If you’re looking for flowers and shrubs that can tolerate hot, dry conditions with grace, take a look at our foothills landscape in the Water-wise Neighborhood of our Demonstration Garden. This garden showcases native plants that thrive when temperatures rise, unlike landscape plants from cooler, wetter climates. Here are four reasons this landscape works in our region.
1. Prairie and southwestern native plants tolerate heat. While traditional plants tend to look best in spring or fall, native plants can help a landscape look its best in midsummer. Plants like sunset hyssop, New Mexico privet, Rocky Mountain penstemon and golden currant naturally grow in regions with intense summer heat. These plants can be watered two to four times per month once established and rarely wilt even when temperatures rise above 90 degrees.
2. Silver-leaved plants create more beauty. Tall blue rabbitbrush, western sage and fringed sage have shiny, light-grey leaves. Their light foliage contrasts with the surrounding green plants that makes this landscape interesting even when the plants aren’t in bloom. Since silver plants are so common in the foothills and prairies of the Pikes Peak region, including them helps a landscape blend better with the natural surroundings.
3. Late summer bloomers support hummingbirds, butterflies and pollinators. Landscapes with late summer flowers provide much-needed nectar for migratory hummingbirds and butterflies. For example, tall blue rabbitbrush attracts large numbers of painted lady butterflies in September. Consider planting late-blooming native flowers to help birds and insects as they prepare for cooler weather.
4. Small gravel covers the soil between plants. While many traditional landscape plants grow best with wood chip or shredded bark mulch, it can hold too much moisture for native plants. Instead, try using a small gravel to cover bare soil between plants. It will help the soil retain more moisture than leaving the soil bare and will help the landscape look tidier. Keep in mind that small gravel is easier to weed than larger rock. We recommend gravels that are less than ½-inch for the best results.
This plant list and landscape plan can help you adapt this design to your own yard. Find more plant and landscape ideas at waterwiseplants.org.