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Tuesday - May 04, 2010

From: Colorado Springs, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Trees
Title: Can a soapberry tree be grown in Colorado Springs?
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Colorado Springs and I was wondering if it is possible to grow a soapberry tree here?


Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (western soapberry) is native to Colorado; however, this USDA Plant Profile does not show it as growing in El Paso County, but rather in two counties in extreme southeastern  Colorado, which, if we properly remember our Colorado geography, is an area of plains. Colorado Springs, in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a to 5b and at over 6000 ft. in elevation, would probably prove a challenge to a plant that grows more profusely in Texas, Oklahoma and the southern portion of Kansas. Also, it is only considered hardy from Zones 6 to 9. In the Growing Conditions paragraph from our Native Plant Database, below, the most telling obstacle is in the last line, which we have highlighted. If you can't buy a started plant, and there are no wild plants around for seed, you could have a real problem.

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Rich, limestone soils.
Conditions Comments: An attractive and hardy tree, useful as a specimen or in groves. Can become a large tree in deep soil. In shallow soil it often remains a small tree. The fruits are considered to be poisonous to humans although they produce a good lather in water and are used in Mexico as a laundry soap. Both females and males have fruits; males are showier. Soapberry often suckers and form groves. Tolerant of drought, wind, heat, poor soil, air pollution and other city conditions. Not affected by disease or insects. Currently difficult to find in the nursery trade. 

One possibility would be to take cuttings and attempt to root them. This would be feasible if you travel somewhere they grow naturally, and you got permission to take several cuttings. If you are interested in trying that, and we don't guarantee they will flourish, read this article from North Carolina State University Extension Plant Propagation byh Stem Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener.  From this USDA Forest Service website on Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii, we learned that hardwood or softwood cuttings taken in May, June or July can root in 5 to 6 weeks, if properly treated. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii





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