Where I live in Colorado, we’re lucky if we get 14″ of moisture per year.
Depending on where you live, you may get even less!
Just to put that in perspective, Seattle and Chicago get close to 40″ of moisture per year. Boston gets about 44″ per year. And Atlanta and Orlando get around 50″ per year.
It’s dry in the West, which means we need to be strategic about the flowers we grow in our gardens.
If you want to create a garden in a semi-arid western state, it’s helpful to learn about “waterwise” flower gardening.
The idea behind waterwise gardening is that you intentionally choose flowers that are drought-tolerant and use less water — grouping plants together with similar needs.
The phrase, “drought tolerant flowers,” may make you think of cacti, but rest easy, there are many beautiful flowers that grow well with low water. They just may not be the flowers you know from other parts of the country!
If you’d like to learn about waterwise flower gardening and see examples of drought-tolerant flowers, I’ve put together 4 resources to get you started.
The links on this page are NOT affiliate links. I’m just sharing them for your convenience. You may be able to find the books locally.
1) “Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens” (book)
Lauren Springer is a western flower gardening expert. She has a wonderful book called: “Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens.”
This is one of my go-to books for waterwise flower ideas. It’s filled with photos and helpful tips that can be used whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced gardener.
This book contains plant ideas for different regions of the semi-arid West, including the West Coast.
TIP: As you go through the book, make sure that the flowers you like match your plant hardiness zone. A plant hardiness zone tells you whether a plant is likely to survive the coldest winter temperatures that are expected in your area. Some of the flowers in the book may be better suited for parts of the West with warmer winters.
2) Pretty, tough plants for the intermountain west (Plant Select)
Plant Select is a non-profit collaboration between the Colorado State University Extension, the Denver Botanic Gardens and local horticulturalists.
With Plant Select, plants go through trials for a number of years to make sure they can handle our tricky, western growing conditions, and they’re non-invasive. The best plants are chosen as Plant Select. Then, they’re sold from local garden centers (from Colorado to Oregon) and online retailers (like High Country Gardens).
Plant Select also has a GREAT book called “Pretty Tough Plants.” I refer to this book all the time. It’s another book that’s user-friendly for gardeners of different levels.
You can see examples of Plant Select flowers on the Plant Select website, including flowers and shrubs.
3) Waterwise plant lists and workshops (Colorado Spring Utilities)
Colorado Springs Utilities has a number of helpful resources on gardening with less water.
You can find links to their low-water plant lists, workshops and more on their waterwise plants website.
4) Low-water, native plant lists and tips
Would you like to learn about growing native plants that are drought tolerant?
Native plants are those that have occurred naturally in a region. Generally, they’ve adapted to local growing conditions, and they can provide great habitats for birds, insects, etc.
Many states have “Native Plant Societies” with helpful resources for your state.
Simply google: [Name of your state] Native Plant Society. You should pull up a resource for your state.
Here are a few native plant societies in the intermountain west:
- Colorado Native Plant Society
- Idaho Native Plant Society
- New Mexico Native Plant Society
- Utah Native Plant Society
- Wyoming Native Plant Society
In Colorado, the Colorado Native Plant Society (CNPS) has a great resource page for gardening with native plants in Colorado. On this resource page, you’ll find their plant guides for every region in the state. For example, you’ll find their suggestions for low-water, native plants for the Front Range of Colorado.
You’ll also find their suggestions for flowers to avoid planting because they can be invasive.
I’ll share more about drought-tolerant flowers and waterwise gardening in future tips
But for now, I hope these resources help you get started!
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