Rocky Mountain natives

Best natives for Mountain gardens
Marcia Tatroe

Native plants are wise additions to gardens in the Rocky Mountain region. The eight species listed on this page are naturally suited to the cold-winter, short-summer climates in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. Many of their flowers attract butterflies or hummingbirds― or both. Many of them thrive on rainfall alone. Plant them in spring; if you start with nursery-raised plants, remember that even drought-tolerant natives need to be watered during the dry season for a year or two until they're established.

Blue flax
(Linum lewisii) 1 1/2 feet tall and wide. Blue flowers in spring. Sun to partial shade; little water. Climate zones 1-3.

Butterfly weed
(Asclepias tuberosa) 1 1/2 to 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide. Orange flowers in summer. Attracts masses of butterflies. Needs good drainage. Sun; moderate water. Zones 1-3, 10, 11.

Dotted gayfeather
(Liatris punctata) 6 inches to 3 feet tall and equally wide. Purplish pink flower spikes in late summer. Sun; little water. Zones 1-3.

Mountain spray
(Holodiscus dumosus) Deciduous shrub; 3 to 6 feet tall and as wide. Creamy white flowers in summer. Partial shade; little to regular water. Zones 1-3, 10.

Prairie smoke
(Geum triflorum) Mounding perennial; 20 inches tall and wide. Maroon flowers in spring. Sun to partial shade; little water. Zones 1-3.

Rocky Mountain columbine
(Aquilegia caerulea) 1 1/2 to 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide. Blue and white flowers in spring. Sun to partial shade; regular water. Zones 1-3, 10, 11.

Small-flowered penstemon
(P. procerus) 1 foot tall and wide. Bluish purple flowers in late spring. Partial shade; moderate water. Zones 1-3.

Tufted evening primrose
(Oenothera caespitosa) 8 to 12 inches tall, 2 feet wide. Fragrant white flowers all summer. Sun; little water. Zones 1-3, 10, 11.