CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Options for Small Flowering Trees

Options for Smaller Flowering Trees

Posted by: Eric Hammond Adams County Extension

Newport Plumb Damaged by Last November's Sudden Hard Frost

As other bloggers have noted, this last winter was hard on woody plants throughout much of the state.  One of hardest hit groups, at least in Adams County, were the traditional smaller ornamental trees, including many ornamental and tart cherries, plums of all types and, to a lesser degree, some varieties of crabapples.   Many of these trees are dead or have severe die back.  

Damage to Crabapple

Some of the species and selections that were affected had been reliable for years and likely still deserve a place in our landscapes.  However, in the interest of promoting diverse plantings I thought I would highlight a few potential replacements which seem to have come through the challenges we have experienced this past winter.

Damage to Crabapple

Tatarian maple (Acer tataricum)-

Hot Wings Tatarian Maples

This maple is a smaller tree with a spreading to rounded habit which is often somewhat wider than it is tall.  White flowers occur after it leafs out and develop into a double samara fruit by early summer.  This fruit is reddish and persists through the summer providing interest throughout the season.  This fruit is especially showy on selections such as Hot Wings (Acer tataricum 'GarAnn'- a Plant Select introduction).  In the fall the leaves of the tatarian maple turn an eye-catching red-orange. 

Tatarian Maple Flowers
Fruit of Hot Wings Tatarian Maple 

Russian hawthorn (Crataegus ambigua)-

Russian Hawthorn in Bloom

This tree has a rounded habit and attractive gold-yellow bark.  It has white flowers which appear in mid-May in most years and develop into a red fruit.  This fruit persists on the plant into the fall and, at least in our garden, is mostly eaten by birds before it can fall to the ground and become a mess.  The fall color of Russian hawthorn is an attractive yellow with undertones of purple.  Plants will tolerate minimal watering once established.

Russian Hawthorn Late Summer
Russian Hawthorn Fruit

Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata)-

Japanese Tree Lilac Early Summer

This plant is small tree with an oval habit and dark green leaves.  It is related to the more common shrub lilacs but has white flowers which occur after its shrubby relations are done blooming (there is one outside our office which actually still is in bloom).  This tree develops a yellow fall color which varies greatly in quality from year to year depending on the conditions during the fall.   
Japanese Tree Lilac Flower


  1. One should remember that Russian Hawthorn have thorns. Does your Hot Wings want to sucker from its base?

    1. Those particular trees do sucker. It may have something to do with how they were planted (too deep).

      Thanks for mentioning the thorns on Russian hawthorn. They do have thorns though they are not as numerous, long or sharp as some of the other hawthorns.

  2. Our Hot Wings had major damage after the Nov. freeze. Looks terrible this Spring, especially after the Mother's Day snow

    1. Oh no, sorry to hear about your tree. The Hot Wings I have observed in the Denver metro area come through the winter fine. Just out of curiously, where was the tree that was damaged?

    2. My Hot Wings was planted as a 2" the summer of 2013 on the SouthWest corner of our corner lot, i.e. has a street facing on two sides and no real protection from the house.