Saturday, June 11, 2016

Native Perennials by Audrey Stokes

Mirabilis multiflora, Desert four o'clock

Governor Hickenlooper has just proclaimed June 10-16 as "Native Plant Appreciation Week"! For more information and a list of related events, visit the Colorado Native Plant Society's webpage.

It's a great time to add native plants to your landscape! Following are some helpful facts and tips from CSU Extension by I. Shonle, L.G. Vickerman and J.E. Klett (4/14).

Penstemon strictus, Rocky Mountain Penstemon
Quick Facts…
  • A Colorado native perennial is a plant existing in Colorado prior to European settlement.
  • Native plant gardens create wildlife habitat for a variety of birds, mammals and insects.
  • Landscaping with native plants makes a significant contribution to biodiversity that otherwise would be lost to development. 
  • Perennials contribute to environments that help to sustain our vegetable and native flower pollinators.
Why Grow Native Perennials…
  • They are naturally adapted to Colorado’s climates, soils and environmental conditions. 
  • They make ideal plants for a sustainable landscape because they require less watering and fertilizing because the planting site mimics the plant’s native habitat.
  • Using Colorado natives in landscapes may attract a variety of wildlife including mammals, birds, butterflies and other native pollinators.
Callirhoe involucrata, Purple poppy mallow
Where to Grow Native Perennials…
  • Plants should be selected for your site’s life zone and the plant’s moisture, light and soil requirements. Even if a plant is listed for a particular life zone, the aspect (north, south, east or west facing) of the proposed site should match the moisture requirement. 
  • Growing native perennials does not exclude using adapted non-native plants. There are many non-native plants that are adapted to Colorado’s climate and can be used in a native landscape as long as moisture, light and soil requirements are similar. 
  • Even if a site has a non-native landscape that requires additional inputs (such as an irrigated landscape on the plains), dry land native plants can be used in non-irrigated pockets within the non-native landscape. These native “pocket gardens” can be located in areas such as median strips and next to hardscapes that are difficult to irrigate.
Tradescantia occidentalis, Spiderwort

Be Aware: Native perennials should never be collected from the wild! This reduces biodiversity, causes a disturbed area that may be invaded by weeds, and may be illegal. Transplanting a plant from the wild to the garden is rarely successful because of root damage and transplant shock.
Use your local nursery that provides natives and grow your own!!

For more information about the culture and maintenance of Colorado perennials, please check out:
Native Herbaceous Perennials for Colorado Landscape: 
Native Plant References:
Native Plant Vendors:
Native Grasses for Colorado Landscapes: