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Evergreens Provide Winter Color in Colorado

Dwarf Colorado Spruce

Evergreens offer contrast to snowy landscapes. Spruce and pine are our green during the dry, brown winter months.


Like any long-lived plant, dwarf conifers require special consideration and care.  Dwarf conifers aren’t the only plants that get put in the wrong place.  When we’re landscaping sometimes we forget the fourth dimension, time.  Plants grow over time.

Dwarf Colorado spruces are considered small in a family of giants that can grow sixty or eighty feet tall.  A dwarf Colorado spruce grows two to six inches every year until it dies.  So in ten years that cute little spruce can grow to be five feet tall and wide.

Dwarf Colorado spruces are a varied group.  The dwarf globe type spruce form a Hershey’s Kiss shape.  Sester’s Dwarf Colorado spruce is probably the spruce most folks want.  It only grows a couple of inches a year.  Given a decade or so it will be the perfect, pyramidal fifteen to twenty foot Colorado spruce.

A substitute for the dwarf Mugho pines that are popular foundation or entryway plants is Albyn Spreading Scotch Pine.  This creeping Scotch pine has blue-green needles.  It only grows two to three feet tall but can spread over six to eight feet.  Albyn Scotch Pine adds year around interest in perennial beds or rock gardens.

Some dwarf evergreens grow naturally as understory plants.  The dwarf Norway pines are examples.  A nursery tag may say full to part sun.  But that means in cloudy, hazy areas of the country like Oregon.  In our intense, constant sun these plants will burn.  Waldbrunn Colorado spruce is a compact, slow growing plant that does take the Rocky Mountain sun.

These dwarf evergreens have a bad rap as not being hardy.  In my experience, dwarf conifers just need special care for the first couple years after transplanting.  It takes about two years for them to get their roots under them so they can survive our dry, windy winters.  Plant them early in the season so they have plenty of time to root in.  Water is essential in late autumn between Thanksgiving and Christmas and again in late winter between Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. 

There are a number of dwarf evergreens that add color and texture.  Nurture the one that will bring winter color into your garden.


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.