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Bearberry – All Season Interest and Drought Tolerant!

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Scientific Name: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Common Name: Bearberry, Kinnikinic

Common Species/Varieties: Alpine, Common, Red

Common Colors: Most Bearberry plants have similar colors

Plant Type: Shrub

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 2-7 USDA

Self-Seeding: No

Bloom Season: Spring

Grows Best In: Full sun to light shade

Fun Fact: Bearberry gets its name thanks to the fact that bears love the red berries that grow on this shrub through Spring.

Bearberry is somewhat more finicky when it comes to the type of soil we have in Colorado, but when you’re looking for a plant that will do well in a pot or planter, this is the plant! Bearberry, or Kinnikinnick, likes a sandy, somewhat gravelly soil and prefers to be on the dryer side. This is because this plant is rhizomatous, meaning that at its base there are little bulbs that retain water when the soil is dry. Think of these bulbs as the leaves of a succulent that hold moisture in rather than having roots like many plants that take water from the soil as the plant needs it.

Bearberry can grow to between 6 inches and 1 foot high, and makes a great low-profile ground cover in sandy, loamy places. It grows in a shrub-like structure, and can be pruned and shaped.

Bearberry is a great plant for all-season interest. Its active-season foliage is bright green, waxy, and tear shaped. It sprouts beautiful little flowers in the Spring that look similar to blueberry flowers. In the Fall the leaves turn a coppery color, and the red berries that bears love so much can stay on the shrub well into Spring. Its bark also provides winter interest even after leaves have fallen!

Bearberry berries are not usually eaten by humans, but they have been used in tinctures and various herbal remedies for bladder problems and some skin conditions. Always check with a physician before using an herbal product! Bearberry was also used by Native Americans to create a yellow dye. Dried Bearberry leaves have a scent similar to autumn leaves combined with pine, and were used as a smoke blend addition by Native Americans, hence the name “Kinnikinic,” which means “smoking mixture” in the Algonquin language.

Butterfly Bush – Pollinator Favorite with Honey Scented Blossoms!

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Scientific Name: Buddleja davidii

Common Name: Butterfly Bush

Common Species/Varieties: Blue Chip,  Miss Pearl, Purple Haze

Common Colors: Purple, Pink, White, Blue, Orange

Plant Type: Shrub

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: mostly 5-9 USDA, so up to zone 10

Self-Seeding: No

Bloom Season: Spring and Summer

Grows Best In: Full sun to partial shade

Fun Fact: Blooms smell like honey!

Butterfly Bush is a favorite of pollinators. Its flowers grow in a shape similar to that of lilac, and many pollinators, including butterflies, love to visit the tightly grouped heads of tiny flowers. Butterfly bush should not be planted in soggy soil, or with plants that require heavy watering (like hydrangea) because they are susceptible to root rot. A single Butterfly Bush shrub can grow to be between 6 and 12 feet tall, and can spread to widths between 5 and 15 feet.

Looking for a plant that will not be of interest to hungry deer? This is the plant for you! Just check with your local plant officials because in some places, Butterfly Bush can be invasive (mostly in the Pacific Northwest). But on the plus side, Butterfly Bush can be drought tolerant once established, so it’s a good option for xeriscaping.

While best known for attracting Swallowtail Butterflies, Butterfly Bush will also bring bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators to your space. Butterfly Bush has been said to represent rebirth, resurrection, and new beginnings. Other plants in the same Buddleja family (there are over 100!) have been used in Chinese medicine (it originates in China) to treat things from eye problems to hernias. (Reminder – never use a plant product internally without first consulting an expert and physician!)

Calathea Beauty Star

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You might have seen the Mile Marker boards that parents create for their children – they highlight things like the height, weight, likes, and dislikes of their child at various stages of life. We at Nick’s Garden Center think Plant Parents should have something like this for their Plant Babies as well! Our Plant Parent Chalkboard Photos and blogs will provide you with an overview of what each plant needs in order to “grow up” happy and healthy!

The Calathea family is vast and contains around 300 different kinds of Calathea! This blog will cover Calathea Beauty Star. A sibling of Calathea Ornata, these plants share very similar markings and coloration. Dark green leaves with pointed tips are striped with pink and white coloring that will fade to completely white as they age, and the undersides are a dark reddish purple. As with many Calathea plants, Beauty Star will grow to be about two feet high and wide indoors, and is not likely to flower indoors.

Calathea Beauty Star likes bright, indirect light. If your light is too strong, consider a translucent curtain to further filter the light. Brown spots on the leaves usually indicate that the light source is too strong (whereas brown edges usually indicate that the plant needs more humidity). The best place for a Calthea is in a well-lit bathroom where temperatures are warm and the air is often humid.

Plant Calathea Beauty Star in soil that will evenly retain moisture. African Violet soil is a good option for this calathea plant which particularly prefers a more moist soil than some calatheas. Water Calathea Beauty Star when the top inch of soil is dry. Watering too soon can create a breeding ground for black gnats and contribute to root rot. Use distilled or rain water for this fluoride-sensitive plant, and use the Drench and Drain method when watering. Allow the water to flow out of the bottom of the pot and don’t let the pot sit in standing water. If your pot does not have adequate drainage, use a Moisture Meter before and during watering to accurately determine the moisture level of the soil at the bottom of the pot. If you over water and your pot does not have adequate drainage, tip the pot gently to the side in order to let excess water gently drain away without dislodging the plant or soil.

Keep Calathea Beauty star away from drafts and vents. As with other Calathea plants, Beauty Star is considered to be pet and people safe, but always double check for safety with a professional. When it’s happy, Calathea Beauty Star is likely to be air cleaning. Calathea isn’t the easiest plant to care for, but it’s not the hardest either. If you’re accustomed to plants that require regular attention and care, Calathea is a great plant for you. It’s also for you if you’re used to beginner level plants but want to try your hand at an intermediate level plant as they’re not as rare as some intermediate level plants.

Don’t forget to save our Plant Parent Chalkboard photo for a quick reference later on!

Happy Plant Parenting!


Russian Sage – Drought Tolerant with Colorful Fragrance!

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Scientific Name: Salvia yangii, formerly Perovskia atriplicifolia

Common Name: Russian Sage

Common Species/Varieties: Blue Spires, Blue Mist

Common Colors: Sage green foliage and lavender purple flower

Plant Type: Shrub

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 5-10 USDA

Self-Seeding: Not typically

Bloom Season: Spring through Fall

Grows Best In: Full Sun

Fun Fact: Perovskia means wisdom and knowledge.

Russian Sage is one of the best plants for a “plant it and forget it” approach. It needs to be watered moderately when first planted, but it can be almost completely ignored one its roots have grown deep into the earth. It needs a very well-draining soil, and is an excellent xeriscape plant. It’s important to trim away the previous season’s dead plant matter once new growth starts to come in. It can also be cut down to about a foot high in the winter to make Spring pruning easier.

Russian Sage is a big showy performer in the Summer and Fall. Its light purple flowers, which are tiny and grow all along the top two thirds of the plant, create an almost hazy smoke-like effect when viewed from afar. They’re a great plant for large spaces that need filling, especially in very sunny hot spaces that other plants might wilt in. They can grow to be up to five feet tall! They’re also a very responsible plant as they require almost no water, and the bees absolutely love the little purple flowers. Attracting bees and other pollinators to your yard can help your garden blossom and grow bigger and better. The foliage of the plant deserves a mention as well – it’s lovely and smells similar to artemisia or sage. It’s even deer resistant! Russian Sage represents power, success, and a strong character.

Hydrangea – Drama Queen with Dramatic Beauty!

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Scientific Name: Hydrangea, hortensia

Common Name: Hydrangea

Common Species/Varieties: Tiny Tuff Stuff, Summer Crush, Seaside Serenade

Common Colors: Pink, Blue, Purple

Plant Type: Flowering Shrub

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 3-9 USDA

Self-Seeding: No

Bloom Season: Summer through Fall

Grows Best In: Part Shade

Fun Fact: Hydrangea has historically been referred to as “Change Rose” because of the way that the color of certain hydrangeas can be manipulated between shades of pink and blue.

Hydrangea can be… dramatic. They add a beautiful kind of drama to a garden landscape in the form of their big, softball sized flower clusters and their giant thick green foliage. They also behave dramatically in hot dry weather. While they do best in a humid climate, they can thrive in the drier climate in Colorado and surrounding areas when planted and cared for properly. Hydrangea will do best in our climate when planted in a place where it will receive bright morning sun, but be shaded from the intense afternoon sun. Hydrangea will need moderate watering, with more frequent watering until firmly established in their new home.

Hydrangea come in many different varieties, as well as different colors. Depending on the variety, your hydrangea may be anywhere from three feet to fifteen feet tall!

Hydrangea colors are truly stunning. Limelight Hydrangea blooms start out the same green as its foliage, then unfold into a minty white. Zinfin Doll Hydrangea has a white flower that looks like it has been flecked with pink paint. And some Hydrangea flowers, the flowers of the Hydrangea macrophylla plants, give you the option to change their color based on the pH of the soil. The trick lies in manipulating the amount of aluminum in the soil. Add lime, and your flowers will be more pink. To move them toward blue, add some aluminum sulfate. Play with the mixture to achieve the color you want – you can even meet in the middle with purple!

Like the changeability of their color, the meaning of hydrangea have changed over the years. They have been known to represent both pride and gratitude. They have even been rumored to keep someone from marrying if a hydrangea plant is installed outside a bedroom window. Hydrangea is poisonous and should never be ingested in any form. It contains low levels of cyanide and can be very dangerous. Keep it out of the reach of little hands and hungry furry friends’ mouths. When using hydrangea as a cut flower in an arrangement, cut the stem lengthwise in half, and then each section in half again. These are very thirsty flowers and they need as much absorbent area as possible! You can try waking up an over-thirsty cut hydrangea bunch by dunking the entire thing in ice water.

Ninebark – Four Season Stunner!

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Scientific Name: Physocarpus opulifolius

Common Name: Ninebark

Common Species/Varieties: Little Devil, Summer Wine, Petite Plum

Common Colors: Gold, nearly-black, green, red

Plant Type: Shrub

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 2-8 USDA

Self-Seeding: Not typically

Bloom Season: Late Spring to Summer

Grows Best In: Sun to Some Shade

Fun Fact: Common ninebark is part of the Rose Family (Rosaceae).


Ninebark is another plant that just isn’t very picky. It does like somewhat moist soil best, but it will tolerate rocky and clay soil as well. Here in Colorado, we tend to have clay soil, so this plant is a great option for you if you are local. Ninebark gets its name from the way this shrub’s bark peels away in layers once it is mature. Ninebark has a showy foliage that begins growing in Spring, and lasts until late Fall. Tiny flowers growing in little groups pop out of the foliage in Summer, and after the flowers are spent, red berries are left behind. Even in Winter this plant adds interest to the landscape with its unusual peeling bark. Ninebark is truly an all-season interest plant – and it even makes a lovely cut flower arrangement filler.

Ninebark is attractive to bees when it’s in bloom with its pink or white flowers. It doesn’t require a lot of water once it’s established, but it will need more water than Russian Sage, for example. They also grow to be taller than Russian Sage at an approximate height of eight to ten feet tall and wide. Use Ninebark when you need hedges or erosion control without sacrificing visual interest in any season.

Ninebark is related to both Rose and Hawthorne. Native Americans used this plant to treat stomach ailments (always consult a medical professional before using plants in a medicinal capacity), or as a poultice for treating sores on the skin. While there’s not widely known meaning attributed to Ninebark as there are for many flowers, it’s relationship to Rose and Hawthorn make it reasonable to relate this plant with feelings of love.

Echinacea – A Pollinator Favorite!

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Scientific Name: Echinacea purpurea

Common Name: Coneflower

Common Species/Varieties: Bravado, Summer Flare, Green Jewel

Common Colors: Purple, yellow, orange

Plant Type: Flower

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 3-10 USDA

Self-Seeding: Yes

Bloom Season: Summerl

Grows Best In: Full sun or part shade

Fun Fact: Echinacea gets its name from the Greek word ekhinos, meaning Sea Urchin.

Echinacea is an absolute favorite of pollinators, and is the perfect plant for your garden if you want to feed the bees and attract colorful butterflies! It’s not a picky plant, and can grow even in rocky soil (but it won’t like very wet beds). It’s happy with four hours of sun, and it doesn’t care if that sun comes in the morning or afternoon. Echinacea is a drought tolerant plant once it’s established, but if you’re planting echinacea for the first time you’ll want to keep it well watered until it’s big and strong. Echinacea doesn’t spread, so you can rest assured that it will grow tall and stay put year after year. You can expect it to grow to around four feet in height, so plan to place it in the back or in the center of a grouping of plants. Cut echinacea flowers and put them in an indoor arrangement, and trim away dead flowers, in order to encourage new growth. Echinacea is self-seeding, so if you let some blooms go to seed at the end of the growing season (late Fall), they will scatter and sow new plants for you. Birds and squirrels looking for winter snacks will also benefit from allowing echinacea go to seed.

Echinacea has long been used as an immune booster and is said to have the ability to shorten or lessen the severity of colds. It’s commonly used as a tea, and often as a tincture as well. It was used by Native Americans often, and to treat many different kinds of ailments. It’s considered to be anti-inflammatory, and is used in herbalism to this day (but always consult a doctor before taking anything in a medicinal capacity). Echinacea is a flower symbolizing strength and health. It comes in many different color varieties. The main color is a magenta-ish purple, but it can be found in shades of pink, white, yellow, orange… and there’s even an echinacea that has coloring similar to that of a watermelon!

Ficus Audrey

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You might have seen the Mile Marker boards that parents create for their children – they highlight things like the height, weight, likes, and dislikes of their child at various stages of life. We at Nick’s Garden Center think Plant Parents should have something like this for their Plant Babies as well! Our Plant Parent Chalkboard Photos and blogs will provide you with an overview of what each plant needs in order to “grow up” happy and healthy!

Any Plant Parent will recognize the family of Ficus. The most popular Ficus plant is probably Ficus Lyrata – or Fiddle Leaf Fig. Ficus Lyrata is known for being difficult to care for, but Ficus Audrey is a little more forgiving. This member of the Moraceae family is the official tree of India and can grow to be 100 feet tall, and acres in width! However indoors you’re likely to see about one tenth of that growth, which is still quite impressive at up to 10 feet in height.

Ficus Audrey, or Ficus Benghalensis, grows on a trunk that eventually becomes a whitish color, and has leaves similar to Fiddle Leaf Fig, but rounded instead of shaped like a fiddle. Its foliage is dark green with neon green veins. It does occasionally flower, but its flowers are small and not significant.

Water Ficus Audrey with the top inch of soil is dry. Try not to over water in order to prevent damage to roots and to discourage development of pests like gnats. Use a soil that will stay evenly moist, and make sure your pot has good drainage. This is especially important with a plant that will get as big as Ficus Audrey will. With smaller plants it’s easy to gently tip an over-watered pot and allow excess water ro run out, but that gets rather difficult with a ten foot tree. Use a moisture meter to check on the saturation of the soil at the bottom of the pot before watering, and use the Drench and Drain method of watering.

Ficus Audrey needs bright indirect light, but she will let you know when she is getting too much light. Watch for round brown spots on the leaves, as this will indicate leaf burn which means the light it’s getting is too strong. Ficus Audrey is a good communicator and will let you know when it’s unhappy… basically by throwing its leaves like a toddler throws a temper tantrum. If your Ficus Audrey is throwing leaves, check on your moisture level and light strength. Make sure to rotate Ficus Audrey when the right light level is achieved in order to encourage even growth.

Keep Ficus Audrey way from small humans and animals as the sap inside the tree can cause irritation and could be toxic if ingested. It’s also important to make sure that Ficus Audrey is kept safe from drafts and vents as she likes an even climate. Keep Ficus Audrey in temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep her from throwing her leaves. When she’s happy, Ficus Audrey will return the favor by helping to keep the air in your space clean.

Because Ficus Audrey has some demanding requirements, we think she’s best suited for Plant Parents who have some experience with picky plants, or are ready to level up in their plant care efforts.

Don’t forget to download our Plant Parent Chalkboard image for future quick reference!

Happy Plant Parenting!

Snapdragons – A Colorful Garden Character

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Scientific Name: Antirrhinum majus

Common Name: Snapdragon

Common Species/Varieties: Rocket, Candy Tops

Common Colors: Available in most colors but white, yellow, and red are most common

Plant Type: Flower

Annual or Perennial: Perennial grown as Annual

Hardiness Zone: 7-11 USDA

Self-Seeding: Yes

Bloom Season: Spring through Fall

Grows Best In: Full sun or part shade

Fun Fact: Snapdragon seed pods look like tiny skulls, and are filled with many tiny seeds.

Snapdragons are aptly named for their appearance – they look like tiny colorful heads with yawning mouths. These mouths are difficult to pry open, so smaller insects are not able to pollinate them, but their colorful appearance is likely to help attract pollinators of all kinds to their location. Snapdragon will bloom in a big way in early Spring and in Fall, but don’t worry if the blooms slow down in the heat of summer. Watch for their trademark skull shaped seed pods as flowers begin to die, and pick them before seeds begin to ripen if you’re not looking for Snapdragons to volunteer in your garden the following season. Snapdragon plants typically grow taller than they do wider, but a bushier plant can be achieved by cutting back the stems a bit. Taller varieties might require the support of a stake. Snapdragons should be watered at the standard rate of about one inch of water per week. Deer are not fond of Snapdragons, so they can be planted near gardens where deer are a concern to help keep them away (combine them with Marigold for an extra boost of deer protection).

Snapdragons are not just beautiful in the garden. They make a lovely cut flower, and the blooms are edible. Freeze them in ice cubes for an added touch of color in your favorite drinks. These colorful blossoms are frequently found in “English” or “Cottage” style gardens, and are available in sizes from small to giant. In English folklore, magicians believed that Snapdragons had the ability to break curses. In Germany, Snapdragons were placed above a baby’s crib to keep it safe from evil spirits.

Snapdragons can be prone to Aphids, so keep them away from roses and other plants that are also susceptible to aphids. Grow near Chives to help keep aphids at bay.

Chives – Natural Aphid Control

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Scientific Name: Allium schoenoprasum

Common Name: Chive

Common Species/Varieties: Chives, Garlic Chives

Common Colors: Green foliage, purple flowers (Chives) or white flowers (Garlic Chives)

Plant Type: Flowering Herb

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 3-9 USDA

Self-Seeding: Yes

Bloom Season: Late Spring to Early Summer

Grows Best In: Full sun to some shade

Fun Fact: Not fun but important, chives are toxic to dogs and cats as they are part of the allium, or onion, family.


Chives are well known as a delightful addition to many foods, and are especially enjoyed on a baked potato loaded with sour cream and cheese or in a big bowl of potato soup. Slightly less well known is the fact that their blossoms are both edible and delicious! Collect Chive blossoms (Garlic or regular) at the peak of their bloom and place them in a mason jar. Add distilled white vinegar just to cover the blossoms. Continue to add blossoms and vinegar to the jar until its packed comfortably full. Give the jar a little tip upside down a few times every now and then, and in a few weeks, you’ll have a delicious tasting vinegar perfect for salads! An added bonus – if you are using purple blossoms the vinegar will be a beautiful magenta color.

Chives don’t do well when dried, but you can preserve them for later use by cutting them into tiny pieces and freezing them in a freezer-safe bag. Pour olive oil into an ice cube tray and add chopped chives to each section for a quick and tasty chive oil base for cooking. Chives are cut-and-come-again herbs, so you can trim the chives growing in your garden all Spring and Summer and they will continue to grow. Never take more than 30% of the overall plant and it should stay healthy and continue to grow heartily.

In addition to being a tasty treat, Chives are also beneficial in the garden as pest deterrents. Grown next to roses, Chives can help keep aphids at bay. This goes for any plants susceptible to aphids. Plant at least two or three chive plants per foot of height of rose bush. Along with aphids, Chives are said to help repel mites and Japanese Beetles (though we’ve yet to see anything truly repel Japanese Beetles). They can also be beneficial in keeping rabbits away.

Grow chives indoors in winter in pots to keep this tasty kitchen herb around all year long. Place your pot in a sunny and warm place indoors and keep it moderately watered. Don’t overwater chives as they can be susceptible to root rot, especially in a pot.

Chive blossoms left to go to seed can be beautiful in a garden if left to over-winter. Their rounded blossoms become light brown winter garden decor in the shape of delicate round fireworks. They make a beautiful addition to dried flower bouquets or homemade holiday wreaths and arrangements.