Native Plants and Principles of Waterwise Landscaping

A collection of colorful native plants.

This collection of colorful native plants includes Agastache, Penstemon, Ratibida and Nepeta.

High Country Garden's Principles of Eco-friendly Landscaping

The High Country Garden’s Principles of Eco-friendly Waterwise Landscaping, which emphasize water saving landscapes that use a lot of native plants, also encourage:

  • Use of low water/ low mow lawns
  • Water harvesting and efficient irrigation
  • Organic soil and lawn care
  • Creation of a habitat friendly landscape to feed birds and pollinators and other wildlife

So regardless of where you are gardening, using the techniques waterwise gardening is always a good idea.

Native Plants as a Cornerstone of the Drought Resistant Landscape

We have an incredible native flora in North America from which to choose for planting into a drought resistant (or waterwise) landscape. Yet it’s important to understand the “one size fits all” philosophy doesn’t necessary work when picking plants for different parts of the country. I recommend choosing plants by:

  • Matching their water needs with the average rain and snowfall of where they are to be planted (See our precipitation map).
  • Knowing your soil type (clay, sand, loam etc.) and making sure the plant’s soil preference matches the soil where they are planted.
  • Matching a plant with its water and soil preferences will greatly increase the longevity and ease of maintenance of your landscape.
Vernonia lindheimeri v leucophylla Echinacea purpurea

Native plants Vernonia lindheimeri v leucophylla and Echinacea purpurea

Matching Plants with Their Water and Soil Preferences

Matching a plant with its water and soil preferences will greatly increase the longevity and ease of maintenance of your landscape. There are so many beautiful and useful native plants, that it’s important to educate yourself about them. And like adapted (non-native) plants, natives have the growing conditions that they like best. And one of the most important aspects of native plants is planting them into the soil they like best. Match the native plant to its soil preference and you will enjoy low care beauty from you landscape for many years.

Clay can be one of the gardener’s greatest adversaries if you don’t know your clay loving plants, and there are quite a few. When planting into clay, I recommend that you initially work ample compost and soil activators like trace mineral fertilizer into the soil to fluff up the soil. This results in long term improvement of drainage and air exchange in the root zone. Choose plants that actually like clay.

Native Plants for Clay

Sandy soils also have great challenges for the gardener, especially when trying to establish a new garden. They dry out so quickly! So as with clay, seek out the native plants that prefer sandy soils so to insure more successful transplanting and long term enjoyment. To improve water retention and improve available nutrients, work in ample compost and soil activators like trace mineral fertilizer at planting time.

Native plants For Sandy Soils

Kendrick Lake Gardens in Lakewood, CO has a host of native plants, including: Yucca glauca, Eriogonum umbellatum, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, Artemisia 'Seafoam'and Oenothera

Kendrick Lake Gardens in Lakewood, CO has a host of native plants, including: Yucca glauca,
Eriogonum umbellatum, Echinocereus triglochidiatus, Artemisia 'Seafoam' and Oenothera.

Making a Place for Wildlife

Habitat creation can be one of the most satisfying results of our waterwise gardening efforts. And there are some many incredible native plants for this purpose. I’m a hummingbird gardener, so I place a high value on using native plants as a source of natural nectar and reducing my use of feeders.

Plant Native Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

Text and Photos by David Salman.

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