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Deciduous Shrubs – 7.415   arrow

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by R.A. Cox and J.E. Klett*(12/13)

Quick Facts…

  • Use shrubs for screening, privacy, windbreaks, wildlife habitats, landscape color and texture.
  • Deciduous shrubs provide a seasonal change of interest in the landscape.
  • Well-placed shrubs take into account available space, exposure and soil conditions.
  • Table 1 lists shrubs for elevations below 6,000 feet that are widely available in garden centers and nurseries.

Shrubs are immediately noticeable in the landscape because they are at eye level. Flower and fruit displays, interesting foliage shapes and colors, and even bark color and texture add interest. Shrubs can visually anchor a building to a site, guide the eye toward or away from certain views, and bridge the space between lower-growing perennials and taller trees. Deciduous shrubs offer seasonal changes not found with evergreen shrubs.

Because of their varied size, shrubs are versatile landscape performers. A 2-foot shrub can complement perennials in the flower bed, while a 20-foot hedge can screen even the largest property. Some shrubs may be pruned to a single or few stems for growth as small specimen trees. Pruning others flat to decorate a wall in an espalier can provide a focal point for a courtyard or walkway. Space shrubs singly or mass them in small odd-numbered groups to fill in a shrub border. Spacing closely in a line will allow plants to grow into a hedge or screen. The spacing at planting depends on the growth habit and mature size of the shrub species, as well as the intended purpose.

Before purchasing shrubs, decide the function you need them to perform in the landscape. Are you interested in screening an undesirable view, intercepting the glare of car headlights from the street, hiding the house foundation, reducing the wind velocity, attracting birds, or adding flowers or fall color?

After determining the function, write down a description of the intended planting site to include soil texture (clay, sand, etc.), available moisture, and exposure (compass direction and sunny vs. shady). Remember, as landscapes mature, a sunny site may change to a shady one.

Colorado growing conditions present both challenges and opportunities. Dry, sunny days and cool nights make plant diseases relatively rare and prolong or intensify flowering. Late frosts may damage the flowers of spring flowering shrubs. Soil conditions often are not conducive to growing certain species. Both climate and soil conditions vary widely across the state, meaning some shrubs may grow well in one area but not in others.

The following list, while not comprehensive, provides information on the more commonly available deciduous shrubs for elevations below 6,000 feet. For a listing of shrubs adapted to higher elevations, refer to fact sheet 7.423, Trees and Shrubs for Mountain Areas. Drought-tolerant shrubs are listed in 7.229, Xeriscaping: Trees and Shrubs. Native shrubs suitable for landscapes are listed in 7.422, Native Shrubs for Colorado Landscapes.

Table 1: Most commonly available shrubs for elevations below 6,000 feet.
Plant Name Soil
Exposureb Flower Colorc
and Month
Fruitd Fall
small SHRUBS (less than 4 feet high when mature)
Berberis thunbergii

Purpleleaf Japanese barberry
‘Crimson Pygmy’
Golden Nugget™
Reddish-purple foliage.
Golden foliage
Caryopteris spp.
Blue mist spirea
L-M S-PSh Bl-P/7-9 Tan NI Cut back in late winter.
Cornus sericea ‘Kelseyi’
Kelsey dogwood
H S-PSh NI NI R-Pu Mounded; red stems.
Cotoneaster apiculatus
Cranberry cotoneaster
M S-PSh P/5 R R Mounded habit.
Cotoneaster horizontalis
Rock cotoneaster
M S-PSh P/5 R R-Pu Good tall groundcover; distinctive branching pattern.
Hydrangea arborescens
Smooth Hydrangea
Invincibelle® Spirit
Large, showy flowers.
Very large flowers.
Very large flowers.
Hypericum kalmianum
Hypericum (St. John’s-wort)
L-MM S-PShS-PSh Y/7-9Y/7-9 NINI O-PuNI Blue-green foliage; hardier.Cut back to ground in fall.
Ligustrum vulgare ‘Lodense’
Privet, ‘Lodense’
L-M S-Sh W/6-7 B NI Dark green foliage held late.
Lonicera spp.
‘Emerald Mound’
‘Clavey’s Dwarf’

Mounded habit.
Fragrant, trumpet-like flowers.
Good hedge.
Potentilla fruticosa
Potentilla (shrubby cinquefoil)
‘Coronation Triumph’
‘Gold Drop’
‘Katherine Dykes’
L-M S-PSh Y-W/6-9W
Bright Y
Golden Y
Deep Y
Light Y
NI NI Compact, rounded.Spreading.
Prunus besseyi
Pawnee Buttes®
Creeping Western sandcherry
L S W/4-5 B R-Pu Low groundcover.
Plant Select® 2000.
Ribes alpinum
Alpine currant
L-M S-Sh NI NI Y Good for hedge.
Rhus aromatica Grow-low
Grow-low sumac
L-M S-PSh Y/3-4 R R-Pu Vigorous, widespreading.
Ribes trilobata
‘Autumn Amber’
Autumn Amber Threeleaf
L S Y/3-4 R O-Y Low groundcover.
Spiraea x bumalda
Bumald spirea
‘Anthony Waterer’
M-H S-PSh P-Pu/6-8
NI Br-PuR-O Spreading, flat-topped.Slightly taller.
Yellow-green foliage.
Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’
Little Princess spirea
MM S-PShS-PSh P/6-7P/6-7 NINI BrBr Delicate, mounded.Low groundcover.
Symphoricarpos x chenaultii
Hancock coralberry
M S-PSh NI R-P NI Blue-green leaves; persistent fruit; lower growth.
high when mature)
Aronia melanocarpa
Black chokeberry
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 B O-R Glossy green foliage.
Berberis thunbergii
B. thunbergii atropurpurea

Purpleleaf Japanese barberry
‘Rose Glow’
Spiny; hedges or barrier.
Reddish-purple foliage.Pink blotches on leaves.
Berberis x ‘Tara’
Emerald Carousel™ barberry
L-M S-PSh Y/5-6 R O-R Arching-rounded growth habit. Heavily spined.
Buddleia davidii
Butterfly bush
M S-PSh L/6-7 NI NI Cut back in late winter.
Chaenomeles speciosa
Flowering quince
M S-PSh R/P/W/4 Y NI Spiny stems; large fruit only occasionally.
Cornus sericea ‘Isanti’
Isanti dogwood
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 W R-Pu Red twigs; compact habit.
Euonymus alatus ‘Compacta’
Compact burning bush
M S-Sh NI P/O R Slightly winged twigs.
Ligustrum x vicaryi
Golden vicary privet
M S W/6-7 NI NI May show winter dieback.
Perovskia atriplicifolia
Russian sage
L S L-Pu/7-9 NI NI Very small, fine leaves; cut back to 6″ in late winter.
Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’
Golden mockorange
M-H S W/5-6 NI NI Yellow foliage all season.
Prunus x cistena
Cistena plum
(purpleleaf sand cherry)
M S-PSh P/5-6 B-Pu Pu Purple foliage all season.
Prunus glandulosa
Dwarf flowering almond
‘Rosea Plena’
M S P/4-5W
NI NI Flowers precede leaves.Single flowers.
Double flowers.
Rhus trilobata
Threeleaf sumac (skunkbush)
L S-PSh Y/4 R Y-O-R Native; pungent foliage.
Ribes aureum
Golden currant
L-M S-PSh Y/4-5 B R-Pu Native; fragrant flowers
Ribes odoratum
Clove currant
L-M S-PSh Y/4-5 B Y-R Clove scented flowers.
Salix purpurea nana
Dwarf arctic willow
M-H S-PSh NI NI NI Fine texture; needs winter moisture.
Spiraea x vanhouttei
Vanhoutte spirea
L-ML-M S-PShS-PSh W/5-6W/5-6 NINI BrBr Graceful, arching habit.Very similar.
Symphoricarpos albus
L-M S-PSh P-W/6-7 W NI Very adaptable.
Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’
Lilac, dwarf Korean
L-M S-PSh L-P/5-6 NI NI Rounded, dense habit.
Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’
Miss Kim lilac
L-M S Bl-L/5-6 NI R-Pu Rounded, dense habit.
Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum’
Compact European
cranberrybush viburnum
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 R NI Showy, persistent fruit.
Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’
Compact American
cranberrybush viburnum
M-H S-PSh NI NI R Dense, rounded.
Weigela florida
‘Red Prince’’
Wine and Roses®
Trumpet-shaped flowers.
Bronze-red foliage.Purple foliage.
LARGE SHRUBS (greater than 6 feet tall
when mature)
Amelanchier spp.
Serviceberry (Juneberry)
M S-PSh W/4-5 R-Pu YOR Shrub or small tree.
Caragana arborescens
Siberian peashrub
L S Y/5 NI Y Very adaptable.
Cornus sericea
Redtwig dogwood
‘Flaviramea’ (yellowtwig dogwood)
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 W-BlW-Bl
R-Pu Red stems in winter.Red stems in winter.
Yellow stems in winter.
Cotinus coggygria
‘Royal Purple’
M S-PSh P-W/7 NI Pu-O Flowers like “pink smoke.”
Purple leaves; less hardy.Purple leaves; hardier.
Cotoneaster lucidus
Hedge cotoneaster
L-M S-PSh P/5 B R-O Screening or hedge use. Can re-seed.
Euonymus alatus
Burning bush (winged
M S-Sh NI P/R/O R Winged stems; pink fruit.
Euonymus europaeus
Spindletree (European
M S-Sh NI R-Pu/O R-Pu Shrub or small tree.
Forsythia spp.
‘Northern Gold’
‘Northern Sun’
M S Y/3-4 NI Y-Pu Hardy flower buds.
Smaller; flower buds hardy.
Flower buds hardy.
Hibiscus syriacus
Rose-of-Sharon (shrub althea)
M S-PSh V/7-8 NI NI Showy, late flowers.
Many varieties.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’
PeeGee hydrangea
M-HM-H S-PShPSh-Sh W/7-8G-P/7-8 NINI NINI Large flower clusters.Upright – rounded.
Kolkwitzia amabilis
L-M S-PSh P/5-6 NI Br Shredding bark; coarse texture.
Ligustrum vulgare ‘Cheyenne’
Cheyenne privet
M S-PSh W/6-7 B NI If sheared, no flowers or fruit.
Holds leaves late.
Lonicera korolkowii
Blueleaf honeysuckle
L-M S P/5 R NI Resistant to aphids.
Lonicera tatarica
Tatarian Honeysuckle
‘Arnold Red’
L-M S-PSh R/5 R NI Some resistance to aphids
Philadelphus x virginalis
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 NI NI Fragrant flowers; coarse.
Philadelphus lewisii
Cheyenne Mockorange
L-M S-PSh W/5-6 NI NI Fragrant flowers; coarse texture. PlantSelect® 2001.
Physocarpus opulifolius
Common ninebark
‘Dart’s Golden’
ML-M SS W/5-6W/5-6 NINI Y-OBr Shreddy bark; adaptable.Yellowish-green foliage.
Golden yellow foliage.
Red-purple foliage.
Prunus tomentosa
Nanking (Manchu) cherry
L-M S-PSh P-W/4 R Y Edible fruit attracts birds.
Prunus triloba
Double flowering plum
M S-PSh P/4 NI NI Double pink flowers.
Prunus virginiana
Common chokecherry
‘Shubert’ (Canada red cherry)
M S-PSh W/5 R-Pu Y Suckering, attracts birds.
Green leaves turn maroon.
Rhamnus frangula ‘Columnaris’
Columnar buckthorn (Tallhedge)
Fernleaf buckhorn
MM S-PShS-PSh NINI R-BR-B YY Thornless; vertical habit.Long, narrow leaves.
Rhus glabra
Smooth sumac
L-M S-PSh G-Y/5-6 R R-O Suckers; best in poor soil.
Rhus typhina
Staghorn sumac
Tiger Eyes®
L-ML-M S-PShS-PSh G-Y/5-6G-Y/5-6 RR R-OR-O Larger; suckers; best in poor soil.Deeply cut leaves.
Bright yellow leaves.
Salix discolor
H S Gray/3-4 NI NI Early catkins (flowers), very susceptible to canker.
Sambucus canadensis ‘Aurea’
Golden elder
M-H S W/6-7 R-B NI Golden leaves; edible fruit.
Sambucus nigra
Black Lace™
M-H S W/6-7 R-B NI Lacy, dark purple foliage.
Sorbaria sorbifolia
Ash-leaf spirea (Ural false-
M S-PSh W/6-7 NI NI Lush foliage; suckering.
Syringa x chinensis
Chinese lilac
M S Pu/5 NI Y Small leaves, loose flowers.
Syringa x prestoniae
Canada lilac
‘James McFarlane’
‘Miss Canada’
M S Bl-L-P-Pu/5-6P
NINI YY Blooms later.Upright growth habit.
Slightly smaller shrub.
Syringa vulgaris
Common lilac (includes “French
‘Charles Joly’
‘President Grevy’
M S V/5R-Pu
Lt Bl
NI NI Prone to powdery mildew. Many varieties.Double flowers.
Double flowers.
Viburnum x burkwoodii
Burkwood viburnum
M S-PSh P-W/4-5 R-B NI Leathery leaves persist.
Viburnum lantana
Wayfaring tree viburnum
L-M S-PSh W/4-5 R-B Pu-Br Leathery leaves persist.More compact form.
Viburnum lentago
Nannyberry viburnum
M S-PSh W/4-5 Bl ROPu Can be used as a small tree.
Viburnum opulus
European cranberrybush
‘Roseum’ (Snowball)
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 RNI R-Pu Fruit persists; aphid prone.Showier flowers; aphid prone; no fruit.
Viburnum x rhytidophylloides ‘Alleghany’
Alleghany viburnum
M S-PSh W/5-6 R-B Pu-Br Leathery leaves persist. Plant Select® 1997
Viburnum trilobum
American cranberrybush
M-HM-H S-PShS-PSh W/5-6W/5-6 RR R-PuR-Pu Showy, persistent fruit; less aphid prone.Showy, persistent fruit, less aphid prone.
aSoil moisture: L=Low M=Medium H=High
bExposure: S=Sun PSh=Partial shade Sh=Shade
cFlower color: Bl=Blue G=Green L=Lavender P=Pink Pu=Purple
R=Red W=White Y=Yellow V=varies with cultivar NI=Not
Important Months numbered 1 – 12
dFruit: B=Black Bl=Blue O=Orange P=Pink Pu=Purple R=Red
W=White Y=Yellow NI=Not Important
eFall color: Br=Bronze O=Orange Pu=Purple R=Red Y=Yellow
NI=Not Important

1 R.A. Cox, Colorado State University Extension horticulture agent, Arapahoe County; and J.E. Klett, Extension horticulture specialist, horticulture and landscape architecture 10/97. Revised 12/13.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.

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