Native Plants for Colorado Gardens

Gardening with native plants can help you achieve a beautiful garden with less effort and better use of resources. Native plants are naturally adapted to the growing conditions in your area. Natives will use less water, be more resistant to disease and predators, and require no special care. Many nurseries now stock native plants and can help you design a landscape built partly or entirely around endemic plant species. Colorado natives are adapted to the short growing season, dry climate, intense sunlight and variable temperatures in the Rocky Mountains.


Colorado is known for spectacular wildflowers. You can transfer some of that wild beauty to your home by planting Colorado wildflower species. Plants such as Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus), Blue Flax (Adenolinum lewisii) and Silvery Lupine (Lupinus argentius) thrive in dry, sunny locations, while Colorado Columbine (aquilegia caerulea) and Firewood (Epilobium angustifolium) add color to shadier locations. Native flowers will bloom all summer long.

Native Grasses

Not everyone thinks of grass as a garden plant, but native grasses add graceful form and color variations to the landscape. Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) produces tall, graceful plumes that turn reddish orange in the fall, while Western Wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii) has tall, blue-grey fronds that flourish in a variety of conditions.

Fruiting and Flowering Shrubs

You can attract a variety of birds and wildlife by planting native shrubs. Most of these shrubs produce showy flowers in spring, followed by fruit in the summer. Most of the fruit isn't attractive to people, but birds and other wildlife will take advantage of the bounty. Favorites include Wild Raspberry (Oreobotus deliciosus), Golden Currant (Rebes aureum) and Oregon-grape (Mahonia repens). Wild roses (Rosa woodsii) will bloom profusely in sunny locations, resistant to wildlife depredations and returning even after the coldest winters, unlike their domesticated cousins. Bright-red rose hips adorn the bare vines in fall and winter, and provide food for wildlife.

Keywords: Colorado wildflower species, native grasses, planting native shrubs

About this Author

Cynthia James is the author of more than 40 novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from Modern Bride to Popular Mechanics. A graduate of Sam Houston State University, she has a degree in economics. Before turning to freelancing full time, James worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.