Gardening Tips & Know How
Gardening is one of life’s great joys. Coming home to a garden full of flowers will reward you with both beauty and a sense of pride. Whether you’re new to gardening or have a wealth of growing experience, you can rely on High Country Gardens as your go-to resource for expert gardening advice.
We’ve gathered our most valuable planting information here to help assure your gardening success. Download our comprehensive planting guide, view our planting videos or use our website header search box to find the plants and gardening articles you’re looking for.
Starting A New Garden:
If this is your first garden, we recommend starting small, in an area that has easy access to water. Choose a spot you see frequently, so you can pay attention to your plants and their needs. You’ll have more plants to choose from if you pick a sunny spot (6 or more hours), but don’t worry, there are plenty of choices for shade/part shade.
The Right Plant For The Right Place: You’re sure to have the best garden success if you match the spot in your garden with a plant’s needs. Your hardiness zone, soil type, light and moisture availability should match the plants you choose. Read our guide on Matching Plants To the Right Growing Conditions or use our plant filters to narrow your choices to just the right ones for your garden.
Here’s our step by step guide to choosing plants using the shopping filters:
1. Filter by zone. USDA Hardiness zones are based on the average coldest expected winter temperatures for an area. Each plant has a hardiness zone range. By understanding your zone and selecting plants that are proven to be able to withstand the temperatures of your area, you’ll ensure a successful garden. If you’re not sure of your zone, you can look it up by entering your zip code in zone finder or refer to the USDA Hardiness Zone Map below.
2. Filter by soil type. Find out whether you have average (sometimes called garden loam), clay or sandy soil and make sure to match your plants with any special soil requirements.
3. Filter by light needs. Observe whether the planting site is in full sun, part sun/shade or full shade. Full sun is 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Because of the intense heat in the western U.S., morning shade/afternoon sun is still considered full sun. Choose plants that match the amount of sunlight they will receive in your garden.
4. Filter by rainfall/water needs. Use the rainfall map below to find your area’s yearly average amount of rainfall. Use the water-drop symbols included with each plant description or filter plants by rainfall range to match your area.
5. Filter by bloom time. Try to select plants that will bloom through the whole span of a growing season: early spring, late spring, summer, or early fall. By planning a garden that has successive blooms, you’ll have beautiful flowers all season and you’ll provide pollinators with nectar for the duration of the growing season.
6. Filter by other features. You can filter plants by color, deer resistance, beneficial for pollinators, or whatever garden needs are most import to you! Solve nearly any gardening challenge by using the plant feature filters.
Or, leave the planning to us and choose a Pre-Planned Garden. If the process of selecting plants seems overwhelming to you, our Pre-Planned Gardens are an excellent choice. Our professional horticulturists have done all the work of selecting plants that work together for gardening zone, soil, light, rainfall, and bloom time. Our gardens include planting maps, care instructions and premium plants.
Gardening With Plants, Bulbs & Seeds
Perennial Plants – Garden-favorite perennials include fragrant Lavender, long-blooming Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), water-thrifty Penstemon and deer-resistant Salvia. Perennial plants are a wonderful investment. Gardeners love them because these long-lived plants are set in the ground and return year after year, growing more robust and blooming more abundantly over time. Perennials can sometimes start out slow—the old adage is first they sleep, then they creep, then they leap! But once established, they’ll reward you with beautiful flowers that return each year. If you’re an experienced gardener, you’ll probably want to check out our unique plants, many of which are exclusive to High Country Gardens. Perennial Garden
If you’re a novice gardener, try starting out with easy-to-grow perennials or choose one of our Pre-Planned Gardens, which offer breathtaking flower combinations without the work of planning. Our Pre-Planned Gardens have been designed by professional horticulturists. The gardens arrive with our premium plants, care instructions and garden maps, to make planting simple. Don’t worry, you can take all the credit when visitors admire your beautiful garden!
Plants come in many forms including potted plants, bareroot plants, bulbs. Most of our perennial plants will come in a pot with fresh, leafy top growth. Bareroot plants are plants that have had their soil removed, such as Daylilies. They arrive in bags with peat moss and are ready to be planted. Learn more about how our plants ship.
A few of our plants will be shipped dormant (sleeping) and should be planted right away to awake in the warm temperatures of the spring garden. All of our plants have robust root systems and will be ready to thrive in your garden. Use our planting guide and plant them right away!
Annual Plants – Annuals typically provide bursts of summer-long color and as their name suggests, are planted every year. Some of our favorite annual plants are California Poppies, annual Zinnias, and Cosmos. They won’t overwinter like perennials, but many annuals will reseed themselves for next year. In areas with cooler winters (zones 3-7) some bulbs such as Dahlias, Calla Lily and Gladiolus, are treated as annuals will need to be dug up and stored to plant again in spring.
Bulbs - Plants that come in bulb form (tubers, corms or rhizomes) are some of the easiest to grow. Spring-planted bulbs result in bright, showy summer blooms, and include Cannas, Gladiolus and Dahlias. Fall-planted bulbs result in some of the earliest spring blooms and include Crocus, Daffodils, Tulips, and Allium. We only offer top-size bulbs, which produce robust plants and more flowers. We ship the bulbs to you at the perfect planting time. Plant at the recommended depth and with the right amount of light and you’ll be rewarded with bountiful flowers.
Seeds - If you have a large area to plant, such as a meadow, the most economical way to do this is by planting seed. We offer custom mixes geared to different regions, pollinator mixes and specific species. All of our seeds are non-GMO and are have high, certified germination rates. Wildflower seed is most commonly planted in fall or spring. Learn how easy it is to plant wildflowers.
Low Water, Low Maintenance Lawns
You can grow a sustainable lawn that is green, resilient, drought-tolerant and can handle just about anything. We can help you decide on an eco-friendly lawn that needs far less water and mowing than a traditional Kentucky Bluegrass lawn. Our grass plugs and seed offerings are selected because they are water-thrifty, hardy and low-maintenance. You’ll want to consider whether to plant Warm Season Grass or Cool Season Grasses when embarking on lawn replacement. Free up your weekends and save water with our sustainable lawn choices.
The Right Plants for Your Region
High Country Gardens was founded in Santa Fe, NM and has historically provided the newest and best plants for creating low-maintenance, water-thrifty (xeric) landscapes in the western U.S. Over the years we’ve expanded our plant offerings. Gardeners in the Midwest and East love our plants and have great success with them.
Here’s our advice on how to choose which plants will work best in different parts of the U.S.:
Rainfall / Moisture Requirements Vary
Plants in Florida and Arizona may have the same hardiness zone, but they’ll have very different rainfall requirements. Every plant on our website has a waterdrop symbol and rainfall range to help you choose the right plant for your location. Use the rainfall map to find your area’s yearly average amount of rainfall. We suggest you group plants together with similar water needs to make watering easy.
The plants on our website are well adapted to difficult growing conditions and will thrive throughout most western states. If you live in the west, we recommend you select plants for Western gardens. Plants marked with the cowboy hat symbol are only suitable for drier western climates. If you live in other areas, choose plants that are ideal for anywhere in the U.S.
Cold Hardiness Zones
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. By choosing plants in your zone, you are assuring the plant is well suited for the expected weather extremes in your area. For example, plants rated for zone 5 will survive the coldest expected winter temperature of -15 degrees. If you live in very warm winter areas (zones 9-11) plants with zone 3 or 4 ratings are not recommended. The lack of freezing winter temperatures does not provide a time for winter dormancy (rest).
Growing High Country Gardens’ Plants Across The US
The Intermountain West
Nearly every plant found on the website is well-suited for the Intermountain West and has been garden-tested in Santa Fe, NM, where the high desert climate is harsh and soils are poor. With its high elevation (7,000 ft.), the sun is intense, the air has very low humidity and summer highs range in the low 90°Fs. Winters are cold (USDA zone 6) and precipitation is scant (13" in a good year). Choose from plants for Western gardens, or if you live at a high elevation, choose from our high elevation plants.
Coastal California, OR and WA
The majority of our plants thrive in western, coastal regions. In high rainfall areas of western Oregon and Washington, water-thrifty (xeric and very xeric) plants must be planted in very well-drained, low fertility soils--avoid heavy loam and clay types. Plants suited for zones 3 or 4 don’t work in these areas as they need a period of dormancy provided by freezing cold winter temperatures. For best success, we suggest you choose plants for the Pacific Northwest or plants for Coastal California.
The Desert Southwest
Most of our plants are suitable in areas with mild winters and very hot summers such as inland CA, southern NV, southern UT, most of AZ, southern NM and southwest TX, so long as you are careful to match zones (USDA zones 7, 8, 9 and 10). In these areas, 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! In these areas, regular, deep watering during the heat is essential for all xeric plants. In the Desert Southwest, most full sun-loving plants will bloom longer when provided with some afternoon shade; plant on eastern, or southeastern sides of buildings, or in the shade of tall shrubs and trees. Select from plants for the Southwest. For low-elevation gardens located in the desert, we suggest you choose desert landscaping plants.
The southeast (east Texas, the Gulf Cost & Florida) has a very hot, humid summer climate, typically in USDA zones 6-9. While many of the same suggestions apply as with the Desert Southwest (above), water-thrifty (xeric) plants such as Lavender and any plant marked with a Western Only Cowboy Hat symbol will not thrive in these areas. Plants with very woolly, gray foliage are not recommended. These include Partridge Feather (Tanacetum), Woolly Thyme, Horehound (Marrubium), and some Lamb's Ear (Stachys), as they may rot or "melt" from rain, excessive humidity and hot weather. We suggest you choose plants from our plants for the Southeast.
Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
A majority of our plants are well-suited for the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region--and almost anywhere in the U.S. But, growing water-thrifty (xeric) plants in wetter climates requires a full sun site with very 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/thawing soil conditions will rot xeric plants. Protect them by planting under a roof overhang or placing a movable cold frame over plants in their flower bed. Avoid plants with a “Western Only” cowboy hat symbol. For best success, choose plants for anywhere in the U.S. or plants for the Northeast.