As one of the United States’ highest elevation cities, a wealth of native plants grow in Flagstaff and the surrounding areas that can’t grow in the rest of the state’s hot climate. Located near the San Francisco Peaks and Coconino National Forest, the area’s unique climate features four seasons thanks to its high altitude. The changing seasons provide gardeners with unique opportunities to grow native plants that rely on drought-resistant qualities to survive in the wild. These plants also help attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife that rely on the plants for their survival from spring through fall.
Also referred to as yellow queen, golden columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) grows in rich, moist, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. The perennial plant grows from seed into a bushy clump reaching up to 3 feet tall and wide. Delicate yellow, nodding flowers bloom in April or May.
To keep the light green foliage fresh-looking after the blooms fade, the soil needs to be kept moist; otherwise, the plants can be cut to the ground when the foliage starts to wither. Columbine’s showy flowers attract butterflies and other insects.
A member of the bean family, purple locoweed (Oxytropis lambertii) grows to 16 inches in height, featuring pinkish-purple blooms on top of long stems during late spring and summer. After the blooms fade, a pod starts to grow, opening along a seam that reveals several small seeds that may be planted in the garden.
The seeds may take a year or two to sprout. While locoweed is poisonous to livestock, butterflies flock to this native wildflower as do small birds. The plant thrives along canyon bottoms, dry stream banks and in disturbed areas, preferring sandy or loamy well-drained soil in full sun.
A native perennial vine or shrub, Arizona honeysuckle (Lonicera arizonica) features reddish-purple tubular flowers that bloom in June or July. The flowers strongly appeal to hummingbirds who help pollinate the flowers. The plants thrive in just about any moist, well-drained soil in full to partial shade, growing up to 30 feet long in the right conditions. In the garden, a trellis, fence or other support system helps the vines spread in the right direction. After the blooms fade, small red berries offer an important food source for birds and small mammals. The berries also contain seeds that may be used to plant honeysuckle in the garden.