Xeriscape Plants for Colorado

Savvy Colorado gardeners already know about the many benefits of converting thirsty lawns into attractive, water saving xeriscapes. The real treat lies in discovering the wonderful variety of plants available to use in xeric gardens. In response to consumer demand, Colorado nurseries are now growing more varieties of drought adapted plants than ever before. The result is a rich tableau of xeric plants, well adapted to Colorado's diverse conditions.

Xeric Trees

Curl-leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) is a small, semi-deciduous tree to large shrub, with a dense, upright growth habit. This handsome Colorado native produces dark green foliage and grows up to 10 feet high. Curl-leaf mountain mahogany is covered with pretty, feathery seeds in fall. It is drought, wind and cold tolerant and can be pruned into a tall hedge. New Mexican privet (Forestiera neomexicana) is an attractive, drought tolerant, deciduous tree, native to southwestern Colorado. Its bright green foliage and contrasting smooth gray bark make it a perfect focal point for the xeric garden. New Mexican privet has a branching habit and grows to twelve feet high. This handsome tree will tolerate temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Xeric Shrubs

Fernbush (Chamaebatieria millefolium) is a handsome shrub, native to the plateaus of southern Colorado. It produces dense, lacy, fern-like foliage tipped with airy spikes of small white flowers. Fernbush tolerates drought and poor soils, provided they are well drained. It will grow in extreme heat and survive winter temperatures down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Cliffrose (Cowania mexicana) is a pretty, evergreen shrub, native to western Colorado. It has an irregular form and grows from 5 to 10 feet tall and as wide. Cliffrose has small, dark green leaves, twisted stems and is covered with delicate, fragrant yellow flowers in spring. This shrub is very drought tolerant and can survive temperatures down to -25 Fahrenheit.

Xeric Groundcovers

Turkish speedwell (Veronica liwanensis) is a fast growing, drought tolerant groundcover, ideal for sunny locations. This low, spreading plant forms a dense mat of glossy leaves about 2 inches high, and is covered with light blue flowers in spring. Turkish speedwell is tolerant of poor soils and is quite cold hardy throughout the state of Colorado. Hardy yellow ice plant (Delosperma nubigenum) is a low growing succulent that tolerates even the hottest, driest southern exposures. It grows from 1 to 3 inches high, and produces masses of bright yellow daisy like flowers from late spring into summer. Hardy yellow ice plant requires full sun, well drained soils, and will survive temperatures down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is an attractive evergreen groundcover which produces dark green foliage and bright blue flowers in summer, followed by brilliant red fall foliage. It grows from 3 to 5 inches high and will spread moderately fast in the garden. Plumbago is quite tolerant of drought and cold temperatures and will thrive in partial to full shade.

Keywords: Colorado xeriscape, drought tolerant, water wise landscape

About this Author

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.