Plant Select® is a regional plant introduction organization founded in 1992. As a collaboration between Colorado State University and Denver Botanic Gardens, the organization has brought together many of the region's best horticulturists, plant breeders, landscapers, and commercial plant growers with the goal of introducing regionally suitable plants for the Great Plains and Intermountain states.
The criteria used for the selection process is rather strict and includes the following ten attributes:
The plants must be:
Flourish with less water
Thrive in a broad range of conditions
Tough and resilient in challenging climates
One of a kind/unique
Resist disease & insects
Over the last 25 years, these efforts have been wildly successful, currently having brought to the market 150 noteworthy plants.
While the organization's focus is to introduce plants adapted to western growing conditions, time and the experiences of gardeners elsewhere in the country, have discovered that some of these plants are also suitable for the eastern half of the US as well.
Plants in the program include a wide range of native perennials, shrubs and ornamental grasses in addition to a wide-ranging assortment of cold hardy Old World species from Europe, Asia, and South Africa.
I first saw this sumptuously colored Ice Plant in the garden of its discoverer, John Stireman of Salt Lake City. John has one of the finest and most diverse rock gardens in the western US. He is particularly enamored with the South African Ice Plants and has spent several decades growing and testing them in his USDA zone 5 rock garden.
As luck would have it, after many years of cross-pollination by bees, Delosperma Granita® Raspberry appeared as a volunteer seedling. And it's a winner! Durable and cold hardy, the flowers have a unique coloration that sets it apart from other Ice Plants and perennial plants. Use it as a water-wise ground cover, planted in well-drained where it gets full sun. Zones 6-10.
This widespread native species is often considered a biennial. But this selection, found on the Great Plains of eastern Colorado is more perennial and robust. It's best to grow this perennial in "lean" (infertile) fast draining non-clay soils in full, blazing sun. It likes lots of heat and not too much water. After getting it established the first growing season, water deeply but infrequently in subsequent years. Zones 5-8.
"Tough love" is the best way to grow and enjoy this gorgeous plant. With this in mind, it should not be fertilized with granular or water-soluble chemical fertilizers. This will shorten the plant's lifespan and it will act as an annual. Instead, just top-dress with a little Yum Yum Mix around the plant in fall.
A wonder hybrid cultivar, this vigorous groundcover Speedwell is a great choice for the xeric (water-wise) garden. It has evergreen foliage and blooms in mid-spring with a flurry of white, blue-eyed flowers that cover the plant for up to a month.
Snowmass® is an outstanding companion plant for spring blooming bulbs (Crocus, daffodils, muscari and wildflower tulips). Plant it in full sun in most soils including clay (when grown on the dry side). Zones 3-10.
Shop Plant Select® Plants From High Country Gardens
A native shrub from the southwestern US, Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus intricatus) features attractive silvery evergreen foliage for year-round interest and bird habitat. Its compact size and outstanding durability make it an excellent choice for hedging and xeric landscaping. In mid-spring, the shrub is covered in plumes of tiny pale flowers, which are pollinated by small native bees to create feathery seed tails that catch the afternoon light.
A super cold hardy Old World native, Golden Candles (Thermopsis lupinoides) blooms with stunning bright yellow lupine-like flower spikes in mid-spring. It pairs beautifully with mid-spring daffodils and tulips, and after flowers fade, attractive foliage mounds will enhance your garden through summer. Easily grown and long-lived, Golden Candles delivers welcome early-season color after a long, cold winter. A 2020 Plant Select® Winner.
A shrub clematis, Mongolian Snowflakes (Clematis hexapetala) blossoms into a cloud of 2-inch ivory colored flowers beginning in late spring. After months of flowering, showy, shiny, feathery seed clusters continue the show, revealing dark green mounding foliage. Remarkably easy to grow and drought tolerant, it is a must-have perennial.
Dwarf Leadplant (Amorpha nana) is a wonderfully compact native shrub that covers itself with purple flower clusters in late spring. Sweet honey-scented flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. A member of the legume family, Leadplant adds nitrogen to the soil, helping it thrive in poor soils and benefiting of all the plants surrounding it. Suitable for the most challenging sunny sites. A 2020 Plant Select® Winner