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 .

1 Like

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.

1 Like

@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:

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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.


I appreciate you guys so much. I think I might be really back now. I have, for the most part, recovered from my back problem, but what happened to my little orchard while I was incapacitated put me into a state where I lost all hope; I didn’t go out in my yard for 2 years. One benefit from the Denver area is that there are not many pests or diseases, so I think once they are pruned they will recover. I now have dogs so voles are not such a problem.

My trees were destroyed by voles, for the 2nd time, and then the Storm from Hell on November 11th, 2014, where the temp dropped about 70 degrees in one day (we hadn’t had a first frost yet), killed a so many more. I confess that the chainsaw was in my sights, and I might have used it if I could have picked it up. My fig tree collection was put outside while my son cleaned the garage and was also destroyed.

I have had absolutely zero fruit except peaches and Surefire cherries. The most productive peach tree I’ve had has been PF-1, which I remember putting down at first. For some odd reason the peach blossoms have been able to slip through the frosts more often than the apples.

In Denver, the only crop a person could depend on is sour cherries.

I did order replacements for many of the trees I lost, but my goals and hopes have changed. I no longer hope for crops! I have learned quite a bit, but whether it will be useful is debatable. If I had it to do over I’d buy boxes of apples from Cummin’s and peaches from the western slope of Colorado and plant a garden instead.

One of my life’s desires was to plant an orchard, and that I have done. Someday I might taste Opalescent, Viking, Hawaii, etc!


Welcome back!


Welcome back. So glad to hear that you will stay.


Glad your back its always good to hear from you. Colorado is one of the toughest environments to grow an orchard! I’ve been in that area alot.
Similar to our other nearby states of oklahoma, nebraska, wyoming etc.! Our only saving grace is we are in the NE part of Kansas which is about as good as it gets here. Denver/Aurora are as good as a Colorado high plains dessert gets because of the good water from the mountains. I looked at the snow melt ponds the last time i was up on pikes peak. Golden has wonderful water which is no doubt why Coors brewery chose it! I was shocked how good that water is! The water overall is good and pure in Colorado there is just not enough of it. The nearby state of Missouri has plentiful water and trees! @Olpea, @Derby42, @tonyOmahaz5, @39thparallel, @TurkeyCreekTrees etc. All know what i mean when i say im a little shocked how much rain we have had this year after having went through the worse drought since the dirty thirties in my location last year. Odly much of NE Kansas did not have the shortage of rain we did last year but it was devastating at my location Strange weather will it get our blooms & fruit 2018?



I’m joining the chorus of happy to see you back.

I’ll admit I’ve not experienced a location like yours where it’s that difficult to grow fruit. I suppose it might be like trying to grow sweet cherries here, which are pretty much impossible.

I got a lot of favorable comments this season about our sour cherries, but they really aren’t that sour. I grow Danube, Jubilieum and Balaton. Balaton is by far the most productive (only 15 trees). But I’ve harvested a good amount of cherries from Jubilieum. It’s good enough I planted another 20 trees of it this spring. Danube even did reasonably good this year, but this is the first year it’s done anything. Probably have had that one tree for about 10 years.

A lot of people are planting the sweeter bush cherries like Juliet, so that may be something you want to consider.

In terms of peaches, has Contender been as productive as PF1? Contender is very productive for me in marginal spring weather. I’m still trying to grow the W. Balmer from the lady in MA you put me in contact with. It’s been a long road to get that one going. She sent me the wrong scionwood the first time around. I didn’t find out about it till it fruited. Then we had to do it all over again. I don’t remember if the little tree has fruit on it this year or not, but the little tree looks healthy.

I’m one of the very few people who can understand what you went through with your back. Before you roll your eyes, I laid in bed for at least 18 months in intense pain (I was in less pain for much longer after that - years longer.) I got just a few hours sleep every night. I had to sell my farm, which was my life’s dream. Every night I wished it was morning, every day I wished it was night. I prayed for death every day and every night. I lost all hope of everything. I’m 6’2" tall and got down to 135 lbs. Time seemed to stand still. Seconds seemed like hours. Minutes seemed like days, hours seemed like weeks. A very small percentage of people nowadays have experienced anything like that. Just about anyone can experience a lot of pain when they know there is an end to it at some point in the future. It’s when the pain is intense and you have no hope of it ending, which is something very different. It changes you forever, and not necessarily in a good way. And if you do get better, it’s not like it’s a time for rejoicing like most people would expect. Your dreams are already gone. It’s such a deep sadness of the soul, you can’t recover to the way things were. It’s a darkness over your heart which can never be completely removed. It changes your view of God. But, I still believe in God, btw.

Nevertheless, after years of battle I was finally able to make plans and dream a little bit. That’s why I have an orchard now. Life is still much smaller for me than it was before I was hurt so bad so many years ago. I still have trouble with my back (and other joints in my body) and still get discouraged and depressed at times. Good days and bad days. I helped pick peaches all morning yesterday and weeded tomatoes all afternoon and my back is feeling it this morning.

Anyway, I’m glad you are planning a few things again. I hope your able to keep checking in here on the forum as much as you feel comfortable. You have a lot to contribute to fruit growing and can give people a reality check from a climate so difficult to grow fruit.


I am glad that you are back,!




You nailed it! I,too, laid in bed, which we inverted at 10° and I wore a traction belt for nearly a year. I did not have it as badly as you, but I sure can understand. I thought I knew pain as I have given birth 7 times naturally. Believe me, back pain is nothing like childbirth. Back pain is relentless, not timed with a break in between. Childbirth it is not unending, and there is a little packet of joy afterward!

I was able to avoid having surgery. We also got a husky and her need for a walk forced me get outside a little. I got a recumbent trike and she went ahead of me like a sled dog. I live near a creek that is fed with golf balls and I found that my hatred of those golf balls led to help my back. I started picking them up and then I soon realized that on the days that I didn’t pick them up my back was worse. Days and days went by where I would bring home up to 100 golf balls. I thought to sell them but so far they are still sitting in my compost bins. The golf balls provided the best physical therapy, but I’m only 5’4", so that is a huge difference.

Regarding Contender, I actually didn’t plant it here but I bought it for my aunt in Iowa. It is her favorite for sure. I have it on my list to replace my unproductive doughnut peach (cant’ remember the cultivar offhand).


I actually have to chuckle when you say Golden water is good. I have several sons who have graduated from Mines, and the water that the Golden people get is really quite repugnant; it must go through a water purifier to be palatable. The Coors company has a contract with the city of Golden where they will provide water treatment in exchange for water. I think they must give the city the dredges.

I have noticed that when the gulf of Mexico goes crazy with hurricanes we get the leftovers of rain and it makes the weather perfect here, otherwise we are a dry prairie. We do benefit from the abundant melt-off. Years ago I planted an orchard for my aunt in Iowa. Her trees are much younger than mine but have grown more and produced more than mine. She deals with disease and pests more than I do, unfortunately, but the rain is good for the trees.

Sorry for the rambling:(


Excellent to see you back and on the road to recovery! Hope you had a good year and If a spot opens up i definitely think you should plant another contender, it has been excellent for me.

Remember how bad golden used to smell from the Coors plant? So much better now.