CO-Horts Blog

Monday, January 23, 2017

Alternative Shrubs

Posted by James E. Klett,

Professor and Extension Landscape Horticulturist, Colorado State University

Planning to do some landscape renovation during 2017?  Possibly you may want to remove some overgrown shrubs or some that lack good ornamental features in many different seasons.  Now in mid-winter is a great time to do some research on some alternative woody plants that may give beauty to your landscape for many years in the future.

Two plants you may want to consider for early to mid-spring flower color could include Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry Dogwood) and Malus ‘Coralcole’ (Coralburst® Crabapple).  Cornelian Cherry Dogwood can be grown as a small tree or large shrub, reaching 12-15 feet in height.  The yellow flowers in March are a first sign of spring.  It is pH adaptable and has attractive summer foliage with prominent veination.  The red fruit (a drupe) is produced in July to August but is often sparse due to early flowering and spring frosts.  It prefers some additional moisture and adapts to part-shade and is cold hardy to USDA hardiness Zone 4.  

Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry Dogwood)

For a little later spring flower color you may want to consider Malus ‘Coralcole (Coralburst® Crabapple).  This clone of crabapple is available as a low graft, which is shrub-like or on a 4 foot graft (small tree).  The rose-pink buds becoming pink flowers give a “two tone” appearance.  The tree has a rounded habit that gets to about 12 feet tall to 12-15 feet wide.  This clone has good disease resistance and prefers a sunny location and likes some additional moisture.  It develops very few fruits which makes it a good patio tree.  It is cold hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 4-7.

Malus ‘Coralcole (Coralburst® Crabapple)

Another late spring early summer shrub that one might consider is Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ (Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush).  The fountain-like growth habit with silver grey leaves and lilac-purple flowers in May to June makes this an outstanding large shrub.  The plant blooms on previous season’s growth, so prune after blooming.  It prefers a well drained soil and sunny location and is more xeric.  It is cold hardy to USDA hardiness Zones 5-7. 

Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ (Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush)
For a little later blooming larger multi-stem shrub maturing to about 15-20 feet one could consider Syringa pekinensis (Pekin Lilac).  This lilac has an upright arcing habit which can get more open with age.  It has showy white-yellowish flowers in May into June and adaptable to our alkaline clay soils.  The brown bark exfoliates and flakes as sheets off adding winter interest.  It prefers a sunny location and more xeric once established.  It is cold hardy to USDA hardiness zone 4-7.

Syringa pekinensis (Pekin Lilac) and exfoliating bark.

These are just 4 shrubs one may want to consider when renovating a landscape or planting a new one in the Spring of 2017.  For more information on these four plants, you can go to

1 comment:

  1. it is really nice and informative blog, I have been reading your blogs and always found them really informative. Thanks for sharing it.