Colorado Native Plants for Gardens
Colorado native plants are those that naturally grew in the state before European immigrants settled in the area. Colorado has various climate areas, including plains, mountainous regions and semi-desert regions. Colorado has a wide variety of native plants due to the variations in elevation, temperature extremes and soil conditions. Many of these plants grow well in home gardens.
Rocky Mountain Columbine
Rocky Mountain columbine (Aquilegia caerulea), also called Colorado columbine and blue columbine, is an herbaceous perennial bush belonging to the Ranunculaceae family. It typically grows in the Rocky Mountains at elevations of 6,000 to 12,000 feet. This plant reaches heights up to 2 feet with a similar spread. The spring-blooming flowers feature white petals and sky blue sepals. Rocky Mountain columbine prefers rich soils but can tolerate other soil conditions. This Colorado native plant is commonly used in naturalized areas, cottage gardens and borders.
Eastern Pasque Flower
Eastern pasque flowers (Pulsatilla patens), also called sandflowers and windflowers, are perennial plants hardy to elevations of about 9,000 feet. This spring wildflower blooms in March and April with bell-shaped, violet-blue flowers. The hairy, fern-like foliage features silvery tones. This Colorado native plant matures to about 12 inches high. A member of the Ranunculaceae family, the eastern pasque flower prefers gritty, well-drained soil in sunny to lightly shady locations. Eastern pasque flowers are commonly used in border fronts and rock gardens.
The nodding onion (Allium cernuum) is a bulb plant native to the state of Colorado. A member of the lily family (Liliaceae), it prefers sandy loams occurring at elevations of about 10,000 feet. Nodding onions typically reach 1-1/2 feet in height and feature green, grass-like leaves. The small, cup-shaped flowers bloom in pink and lilac shades from June through August. This aromatic plant smells like onions when bruised or crushed. Nodding onions often are used in cottage gardens, butterfly gardens, naturalized areas and rock gardens.
The sulphur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum), also referred to as the sulphur buckwheat, is an herbaceous perennial native to the Eastern Rocky Mountain regions at elevations up to 10,500 feet. The bell-shaped flowers start out a sulphur yellow to cream color and mature to orangish-yellow tones. The grayish-green leaves turn red in autumn. The sulphur flower ranges from 6 to 12 inches in height with spreads up to 3 feet. This spreading plant grows best in lime-free, gritty soils in sunny locations. Sulphur flowers often are planted in butterfly gardens and rock gardens.
The long-head coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), also called the Mexican hat, is an herbaceous perennial belonging to the daisy family (Asteraceae). This Colorado native plant thrives in sunny locations at elevations up to 7,500 feet. The long-head coneflower features drooping yellow petals surrounding a long, dark brown central disk. It grows up to 3 feet in height with spreads that reach 18 inches. The long-head coneflower has sparse leaves, so it looks best when planted in masses or groups. This plant works well in native plant gardens and sunny borders.