Colorado Native Plants
The Benefits of Growing Plants Native to Colorado
By Jodi Torpey
Native plants are the new superheroes for our gardens. In places where there’s too little water, drought-tolerant native plants add color to a dry landscape. Native plants also come to the rescue when planted as rain gardens where storms dump heavy rainfall that flood yards with the runoff.
Native plants are trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that were here long before gardeners arrived. They’re the plants that grow in a specific region where they have evolved over time and are an essential part of the landscape because they know how to survive through tough conditions.
Because they’re well-suited for growing around here, they don’t need as much water or soil amendments as non-natives do. They also provide an important food source for our other natives, like bees, butterflies, birds and pollinators of all kinds.
In our region we’re lucky to have some of the most beautiful native plants around. Colorado native herbaceous perennials, like pussytoes, purple poppy mallow and Rocky Mountain penstemon, are naturally adapted to the harsh growing conditions of our region.
They can easily be incorporated into any landscape or used to create a water-saving xeriscape. One of the best places to plant natives is in a hellstrip, that no-man’s land of planting that lies between the sidewalk and the curb.
Penstemons are the native plants that really show off all their attributes in early spring. June is the month when blooms hit their stride in the garden. No matter what color you need to fit your garden, there’s a striking penstemon to fill that spot.
Looking for Pink Plants? The new Carolyn’s Hope Pink penstemon fits the bill. This plant is actually a hybrid between Mexican and American wild penstemons. It offers medium-pink tubular flowers on plants that reach about 15 inches tall. A Plant Select recommendation for this year, Carolyn’s Hope was developed by Brian Core in honor of his wife. A portion of proceeds from all sales will benefit breast cancer research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
Looking for something white, rose or purple? Prairie Jewel penstemon offers a little of each. Large bell-shaped flowers grow on tall stems that spring up on evergreen rosettes of foliage. This penstemon loves to have dry feet and will be happy along a dry sidewalk or driveway. Plant in masses for a spectacular show through June.
Want orange flowers? Bridges’ penstemon is another Plant Select offering that has scarlet trumpet flowers that hold up through the heat. These flowers are a southwestern native wildflower meant to grow in our arid climate. This penstemon can take up some real estate, too. Plants can grow about 30 inches tall and about 24 inches wide.
Need some violet to add to the dry garden? Pikes Peak Purple penstemon is a durable hybrid developed from crosses of wild species. With a background like that, you know this has to be a hardy plant, despite its delicate violet-purple flowers.
There are many other natives with different bloom times. If you plant it right, you can have a full season of color provided by plants that are perfectly suited for our gardens.
Plants native to Colorado can withstand the heat of summer and the cold of winter with minimal maintenance. Are you looking to plant some low-maintenance Colorado native plants? Visit our store and we’ll be happy to help you pick the right plants for every region of Colorado.