What Plants Live in the Mountains?

Aside from the clean, fresh air and the views, mountain life is also characterized by an abundance of plants that have adapted to the high altitudes and harsh weather. The fresh air and views, after all, just wouldn't be the same without pines, laurel and thousands of other species that distinguish mountains. Because of their hardiness, many are grown in home landscapes too, enhancing spaces that aren't quite as lofty.

Virginia Mountain Mint

This perennial grows up to 3 feet high. It branches near the top and features small, white flower clusters that bloom in July and August and attract butterflies. It is considered an herb and is native to several states and in Canada. Virginia mountain mint prefers partial shade and moist soil. Sow seeds in the spring and thin them as they sprout.


Fireweed, a wildflower, grows in the subalpine regions, such as the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains foothills. Its common name is derived from its ability to quickly appear in burned areas after a recent forest fire. The flowers are bright reddish-purple, appear on a spire that reaches up to 6 feet tall and bloom in mid-summer. Grow this member of the primrose family by seed or by cuttings in full sun or part shade and in moderately moist, well-drained soil. Place it in an area where it can naturally spread so that it won't overwhelm other plants.

Pinyon Pine

This evergreen perennial grows on lower mountain slopes. Trees are also cultivated as Christmas trees because of their pleasing scent. It reaches up to 30 feet tall and forms a pyramidal or spreading shape. The female cones, which are light brown and have thick scales, mature in early fall and contain edible seeds for people and wildlife that are called pine nuts. Incense is made from crushed cones. Grow pinyon pines by seed in dry, rocky soil that drains well and in full sun.

Joshua Tree

The foliage on Joshua trees is similar to yuccas, with stiff, spiny, blue-green leaves that have yellow margins. Their broad flower spikes featuring white blooms appear in March, April and May. They grow up to 40 feet tall, feature a thick twisting trunk and have open crowns, making them striking landscape additions. They are found throughout the southwest, particularly in the mountains of southern California, the Mojave Desert and western Arizona where the elevation is above 3,500 feet. Joshua trees have growth habits similar to those of cactus and succulents. Start them from seeds, rhizomes or stem cuttings. Place them in full sun and in sandy or rocky soil. Leave the dry leaves to protect the plant and help it absorb moisture.

Keywords: mountain plants, common mountain plants, high altitude plants

About this Author

Joy Brown is a newspaper reporter at "The Courier" and www.thecourier.com in Findlay, Ohio. She has been writing professionally since 1995, primarily in Findlay and previously at the "Galion (Ohio) Inquirer" and "Toledo City Paper." Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and history from Miami University.