Monday, March 18, 2013

Gardening in a Time of Water Restrictions by Donna Duffy

Penstemon cardinalis
It’s that time when gardeners start wandering around their yards and pondering what to plant this year. We’ve been forewarned that watering restrictions are coming, and they will be significant. Knowing that, it will be helpful to narrow your list of plant possibilities to those that are more xeric and likely to fare better in a hot, dry summer. Don't fret! There are hundreds of readily available, beautiful xeric plants to choose from – many of which are Colorado natives.

Besides being more drought resistant, native plants have other benefits: they attract native bees and butterflies; they are less fussy because they are naturally adapted to Colorado’s environment; and they require less soil amendment and fertilizing. Local nurseries are starting to carry more and more native plants, shrubs, and trees. A great resource for more information about native plants is CSU Extension – particularly Fact Sheet 7.242, Native Herbaceous Perennials for Colorado Landscapes

In addition to adding native plants for your landscape, consider those from Plant Select®. Plant Select® is a cooperative program administered by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University in concert with horticulturists and nurseries throughout the Rocky Mountain region and beyond. The purpose of Plant Select® is to seek out, identify and distribute the very best plants for landscapes and gardens from the intermountain region to the high plains.  Check out recommended plants at

Here are some suggestions for adding more drought tolerant plants to your landscape!
Rosa glauca

 Instead of a high maintenance hybrid tea rose, you might try this lovely Redleaf Rose (Rosa glauca) from Plant Select.®  It is a medium size shrub with beautiful foliage and red hips.

Ratibida columnifera

Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), is native to several western states, including Colorado. It is a heavy bloomer and naturalizes easily.
Callirhoe involucrata

Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) is a Colorado native with low-spreading stems that are great for covering a slope. The wine-colored blooms are present all summer.
Penstemon glaber

Penstemon! There are so many beautiful Penstemons to choose from. This one is Mountain Beardtongue (Penstemon glaber), seen often along hiking trails in the Colorado mountains.

Digitalis obscura

If you like Foxglove (who doesn’t!), try Spanish Peaks (Digitalis obscura) instead of one of the woodland varieties. Spanish Peaks is a 2004 Plant Select® winner that prefers deeper, less frequent watering.