City of Colorado Springs / Forestry / Colorado Springs & Trees

Colorado Springs & Its Trees

Trees have benefits!
Trees have benefits!
This tree species information was developed to better help citizens of Colorado Springs select the right tree for planting along streets and in yards. Every tree has good characteristics as well as objectionable features.

Click here for
suitable or unsuitable trees to go to the charts. The main division of the chart is SUITABLE OR UNSUITABLE for streets. This is to assure only appropriate trees are planted along the streets that provide long term benefits and have low maintenance requirements. Many trees in the unsuitable division are ideal for backyard, parks, or open spaces. Some of these trees have undesirable characteristics, which should be carefully considered when selecting a tree.

Before selecting a tree, look at the location where it will be planted. Ideally, every tree should be planted in accord with some overall landscape plan. Trees and shrubs should be placed so that they may develop freely without crowding each other, the house, utility lines or other structures.

Next, look at the site characteristics. Is it irrigated or non-irrigated? Is it protected from wind and sun? Are there sidewalks or driveways nearby that fruit or seeds will litter? What size, form and color of tree fits the site?

Ask all these questions and more, then select the right tree!

History of Trees in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs has a rich heritage of tree planting, beginning with General William Jackson Palmer's extensive street tree planting in the late 1800's. Many of the early street trees were fast-growing cottonwoods, which provided quick shade to a new town on the plains. Irrigation canals were constructed on many of the streets (Cascade Ave., Wood Ave.) to provide water to the newly planted trees.

General Palmer planted one tree of every species known to Colorado in Monument Valley Park, his last gift to the city. Many of these were destroyed in the flood of 1935. Palmer also replanted ponderosa pine when the Denver & Rio Grand Railroad was built near the town of Palmer Lake. He also believed that catalpa trees were of great value and encouraged their planting throughout the arid states of the West and planted them along the right-of-way of the railroad and elsewhere.

Colorado Springs was one of the first cities west of the Mississippi River to have a City Forester. Since then it has been the responsibility of that person to continue the legacy of tree-lined streets in Colorado Springs' urban forest.


The form, height, and spread, will help you in determining a tree's mature size. Many round-headed trees grow as wide as they grow tall. Many of the small, shrub-form trees have this characteristic. You can decrease future maintenance problems by careful and thoughtful placement of trees.

Due to their size, large shade trees should be placed at least 20 feet away from houses and utility lines. In relation to one another, large shade trees should be placed about 40 feet from each other for best results. Medium size trees should be spaced about 30 feet apart; small trees can be spaced 25 feet apart.

Note: Trees that are to be planted under utility wires MUST BE in the small tree category (less than a 30 foot mature height).

Canopy density is an indication of how much shade a tree will provide. Trees like honeylocust or Kentucky coffeetree have very open branching and provide light to pass through. Dense-crowned trees like Norway maple or linden provide almost no light to pass through the crown of the tree.

Colorado Zone Map

Colorado Hardiness Zones Map

Irrigation Need

Check the Save Our Shade Brochure for more information on watering. Save Our Shade High Water Zones (high)
0.5" added 3 times per week
Approx. 30" over 20 week season
Typical plants: Kentucky bluegrass lawns, redtwig dogwood, pansies, blue spruce

Moderate Water Zones (med.)
0.75" added once per week
Approx. 16" over 20 week season
Typical plants: Turf-type tall fescue lawns, potentilla, Norway maple

Low Water Zones (low)
approx 0.5" added every other week
Approx. 4.5" over 20 week season
Typical plants: Buffalograss lawns, rabbitbrush, Russian olive

Rate of growth and longevity are good indicators of a tree's durability and resistance to insects and disease. Fast-growing trees are generally more brittle, and subject to storm damage. They are also less resistant to insects and disease so don't live very long. Slower growing, long-lived trees are ideal street trees because they guarantee a continuous, low maintenance urban forest.

Root habit is important when selecting a tree for your site. Trees that are planted near sidewalks or driveways should be deep rooted. If planting a tree with fibrous or invasive roots make sure there is no sewer line nearby. Know your soil type and how much irrigation the site will get. Trees with high irrigation needs generally do better in a lawn. Trees with low irrigation needs can survive on natural precipitation plus some supplemental watering. All trees require periodic watering the first 2 to 3 years to become established!

Limiting Factors

There are many factors which limit whether a tree will grow in Colorado Springs. Colorado's extreme fluctuations in temperature, high altitude sun, dry winds, and marginal alkaline soils all play a part in what trees will grow here.

Hardiness is one of the key factors used in determining if a plant will grow in an area. Hardiness is a measure of the average annual minimum temperature. The United States is mapped into different hardiness zones.

Colorado Springs is in zone 5 (-10 to -20 F). The Pikes Peak Region spreads into a zone 4 in the foothills to the west and to the north on Monument Hill. The smaller the zone number the colder the temperatures are during the winter.


The origin of many of our urban trees is from forest stands, initially through collections of seed, propagation and transplanting to urban sites. As the process continues, "better" trees have been selected and used as cultivars. Many cultivars have been selected for foliage color, better bloom, superior fall color, outstanding bark or an absence of fruit or seed. More successful urban forests have their future in the identification of cultivars that can cope with the urban environment. The matrix lists only "parent" trees and their characteristics. Cultivars of these are also suitable as street trees.

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