The Right Plants for Your Region


Our primary goal at High Country Gardens has always been to provide the newest and best plants, gardening products, and information for planting low-maintenance, waterwise landscapes in the western United States.

All plants have been garden tested in Santa Fe, NM, where the high desert climate is harsh and most of the soils lack organic matter. At a 7,000 ft. altitude, the sun is intense, the air has very low humidity, and summer highs range in the low 90°s. Winters are cold (USDA zone 6) and precipitation is scant (13" in a good year).

New customers in the East have also become interested in our plants. Here is our advice on how to choose what works best in different parts of the United States.

  • The plants in the catalog have adapted to difficult growing conditions and will thrive throughout most of the western states.
  • Plants marked with the cowboy hat symbolare only suitable for drier western climates.
  • Plants without the cowboy hat symbol are suitable for most areas of the country, depending on their cold hardiness (see USDA Plant Hardiness Zones).
  • The Rainfall Map gives a fascinating glimpse of how precipitation distributes itself across our vast continent.
  • Rainfall Map and GraphUse the Rainfall Map to find your amount.

To determine if a plant is sufficiently cold hardy, the USDA created numbered zones indicating winter low temperatures; the lower the zone number the colder the winter.

  • If the coldest winter temperature expected in your area is -15°F (zone 5), then any plants rated zones 3-5 will survive the winter temperatures in your area.
  • If you live in very warm winter areas (zones 9-11), plants with zones 3-4 ratings are not recommended. The lack of freezing winter temperatures do not provide a time for winter dormancy (rest).
HCG SymbolsUse the symbols to fine tune your choice.

Growing High Country Garden's plants Across the United States

The Intermountain West

  • All plants have been garden tested in Santa Fe, NM.
  • The high desert climate is harsh and most of the soils lack organic matter.
  • At a 7,000 ft. altitude, the sun is intense, the air has very low humidity, and summer highs range in the low 90°s.
  • Winters are cold (USDA zone 6) and precipitation is scant (13" in a good year).

Coastal California, OR, and WA

  • The majority of catalog plants thrive in this region.
  • Plants cold hardy in Zones 3 and 4 are not typically recommended for this climate. Non-freezing winter temperatures do not provide for a period of winter dormancy (rest).
  • In high rainfall areas of western OR and WA, xeric and very xeric plants must be planted in well-drained, low fertility soils (avoid heavy loam and clay soils).

The Desert Southwest

(Defined as areas in USDA zones 7,8,9 and 10 with mild winters and very hot summers, such as inland CA, southern NV, southern UT, most of AZ, southern NM, and southwest TX.)
  • Even sun loving plants will bloom longer when provided with some afternoon shade; plant on the east and southeast sides of buildings, tall shrubs, and trees.
  • Regular, deep watering during the heat is essential for all xeric plants.
  • Planting is best done from fall through early spring (mid-Oct.-early March). Plants need at least 6-8 weeks to re-establish their roots before the extreme heat of summer.

Regions with very Hot, Humid Summer Climates (USDA zones 6-9)

  • The same suggestions apply as above with the "Desert Southwest."
  • Xeric plants with very wooly gray foliage, such as Tanacetum (Partridge Feather), Wooly Thyme, Marrubium (Horehound), and some Stachys (Lamb's Ear), may rot ("melt") from rain, excessive humidity, and hot weather.

Non-Western States (east of the Mississippi)

  • The chart below the rainfall map gives the range of rainfall conditions under which xeric plants will do well.
  • Growing xeric plants in wetter climates requires a full sun planting site with fast-draining sandy, or sandy-loam soils with low fertility.
  • Raised beds and south or west facing sloped beds provide the fastest drainage conditions.
  • Gravel is the preferred mulching material.
  • Protection from winter moisture is critical. Wet, freezing, and thawing soil conditions will rot xeric plants.
  • Protect by planting under a roof overhang or placing a movable cold frame over plants in their flower bed.

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