Fruiting and flowering shrubs can be a great addition to your Colorado Foothills property. They can line driveways, serve as a hedge, provide shade, or block the wind.
Shrubs that also produce flowers or fruit bring additional interest to your yard, and they benefit pollinators, birds, and other wildlife as well!
In this article, we will go over some fruiting and/or flowering shrubs to add to your Colorado property, both native and non-native options.
Keep reading to learn which flowering and fruiting shrubs we recommend.
Throughout Colorado, there are thirteen (possibly more!) species of currant and gooseberry shrubs.
Currants do best in full sunlight or partial shade. Currant plants can dry out easily, so be aware of harsh winds and provide supplemental watering during times of drought.
Currant shrubs will need pruning to produce more fruit if fruit production is the goal.
Many insect pests and diseases affect currants, including aphids, cane borers, and spider mites.
They are also an alternate host for white pine blister rust, so we recommend not planting them near white pines, if possible. Because they are an alternate host, Ribes species are restricted in some U.S. States (though not here in Colorado).
Wax Currant (Ribes cereum) – Native
Wax currant can grow 8 inches to 6.5 feet tall. You can recognize a wax currant by its fuzzy stems, gray-green leaves that are round with toothed edges, or the small white flowers with pink sepals.
Wax currants are also known for their somewhat spicy scent.
The flowers of the wax currant attract native bees, butterflies, and moths. Native and migrating birds eat the fruit, which is an orange-red berry.
This type of currant fruit is not often eaten by humans but is a popular food for our native wildlife.
Alpine Currant (Ribes alpinum)- Non-Native
Alpine currant is sometimes called mountain currant. Growing 3 to 6 feet tall and high, this shrub works well as a border or as a small privacy screen. Alpine currants are known to be low-maintenance, and will only occasionally need fertilization, pruning, or other care.
You can recognize alpine currant shrubs by their dense foliage, yellow fall color, shredding bark on older plants, and dark red berries on female plants. (Note: most alpine currant plants sold in nurseries are male plants).
Alpine currants are not native to Colorado but come from Northern Europe and Russia.
Black Currant (Ribes nigrum) – Non-Native
The fruit from black currant shrubs is used to create Crème de Cassis, a liqueur, jellies, and pastries.
Black currant, or blackcurrant, can grow to 5 feet tall. The name refers to the edible black berries that grow, usually in late July.
Native to central and northern Europe and northern Asia, the black currant plant can be recognized by its aromatic scent, its spring flowers, or the berry-like fruit.
Sometimes called bullberry, buffaloberry shrubs grow densely, making them a great option for a windbreak.
Silver Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea) – Native
Silver buffaloberry is used in reclamation projects, as it is drought-tolerant, grows even in poor soil conditions, does best in full sun, can withstand high winds, and easily suckers to expand.
Growing 8 to 14 feet tall, silver buffaloberry shrubs are often planted as hedges or privacy screens.
Silver buffaloberry can sometimes improve soil conditions by fixing and assimilating atmospheric nitrogen.
The female shrubs produce berries that are popular for jam-making and are a food source for birds.
Note that this small tree or shrub will produce suckers, so you will need to cut the new growth if you don’t want it to spread.
Russet Buffaloberry (Shepherdia candensis) – Native
Also called soapberry, russet buffaloberry grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. The name soap comes from berries that taste soap-like and bitter.
It has yellow flowers that bloom in late spring, and the leaves are often a whitish-gray color.
Wild Rose (Rosa woodsii) – Native
Wild rose shrubs are identified by the light pink, five-petaled flowers that bloom in early summer. This shrub can grow 1 to 4 feet tall.
Note that small thorns cover this shrub, so be careful!
Wild rose shrubs also produce rose hips, a fruit that will stay on the plant throughout the winter, providing food for wildlife.
Boulder Raspberry (Rubus deliciosus) – Native
Growing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, Boulder raspberry is a native shrub that can be recognized by its large white flowers, vase-shaped growth habit, and small, raspberry-like fruit.
The shrub flowers in May and June and will produce more flowers when older canes are pruned out.
The fruit is considered inedible for human consumption but is a favorite food of birds and other wildlife, including bears.
Three Leaf Sumac (Rhus aromatica var. trilobata) – Native
Growing up to 5 to 10 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide, three-leaf sumac is a native shrub with red berries. The foliage turns reddish-orange in the fall, and there are tiny yellow spring flowers.
Three-leaf sumac prefers full sun, and once it is established, this shrub can be very drought tolerant. It attracts birds and pollinators, is bee-friendly, and has interesting features in spring, summer, and fall.
During the summer, the leaves are a dark, glossy green and have three lobes, leading to the “three leaf” name. This shrub is also sometimes called “skunkbush” due to the odor when branches break.
Three-leaf sumac does well on most Colorado Foothills properties. It is native to our area and works well in xeriscape or traditional landscapes.
Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa) – Not Native
Nanking cherry is one of the first plants to bloom in spring here in the Colorado Foothills. The small pinkish-white flowers appear in early spring, followed by fuzzy green leaves and then bright red edible cherries.
Nanking cherry shrubs can grow 6 to 10 feet tall with a spread of 10 to 15 feet. Native to China and Japan, this shrub can become drought-tolerant once established.
Wild Plum (Prunus americana) – Native
Wild plums, also known as Colorado wild plums or American wild plums, bloom at the same time that their leaves will appear in the spring. Grown as a small tree or shrub, wild plums will grow to 20 feet tall. This is another shrub that can grow by suckering, so pruning may be required to shape it into a tree or to control a wild plum from becoming a thicket.
The spring flowers are around 1 inch across with 5 petals. They are white and fragrant, and typically, groups of 3 to 5 flowers will grow together.
The fruit, a type of plum, can be red, yellow, or purple. The fruit can taste dry or sour if it is not ripe. When ripe, the flesh is sweet.
Older branches will have long, blunt thorns. Except for the flesh and skin of the plums, all parts of a wild plum (including the pits) contain a toxin called hydrocyanic acid. So while eating the fruit should be okay, try to avoid eating any other parts of this tree or shrub.
The appropriately named snowberry can be most easily recognized by the white berries that appear later in summer.
Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) – Native
Common snowberry shrubs can be found growing naturally in the Colorado foothills. They have blue-green rounded leaves, can grow well in the shade, and the white berries grow in fall and last into winter.
Mountain Snowberry (Symphoricarpos rotundifolius) – Native
Mountain snowberries will grow only 1 to 5 feet tall. The spring flowers are really clusters of small, bell-shaped pink flowers that grow at the ends of branches.
The berries, which appear in fall, are white. Interestingly, when you break the berries open, the insides look like snow!
Elderberry (Sambucus var.) – Native
Elderberry shrubs have white, fragrant flowers in spring and dark purple or black fruit in late summer and fall.
Elderberry shrubs can grow 6 to 12 feet high, and the fruit will ripen in August or September. Birds and other animals enjoy elderberries, and they are also used in pies and to create wine. The berries are a good source of vitamin C.
They have a shallow root system, so use caution when working or digging around any existing elderberry shrubs to prevent damaging them.
Here in the foothills, the red-berried elder (Sambucus racemosa) can often be found in meadows or along streams.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)
Serviceberry trees or shrubs are popular because they provide interest during all four seasons: flowers in spring, fruit during the summer, colorful leaves in the fall, and colorful bark in the winter.
Serviceberry plants are sometimes called Juneberries, as the fruit will often ripen during the month of June.
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’) – Native
We covered this cultivar of serviceberry, one of our favorites, previously. Read all about the ‘Autumn Brilliance’ serviceberry cultivar here.
Shadblow Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) – Native
The name “shadblow” (or sometimes shadbush or shadwood) refers to the fish that spawn during the same period of time that this plant produces flowers.
Also known as the Canadian serviceberry, the shadblow serviceberry has white, star-shaped flowers that attract pollinators and beautiful fall foliage in shades of orange, red, or yellow.
Found throughout North America, there are several cultivars of shadblow serviceberries available.
Saskatoon Serviceberry (Amelancier sanguinea var. alnifolia) – Native
Also referred to as the alder-leaved serviceberry due to its alder-like leaves, Saskatoon serviceberry plants do well in cold temperatures.
Depending on the variety, Saskatoon serviceberries can vary in size, from 4 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide.
Saskatoon serviceberry plants prefer full sun or partial shade.
Canada Red Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana) – Native
Read all about Canada Red Chokecherry here. Grown most often as a tree, it will grow up to 20 feet tall.
Want to learn about other shrubs appropriate for Colorado properties? Check out Native Shrubs for Colorado Landscapes from the Colorado State University Extension.
Planting Fruiting or Flowering Shrubs
Now that you know some of the fruiting or flowering shrubs that are appropriate for your Colorado foothills property, you can decide which would work best for you.
Consider what the purpose of the shrubs will be. There are many reasons to plant shrubs, including:
- Spring flowers
- Food for wildlife
- To attract pollinators
- To use as a windbreak, hedge, or property marker
- To use as a focal point
- To prevent erosion and noxious weeds after tree removal
- To bring back native songbirds to our area
- And more
Whatever your reasons, LAM Tree Service can help! Contact us for more information on how we can help determine the right shrubs for your property, plant them, and keep them watered and pest and disease-free.
We recommend spring or early fall planting to get your new trees off to a great start. You can always call us for advice on where to plant your new tree(s) and don’t forget that we offer professional tree planting services if you don’t want to do it yourself!
Recommended Trees & Shrubs
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