Fruit Trees for locations that might warm up before last frost


We are located near Denver, zone 5 (but newer 2012 maps are now saying 6a).

This year we are looking to plant a fruit tree where the X is marked in the photo… it will be one of our sunnier spots (and now that the massive cottonwood (stump next to the X) is gone), we will also pull the garden forward into more sun.

In our prior home, we planted a couple peaches, a couple pears, apple, cherry, and an attempted plum (died twice) and tried to learn a lot about fruit trees, though the more we learn, the more confusing it is :slight_smile: It seems like previously, planting peaches in our sunniest spot wasn’t the best plan, as they flowered early and Colorado can have late frosts.

We will ultimately want apples, pears, cherries, peaches, plums. Given that some of our trees will have to be in partial sun (say 5-7 hours), which trees make sense to plant in this mostly-full-sun location, which also gets winter sun and is likely to have warm ground before the last frost? I was thinking plum, as it is very reliable in Colorado (peaches and pears are very iffy). That said, having some low trees here would also minimize the sun loss in the garden.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

X - planting location
red line - large irrigation ditch that runs seasonally for about 6 weeks
yellow line - North/South. Photo looks mostly North.


I would plant harrow sweet & harrow delight pears. Maxine is a great pollinator for them. Did i mention they are all disease resistant, produce quickly, taste great, tolerate intolerable weather and bloom late. They can all handle the cold and extreme temperatures your weather has to offer. Having spent plenty of time in Colorado i can vouch for its challenging weather .


Whenever I read about fruit growing in Denver, Inthink of a Fruit&Orchard forum member when we were at Gardenweb. She was experienced but she finally gave up.


The moment I read this I, too, was thinking of our old friend MileHighgirl. She worked so very hard and yet had little success- I felt so bad for her. She seemed really sweet and wanted fruit so bad that she would announce she was giving up and then try again the following year- a few times. Do you know what ever became of her? Last I remember she was having some back problems and maybe some other health problems and slowly disappeared. I hope she is ok.

I think she did make the transition from Houzz over to here for a little while but I could be mistaken? I liked her.


@milehighgirl aka Rhonda did hurt her back and we have not heard from her for a while on this forum. The trick is finding what works in your area. My ex-girlfriend lived in the denver area as well so i was there many times so i know how tough that environment is. Water is rationed as well since its a high plains desert! The mountains are beautiful and that is where the water in Denver comes from! Golden Colorado has some of the best water ive ever tasted hence why there is a coors beer plant there. My pears survived on 10" of water for a long time last year but whatever fruit trees go in need occasionally watered there. Like the western part of Kansas the key is to conserve water because there is not enough! In the case of my ex she did grow things there but to was frustrated with how difficult it was. Eastern Nopal cactus grow great there which are a super food! Petals and fruit are edible! I would juice the fruit and burn the thorns off the cactus petals and fry them. Nothing about life is easy in a desert! People such as @fruitnut have proved not only can fruit be raised in a desert but its very high quality. Texas, western Kansas, and colorado all have no shortage on rattle snakes etc either so if you make your paradise a little to much like an oasis the rodents come and the snakes pursue their food supply eg. Voles, rats, mice etc. . In that situation i would just dump a foot of wood chips in my orchard and after the first rain the chips would be soggy down deep. I would bury soaker hose in the chips and grow cactus where i could not not afford to water.


I’ve survived 45 yrs of growing fruit in west Texas. The last 15 only because of my greenhouse. In Denver I’d also want a greenhouse. There are more in the Denver area than anywhere else I’ve been. Denver weather for fruit is as bad as Amarillo maybe worse. And Amarillo was awful. I feel like I deserve a metal for hanging on 30 yrs growing fruit in that area. But the truth is I deserve a dunce cap for staying that long. I needed the job.


Things are warming up here, I swear! Well, actually, kind of.

Seriously, though – Colorado front range is definitely hit and miss seasonally for doable weather, be it late frosts or late hail. So it may not be every year that a tree gets fruit (apples, plums, cherries) most years, and some more like 1 in 3 or 4 (peaches, pears). Last year was a banner year on the front range, and we don’t have any fruit trees :frowning:

Somehow, there are commercial orchards here that work: e.g. My neighbor across the street (just sold his house, and use to let us pick fruit) has an amazing orchard of very old (maybe 50 year) standards and semi-dwarfs for apples, pears, peaches, plums, etc, not to mention a massive amount of grapes.

So, despite the discussion, I’m not deterred and just want to make the best of where I live. I’m just trying to figure out if I have areas that will warm up earlier due to good sun (and they will still be subject to late season frost, etc), what trees are best to plant there. I’m guessing anything that is a later season bloomer is ideal. Yes, we do have a short growing season.

Now on the topic of greenhouses, we definitely want one, and have limited sunny space to have one. How are fruits produced in a smaller greenhouse, given the size of most fruiting plants?

Here is an interesting article on local fruit plants that died or survived a bizarre weather pattern we had a few years back:


Judging from the amount of fruit growing on the front range your conditions must be better than west Texas. Down here there are few commercial fruit growing activities. We have a few commercial apple orchards but most have gone under, ie went broke. One I know of spent $30,000 per acre with massive efforts to mitigate hail and freezes and they still quit after a few yrs.

My greenhouse has been so much easier than outside that there’s no comparison. If a person could afford a 24x48x12ft tall greenhouse with a heater and wet wall they’d be rolling in fruit around Denver. It’s good greenhouse country because of good sunshine and moderate average temperatures. It’s the extremes of temperature and hail that hurts so much.


As I live in the area referred to, I can whole heartedly agree. This is maybe next year country.


A large greenhouse would be great for fruit and veggies. Unfortunately, the 1 acre property we moved to has both a bunch of interdispersed trees throughout (see pic), as well as a large ditch that bisects the lot with significant setbacks. The house is near the back of the lot. So getting real-estate for a permanent structure with good sun is kind of out of the guestion. I did think about a 20x15 greenhouse against the back of the two story garage (brick) that would face mostly south and catch sun most of the day. Would have to remove one tree and dig it into the ground to have it mostly passive. The whole thing would be a massive and expensive effort.


We do have some crazy years, and i had actually joined gardenweb to try and give some support to MHG all the while back but she had already quit and i got disheartened. Hope she is doing well and its been some crazy years weatherwise for us here and we have such a large canvas of weather that she was pushing the envelope with alot of things and it did not work out (Same for me all my water lovers perished like paw paws, artic kiwi etc). Which is always hard.

Anyways i choose to plant my apples and sour cherries in the sun and plums / peaches in more of the shade. Luckily with all my neighbors trees i get good winter shade in part of the yard and Just watch where the snow doesn’t melt all winter and that’s the right spot for things you are trying to keep asleep.


I used to pay close attention to MHG’’s posts since she had about my experience level and climate.

I’d go for reliable cropping as my first choice over almost all other considerations. Maybe a good tasting crab apple?

They were promoting Jujube production at the experimental station in Alcalde in Northern New Mexico. You might want to look into that.