Prunus nigra `Princess Kay' plum (135279 bytes)

Performance Trials on Woody Plants

By James Klett, Department of Horticulture, Colorado State University

If you live in the High Plains area of Colorado and you want to know which shrubs will do best in your yard, you can rely on information from Colorado State University.

More than 1700 trees and shrubs are grown in the arboretum at the W.D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center on the CSU campus. Each of these plants is evaluated for their performance under Colorado conditions.

Of those plants, the following trees have been shown to perform well on the High Plains. Research is on-going to learn more about these plants.

  • Acer tataricum - Tatarian maple can be grown as a small tree or large shrub. It is more adaptable to clay and higher pH soils. It blooms green/white flowers in spring; its samara seed matures to a rosy-red color.

  • Fraxinus nigra `Fallgold' - Fallgold black ash is a selection from Manitoba, Canada. This plant develops more of an upright growth habit and appears adaptable to a wide range of soils. Fallgold black ash turns a good yellow in the fall that persists later into the season.

  • Prunus nigra `Princess Kay' - The Princess Kay plum (shown above) is a small tree or a larger shrub with an upright branch habit. This hardy plant introduced from the University of Minnesota blooms freely as a young plant with double white flowers. It has an attractive fall foliage and a darker bark color.

  • Syringa pekinensis - The Pekin lilac is a upright arching plant with a loose and more open growth habit. It can develop into a large shrub or a small tree. Its flowers are yellowish and it has a brown, exfoliating bark.

Below are seven shrubs that do well on the High Plains:

  • Berberis koreana - Korean barberry is an adaptable plant that can grow into a good barrier. As it grows, this multi-stem plant forms clumps. Its yellow flowers are followed by red berry fruit.

  • Foresteria neomexicana - The New Mexico Privet is a winter-hardy and adaptable plant with an upright growth habit. Preferring sun, this dioecious plant has yellow male flowers that are produced before leaves. It is a fairly showy plant with golden tan bark that adds winter interest.

  • Hydrangea arborescens `Annabelle' - Annabelle hydrangea is a rounded shrub with many non-branched canes. This plant prefers moist soil and shady conditions. Its large white flower that blooms in July and August is set off by dark green foliage.

  • Lonicera x xylosteoides `Miniglobe' - The miniglobe honeysuckle has a slow growth rate with a dense rounded form. When mature, its leaves put on a bluish tent. This plant prefers sun and a moist-well-drained site.

  • Rhus aromatica `Gro-low' - Growlow sumac is wide spreading with a ground-cover habit. It grows up to two-and-one-half feet high. This adaptable plant has a glossy green foliage followed by an orange-to-red-to-purple fall foliage color.

  • Sorbaria sorbifolia - Ural false spirea or ash-leaf spirea is an erect, multistemmed shrub that spread suckers and forms colonies. A highly adaptable plant that will grow in sun or light shade, this spirea perfers some additional moisture. It has a deep green foliage with pinnately compound leaves. Its white flowers can become 10-to-12 inches long. The plant blooms from June to August.

  • Viburum opolus `Compactum' - Compact European cranberry bush is a rounded dense plant with a compacted growth habit. This adaptable shrub blooms white flowers that are both sterile and fertile. Its red fruit persists into the winter. Aphids and leafspot are not major problems on this shrub.

If you are interested in these or other shrubs, you can order "Woody Landscape Plants for the High Plains." Published in 1993, this is a full length book that describes many major landscape plants. The publication is available for $10.50, including postage and handling, by contacting the Resource Center, 115 General Services Building, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523; phone (970-491-6198.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010