter fruit used to be used as a substitute for hops in brewing beer, hence the common name of ‘Hop Tree.’ The Wafer Ash will grow in sun or shade, in moist, wet, or dry conditions. The sweet nectar attracts many species of butterflies to the garden.

Other Common Names: Common Hop Tree, Hop Tree

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 10-15 ft tall and 10-15 ft wide

Flowering Season: April

Available at: Nature Hills

4. Pekin Lilac (Syringa pekinensis)

Pekin Lilac (Syringa pekinensis)
Image from Arborday

The Pekin Lilac is a large multi-stemmed shrub that can be pruned into a small tree with an irregular, open, and loosely symmetrical growth pattern. Lilacs need a certain amount of chilling hours to flower, making them suited to most areas of CO.

The flowers are small and creamy white and are borne on panicles in late spring to early summer. The mature foliage is dark green, ovate/ovate-lanceolate, whilst the bark is reddish-brown.

The Pekin Lilac grows in full sun to partial shade and grows at a medium rate. The Pekin Lilac attracts butterflies and provides food and shelter for caterpillars and small birds.

Other Common Names: Chinese Tree Lilac

Growing Zones: 3-7

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall and 10-15 ft wide

Flowering Season: May-June

5. Newport Plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Newport’)

Newport Plum
Image by far closer via Flickr

The Newport Plum is a small-to-medium-sized deciduous tree with a rounded crown. It draws the eye in whether in bloom or not, with it’s dark purple foliage and twigs.

The serrate/eliptic leaves emerge bronze-purple in the spring, turning dark reddish before changing to darker shades of red in the fall.

Deeply fragrant, white/pink blossoms bursts forth all over the branches in mid-spring. They give way to small edible, purple fruit which are enjoyed by wildlife.

The Newport Plum will grow in full sun to partial shade but best color is produced in full sun. Plant in moderately fertile, well-drained soil.

Other Common Names: Newport Cherry Plum, Cherry Plum ‘Newport,’ Newport Myrobalan Plum

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: Mid-spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Mayday Tree (Prunus padus)

Mayday Tree
Image by Andreas Rockstein via Flickr

The Mayday Tree is native to Northern Asia and Europe, and is one of the first trees to come into leaf in the spring.

The leaves are followed by pendulous clusters of tiny, fragrant white blooms. The Mayday Tree works well as a focal point in the landscape and can provide shade and living structure to the landscape.

The fruit is dark colored and has a very astringent taste but are reportedly very high in antioxidants.

Plant the Mayday Tree in full sun in well-draining sun away from any standing water.

Other Common Names: Bird Cherry, Black Dogwood, Hackberry, Hogberry, Hagberry

Growing Zones: 3-6

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 ft tall and 10-15 ft wide

Flowering Season: April-June

Available at: Nature Hills

7. Russian Hawthorn (Crataegus ambigua)

Russian Hawthorn
Image by Andrey Zharkikh via Flickr

The Russia Hawthorn is a small drought tolerant tree once established. In spring, small glossy leaves emerge and are followed by clusters of bright white flowers.

By August, the flowers give way to dazzling red fruit. The leaves turn yellow in the fall whilst the fruit turns into shades of rust.

The Russian Hawthorn has an upright, gnarled and irregular branching habit, with ¼ to ½ inch long thorns, which creates architectural interest in the winter when the tree is bare. The Russian Hawthorn is hardy to 9,500 ft above sea level.

Other Common Names: Green Hawthorn, Southern Hawthorn

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 15-25 ft tall and 10-15 ft wide

Flowering Season: April to May

8. Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba)

Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba)
Image by Keriluamox via Flickr

The Maidenhair Tree is a slow-grower that’s pyramidal when young and becomes open and broad with age. It has a large branching structure. It’s part of the gymnosperm family and is considered to be one of the oldest living tree species around today.

Female trees bear a fleshy, bad-smelling fruit the size of a small plum. To avoid the smell, male trees are more commonly planted instead of females.

The leaves of the Maidenhair Tree are fan or triangular shaped and are bright-green. Plant in full sun in moderately moist soil, but it’ll also adapt to sandy conditions. Protect trees from strong winds to avoid snapping branches.

Other Common Names: Ginkgo, Gingko

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 25-30 ft tall and 15-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: April to May

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

9. European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)

European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)
Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr

The European Mountain Ash is a broadleaf deciduous tree which is upright/oval in youth, opening up with maturity. The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, oblong to oblong lanceolate. The European Mountain Ash grows from sea level up to elevations of 7,800 ft above sea level.

Plant the European Mountain Ash in sun to partial shade. It doesn’t do well in compacted soils in urban environments.

The adventitious roots make it useful in mitigating soil erosion, and the fruit can be used to make preserves and for other culinary purposes. They are also an important food source for birds in the winter.

Other Common Names: Rowan, Mountain Ash

Growing Zones: 3-6

Average Size at Maturity: 20-40 ft tall and 8-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: Late Spring

A Tree For Every Space

No matter the size of your yard, or the soil or moisture conditions, there’s a tree to suit your conditions.

Whether you have a tight and narrow area you want filled with greenery and life or a patio you want planted, there are plenty of small sized trees for you to choose from, regardless of where you live in the state of Colorado.

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Thomas Pitto

Propagation Expert & Permaculture Enthusiast

Thomas worked for a number of years as the head of plant propagation for a horticultural contractor taking care of many different species of ornamental trees & shrubs. He learned how to propagate certain endangered endemic species and has a love of permaculture, sustainability and conscious living. When Thomas isn't hiking in nature he can be found playing music, reading a book, or eating fruit under a tree.

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