Top 10 Waterwise Trees and Shrubs

By Keith Williamson, Inventory Control, Little Valley Wholesale Nursery

Photo credit: Keith Williamson

There are a surprising number of waterwise trees and shrubs that grow well in Colorado’s urban and suburban landscapes. The following are 10 of my personal favorites:

1. Celtis occidentalis – Hackberry
A large shade tree native to the eastern half of North America, with a rounded crown and light grey, uniquely textured. “Knobby” bark.

2. Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’ – Winter King Hawthorn
A North American flowering ornamental tree with four seasons of interest: white spring flowers, followed by small orange berries in late summer that persist into winter, foliage that displays yellows, oranges and reds in the fall, and exfoliating grey bark that exposes patches of creamy orange bark underneath throughout the year.

3. Gymnocladus dioica – Kentucky Coffeetree
A legume, this tall North American native shade tree has a coarse, open winter silhouette, changing to a very full, thick texture during the growing season because of its very large (easily 24” long by 18” wide), bipinnate leaves. The grey bark is uniquely patterned, lifting in long, flat plates.

4. Koelreuteria paniculata – Goldenrain Tree
Another flowering ornamental tree to 30’ tall that produces huge, open panicles of yellow flowers in the summer, followed by persistent, papery bracts that look like Chinese lanterns. Native to Japan, China and Korea.

5. Pinus heldreichii – Bosnian Pine
A Mediterranean evergreen tree in the 30’ range, with grey bark and rich, dark green needles that maintain their color throughout the winter. It resembles a compact Austrian pine, but with a slower growth rate.

6. Amelanchier species – Serviceberry, Juneberry
Native to North America, Amelanchier includes shrubs and small trees, with clusters of white blossoms in early spring, followed by edible (delicious!) red to purplish-black fruit that is highly attractive to wildlife. Fall foliage color includes yellows, oranges and reds.

7. Amorpha canescens – Leadplant
A native woody legume of central North America, including Colorado, with pinnate, grey-green leaves and an upright-rounded form. Terminal, spike-like racemes of blue-purple flowers with bright orange anthers add a splash of color in mid to late summer.

8. Fallugia paradoxa – Apache Plume
This mid-sized shrub is native to the American Southwest, with very slender, whitish twigs and tiny, deeply lobed leaves. Solitary white flowers bloom throughout the growing season, followed by pink, silky seed plumes.

9. Ribes odoratum (aureum) ‘Crandall’ – Crandall Clove Currant
A selection of a North American native shrub with a broad, rounded habit, glossy, lobed leaves that turn burgundy-red in autumn, and with a delightfully spicy scent to its trumpet-like, bright yellow spring flowers. Large black fruits, up to nickle-size, are produced in quantity, ideal for harvest or for attracting wildlife.

10. Shepherdia argentea ‘Totem’ – SILVER TOTEM® Columnar Buffaloberry
A seedling selection of this North American native shrub, with a distinctly columnar growth habit and narrow, silvery-green leaves. A planned 2023 Plant Select® introduction.