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Poncha Pass in a Rock Garden

'Poncha Pass Red' Sulphur Buckwheat: 2014 Plant Of The Year

By David Salman, High Country Gardens Founder 

The High Country Gardens 2014 Plant of the Year was 'Poncha Pass Red' Sulfur Buckwheat. It is interesting to note how some really great plants seem to hang around my greenhouse and gardens for a long time before I get around to introducing them.  I’m not sure why I keep them to myself, but this is certainly the case with Eriogonum umbellatum ‘Poncha Pass Red’. I don’t even remember the exact year I found this fantastic plant in its native habitat, but I do remember my excitement when I saw the colony of these plants growing along a Colorado roadside.  I came upon the plants in full seed, which might sound boring, except for the fact that the seed heads are bright orange-red. 


The dark red seed heads of Eriogonum 'Poncha Pass Red' that display in late summer.
The dark red seed heads of Eriogonum 'Poncha Pass Red' that display in late summer.

Eriogonum  (Sulfur Buckwheat) is a totally under-appreciated native plant family that finds its sweet spot in the Western US where there are many dozens of species and subspecies.  Many of the Buckwheats are actually small evergreen shrubs

Such is the case with ‘Poncha Pass Red:’ it is a very small shrub that has woody stems and evergreen foliage. The plant blooms in late spring with showy umbels of bright yellow. Then as the flowers mature to seed set, they turn brilliant orange-red.


Eriogonum Poncha Pass Red Sulphur Buckwheat
'Poncha Pass Red' Sulpher Buckwheat in flower in late May.

Eriogonum is a fantastic genus of wildflowers when it comes to attracting and feeding bees and butterflies and many species of beneficial insects. Beneficial insects prey on injurious insects like aphids, spider mites, and other garden pests.

Eriogonum are wonderful companion plants to pair up with Lavender, Penstemon, and smaller growing ornamental native grasses like ‘Blonde Ambition’. These are plants that appreciate ‘Poncha Pass Red’s’ love of full sun and “lean”, well-drained soils. 

The Legacy of David Salman | High Country Gardens founder David Salman was a pioneer of waterwise gardening, a passionate plant explorer, and a charismatic storyteller. His commitment to cultivating a palette of beautiful waterwise plants transformed gardening in the American West. 

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