No one wants to end up with extra garden chores and sad-looking plants
But that’s what can happen if you accidentally pick plants that are known to struggle in Colorado landscapes — particularly during winter.
So, in this tip, you’ll get the scoop on 3 popular plants to AVOID planting in Colorado and similar western states. These plants can be high maintenance here. (Do you remember the TV show, “What Not to Wear?” Think of this article as: “What Not to Plant.”)
These 3 plants are very popular in other parts of the country, but they don’t like our winters. They tend to struggle in our:
- Dry climate
- Drying winter winds
- Intense winter sun
- Big temperature swings (from above freezing, to below freezing like a kindergarten seesaw)
You’ll probably see these plants at your garden center, so use this article to be a smarter shopper. Let’s dig in!
Boxwoods are decorative shrubs.
They grow well in regions of the country with milder winters. It’s hard to open a garden magazine without seeing a lush, eastern garden that’s lined with boxwoods.
Boxwoods are evergreen.
When they’re planted in a place where they’re happy, they typically stay green through the entire winter. I like to think of evergreen plants as staying “forever green.”
It also means they don’t go dormant (into hibernation mode), so it’s important to keep them regularly watered through the winter.
Unfortunately, in western states like Colorado and Utah, boxwoods can be temperamental
During the winter, boxwood leaves have a tendency to dry out — often turning brown or orange.
You also may see translucent yellow leaves (like the leaves below in the upper left).
You may hear this called “winter burn,” and it isn’t a pretty look.
When you see boxwoods at the garden center, they’re going to look lush, green and super cute. But save yourself the headaches and skip them!
“But I have my heart set on boxwoods!” In this case, head to a locally-owned garden center. Ask whether they carry types of boxwoods that have a better track record in states like Colorado and Utah.
You may have more luck if you plant boxwoods in sheltered places in your yard that face east, northeast or north.
And just know they’re likely going to need more work and water to keep them looking good.
These plants are like super-sized boxwoods. When they’re green, they look good.
But this is another shrub that can struggle in Colorado winters
You may be wondering, “Okay, so what does winter damage look like on a Manhattan euonymus?”
The leaves on your Manhattan euonymus will turn yellow. The may become brittle and dried out. The leaves will start dropping off.
As the dead leaves slowly fall off, it’s like bad New Year’s Eve confetti. You may find yourself raking up these leaves for months … and months … and months.
(I’m speaking from personal experience here. I used to have Manhattan euonymus in my yard.)
With good watering, you should get buds for new leaves when temperatures warm up, but it takes time.
When these shrubs get winter burn, they don’t look good for much of the year.
If you want shrubs that stay consistently green through our yo-yo temperature swings during winter, this isn’t it. 🙂
Add Manhattan euonymus to your “What NOT to plant in Colorado and similar western states” list.
Arborvitaes are trees and shrubs that are often used as hedges.
They’re a popular landscape plant in humid regions of the country.
They grow quickly, and they’re evergreen. Again, this means typically stay green over the winter. They don’t go dormant.
But arborvitaes are another plant to avoid in Colorado landscapes
Arborvitaes like a lot of moisture, so they may struggle if you aren’t great about winter watering.
Not to mention, our drying winter winds and our harsh freezes can be brutal for them. You may see them turn brown — almost like a rust color.
Some years, your arborvitaes may do fine and make it through the winter without an issue.
Not so much.
If you want to save yourself some headaches (and avoid the expense of replacing dead plants), skip arborvitaes in your Colorado landscape.
So, does this mean you CAN’T plant any of these shrubs and trees?
Friends, the beauty of gardening is you can try planting (almost) anything.
You may be able to find a protected location in your yard where these plants are less vulnerable to winter damage.
But if you’re planning your landscape in Colorado, Utah or a similar western state, growing plants that are better adapted to our winters will take less effort!
Related tips that may interest you:
- 5 garden trends that are shaping western gardens
- What plant hardiness zone is Colorado?
- 5 helpful things to know about garden centers in Colorado, Utah and similar states