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Columnar and Fastigiate Trees for CO Landscapes – 7.427   arrow

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by Eric Hammond, James Klett, and Alison S. O’Connor* (9/20)

Quick Facts…

  • Trees provide shade, beauty, and protection from harsh winter winds.
  • Columnar and fastigiate tree forms provide the benefits of larger trees, and can fit into smaller landscapes.
  • Trees with narrower forms can be evergreen or deciduous.
  • Often, columnar trees can be used to make a statement and provide interesting forms and textures.

Everyone enjoys the beauty of shade trees, but many Colorado landscapes are too small to accommodate large trees. Narrow, columnar, and fastigiate trees are great options to enjoy the beauty and environmental benefits of trees and fit into smaller spaces.

How to Select Columnar and Fastigiate Trees

The terms “columnar” and “fastigiate” are generally used interchangeably.
These trees are more narrow than wide, with a ratio of height to width of 5-to-1 or greater. These species have varied forms and shapes, from stovepipe to light pole appearances. Species can have interesting forms, textures, shapes, fall color, fruit, flowers, and bark. There are also trees with pendulous forms that grow upright but have some drooping or weeping branches.

Many columnar selections have been made from naturally occurring narrow species. These selections are propagated asexually through grafting
and cuttings. The narrow form of trees is most pronounced when trees are
young; as they mature, the form may widen.

Select a tree species with a mature size that fits your available space. Check for obstructions from buildings or fences and overhead utility lines. Be sure to plant for the mature height and width of the tree (refer to Table 1).

Planting planting, dig a saucer-shaped hole approximately three times the
width of the root ball. The root flare should be visible following planting and slightly above grade. Ensure the large structural roots are at soil grade. For detailed planting instructions, refer to CSU Extension Garden Note #636 “Tree Planting Steps”.

Water Requirements

Species vary in water requirements and this needs to be accounted for during the tree selection process. Plant trees with higher water needs in areas that can be easily irrigated during periods of drought. Do not plant trees that have low-water needs in heavily irrigated lawn areas or at the base of slopes. Water is paramount to overall tree health and establishment. Though trees are narrower in shape, it doesn’t mean they are drought resistant (unless stated).

Culture and Maintenance

All trees will benefit from regular water during establishment. It is
recommended that wood mulch be used at the base of trees, instead of
plant material (including turf) or rocks. Wood mulch has been found to be
beneficial to tree growth and health and doesn’t compete with the tree for

Pruning for narrow trees is undertaken mainly to correct structural defects, like co-dominant trunks or to remove lower branches. Ideally, pruning should be done in the late winter or early spring, prior to budbreak.

Columnar Trees and Storm Damage

Columnar trees are often more prone to storm damage. This is especially true for fast growing species and those that have narrow branch angles and codominant trunks. Slower growing species and those with shorter and more horizontal branching are less likely to be damaged with heavy snows and wind.

Description of Table 1

Table 1 has a list of both columnar evergreen and deciduous trees for Colorado landscapes. The table includes the species name, mature size (H x W), growth rate, soil moisture needs, and aesthetic value and cultural hints. this list is not comprehensive, as new cultivars are introduced into the nursery trade and others replaced. Some of these species may not be as readily available as others. Contact your local garden centers and nurseries for availability.

Examples of the branching structure that columnar and fastigiate
trees will have. (A) Some columnar trees will have narrow branch
angles, leading to potentially greater snow load and damage; (B)
Other species will have wider angles from the trunk, being less
susceptible to breakage from snow or wind.
Examples of the branching structure that columnar and fastigiate
trees will have. (A) Some columnar trees will have narrow branch
angles, leading to potentially greater snow load and damage; (B)
Other species will have wider angles from the trunk, being less
susceptible to breakage from snow or wind.

Table 1. Columnar and Fastigiate Trees for Colorado

GenusSpeciesCultivarCommon NameMature Size (HxW)Water UseAesthetic Value and Cultural Hints
Acerplatanoides ‘Crimson Sentry’Crimson Sentry Norway maple30 x 15Med-HighRed-purple summer foliage; leaves more scorch resistant
Acerplatanoides‘Columnare’Columnar Norway maple50 x 20MedYellow flowers in early spring; dense canopy
Carpinusbetulus‘Frans Fontaine’Frans Fontaine hornbeam25 x15MedInteresting bark; one of the more narrow hornbeams; yellow fall color
Celtis occidentalis ‘JFS-KSU1’Prairie Sentinel® hackberry45 x 12Low-MedDrought and heat tolerant; leaves susceptible to nipple gall; yellow fall color
Ginkgobiloba ‘Princeton Sentry’Princeton Sentry ginkgo40 x 15MedTolerant to urban conditions once established; seedless male cultivar; yellow fall color
Juniperuschinensis ‘Blue Point’Blue Point juniper12 x 6LowDense blue-green foliage
Juniperuschinensis ‘Hetzi Columnaris’Hetzi Columnar juniper15 x 5LowBright green foliage; dusty-blue fruit
Juniperuschinensis ‘Spartan’Spartan juniper18 x 5LowRich green foliage
Juniperuschinensis ‘Spearmint’Spearmint juniper12 x 5LowBright green foliage 
Juniperusscopulorum Rocky Mountain juniper20 x 15LowDrought tolerant;
Juniperusscopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’Blue Arrow juniper20 x 5LowBright blue foliage
Juniperusscopulorum ‘Cologreen’Cologreen juniper15 x 8LowGreen foliage
Juniperusscopulorum ‘Gray Gleam’Gray Gleam juniper15 x 8LowMale cultivar (no fruit); silvery-gray color
Juniperusscopulorum ‘Medora’Medora juniper12 x 6LowMale cultivar; blue-green foliage
Juniperusscopulorum ‘Moonglow’Moonglow juniper15 x 8LowBlue-gray foliage
Juniperusscopulorum ‘Skyrocket’Skyrocket juniper18 x 3LowMale cultivar; very narrow form; silvery-blue foliage
Juniperusscopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’Wichita Blue juniper18 x 5LowMale cultivar; light silvery-blue foliage
Juniperusscopulorum ‘Woodward’Woodward juniper18 x 4LowPlant Select® recommendation; resistant to snow load breakage; blue-green foliage
Juniperusvirginiana ‘Taylor’Taylor redcedar15 x 4LowBelieved to be a male cultivar; soft silvery blue-green foliage
Malusx ‘Red Baron’Red Baron crabapple20 x 4Low-MedReddish-purple foliage in the spring turning to bronze-green; dark red fruit and flowers
Malusx ‘Adirondack’Adirondack crabapple18 x 10Low-MedFloriferous white blooms
Piceaabies ‘Cupressina’Columnar Norway spruce18 x 4MedShort dark green needles; large cones; sheds heavy wet snow
Piceaglauca ‘Pendula’Weeping White spruce20 x 6Low-MedWeeping branches with an upright habit; rich blue-green needle color
Piceaglauca ‘North Star’North Star white spruce15 x 7Low-MedShorter height; dense, dark green needles
Piceapungens ‘Baby Blue Eyes’Baby Blue Eyes spruce15 x 8MedSmaller than most spruce; baby blue needle color
Piceapungens ‘Bakeri’Bakeri blue spruce30 x 15MedSilvery-blue needles
Piceapungens ‘Fastigiata’Columnar blue spruce25 x 10MedStriking blue needle color
Piceapungens ‘Hoopsii’Hoops blue spruce35 x 18MedVery blue needle color
Piceapungens ‘Blue Totem’Blue Totem blue spruce18 x 9MedSharp angled branches; very blue color
Pinusheldreichii Bosnian pine20 x 10LowStiff, dark green needles; salt tolerant
Pinusheldreichii ‘Compact Gem’Compact Gem Bosnian pine12 x 6LowStiff, very dark green needles; slow growing
Pinusheldreichii ‘Emerald Arrow’Emerald Arrow Bosnian pine20 x 8LowUpright selection of Bosnian pine; bark is silvery
Pinusheldreichii ‘Satelit’Satelit Bosnian pine20 x 8LowUpright selection of Bosnian pine
Pinusmugo ‘Columnaris’Columnar mugo pine20 x 10Low-MedShorter in height; emerald green foliage
Pinusmugo ‘Fastigiata’Upright mugo Pie15 x 4Low-MedNarrower uprght habbit
Pinusmugo ‘Tannenbaum’Tannenbaum mugo pine30 x 18Low-MedCompact pyramidal form; good winter color
Pinusnigra ‘Arnold Sentinel’Arnold Sentinel Austrian pine15 x 8Low-MedNarrower version of Austrian pine; prone to storm breakage due to longer needles
Pinusnigra ‘Komet’Komet Columnar Austrian pine25 x 7LowUpright selection of Austrian pine; dark green needles; prone to snow damage
Pyruscalleryana ‘Cleveland Select’ or ‘Glen’s Form’Chanticleer pear35 x 15MedGlossy green leaves in summer; red-purple fall color; white flowers in spring; few fruits
Pyrusussuriensis ‘Bailfrost’Mountain Frost® pear25 x 15MedGlossy green leaves in summer; red-purple fall color; white flowers; few fruits
Pyrusx ‘NCPX1’ PP 26159Javelin pear25 x 15MedLeaves emerge purple and turn to bronze-green; tightly columnar
Quercusrobur‘Fastigiata’Upright English oak40 x 12MedUpright form of English oak; prone to snow damage
Quercusrobur ‘Skyrocket’Skyrocket English oak35 x 10MedMore columnar form of Fastigiate English oak
Quercusrobur x alba‘Crimschmidt’Crimson Spire™ oak40 x 15Low-MedDark green foliage in summer; rusty red fall color; not susceptible to iron chlorosis; holds leaves into winter
Quercusrobur x alba ‘JFS-KW1QX’Street Spire oak45 x 15MedGreen leaves that turn red in the fall; leaves drop in the fall and are not persistent
Quercusrobur x bicolor (x warei) ‘Long’Regal Prince® oak45 x 15Low-MedDark green foliage in summer; brownish-yellow fall color; holds leaves into winter

*E. Hammond, horticulture agent, Colorado State University Extension; J. Klett, Extension Specialist, Colorado State University; and A.S. O’Connor,
horticulture agent, Colorado State University Extension.