by High Country Gardens

Wasatch slop.
After: Native plants stabilize a rocky slope on Salt Lake City's Wasatch Front.

Native Plants Replace Spurge-Filled Salt Lake City Landscape

Turning a Weed-Filled Backyard Into a Habitat Hero Wildscape: Before/After Transformation

The truth is, we didn't set out to create a wildscape. We live on the foothills of Salt Lake City, at the base of city-purchased green space. We were happy to let the mountain landscape for us. Zero water, zero cost, zero work. Little did we know the mountain was in the thrall of a villain that was carpeting our backyard—myrtle spurge! We pulled a full carload of this noxious weed off our rocky slope. Then we had to stabilize this ridiculously steep, swath of dirt. Plants from the dry mountain west were our only good choices. It turns out the critters like them, too.

Wasatch slope during transformation.
During: Spurge is cleared and the slope is prepped for planting.
Carpet of spurge.
Before: The noxious weed spurge carpeted the slope.

It’s four years later and we've pulled a lot more spurge and put about 200 plants on our back slope. New sage and rabbitbrush emerged after the spurge was cleared. We are coaxing along other shrubs and trees, including Golden Currant, Rhus trilobata, Apache Plume, Serviceberry, Fernbush, and Scrub Oak, among others. Bunch grasses lend texture and cover while the shrubs grow.

Terraces in autumn.
After: Terraces in Autumn - Native plants can span the seasons, adding long-blooming color.

We didn't expect such a huge burst of wildlife. We've spotted up to 14 different bird species in our yard in one day. Hummingbirds, not seen here before, now fight over the flowers. Butterflies, bees, and other bugs set whole patches in shimmering motion. A trio of baby owls learned to fly in our yard. We enjoy the bunnies, squirrels, and deer. Our daughter is growing up with a community in her backyard.

-- Erin A. and Craig B., homeowners

  1. Rain Lily Bulb Mix, Pink, White, Yellow Rain Lilies

    Our Rain Lily Mixture (Zephranthes Mix) in pink, yellow, and white will light up a lawn, rock garden, or garden border with bright flowers after a rain. With grass-like foliage, the ...

    Learn More
    Rain Lily Mix Rain Lily Mix Zephyranthes Mix
    Regular Price $13.99 Sale $11.19
    Per Bag of 25
    You save: 20%
    Our Rain Lily Mixture (Zephranthes Mix) in pink, yellow, and white will light up a lawn, rock garden, or garden border with bright flowers after a rain. With grass-like foliage, the stems emerge quickly after rain and open with 6-petaled star-like flowers. Flowers last a day or two, but more will follow quickly, especially after a shower.
    Learn More
  2. Bouteloua gracilis Hachita Grass Plugs, Bouteloua gracilis Hachita, Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs

    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs (Bouteloua gracilis) is the most vigorous selection of this beautiful native grass from the western Great Plains. Beloved for its "eyelash" seed heads,...

    Learn More
    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs Bouteloua gracilis Hachita
    $59.95
    Per Tray of 70

    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs (Bouteloua gracilis) is the most vigorous selection of this beautiful native grass from the western Great Plains. Beloved for its "eyelash" seed heads, it can also be mowed once a month to create a soft, inviting lawn. Quite xeric, 'Hachita' Blue Grama thrives in both sandy soils and clay! You can also interplant plugs with wildflowers to grow a colorful, low-care short grass prairie. For a turf type lawn, plant plugs 6" apart. We recommend using Organic Plant Magic as a root dip to spur grass plug growth. 4" tall (15" with seed heads).

    Learn More

Plant Lists

Here is the list of some of the 200 plants we used on both the upper slope and bottom terrace. For a few of the plants listed without a link, High Country Gardens carries other varieties of these plants, including Artemisia; Monardella macrantha; and Yucca. Upper Slope: Bottom Terrace: Agastache rupestris; Fraxinus cuspidata; Kniphofia; Phlox subulata; Salvia pitcherii (similar to Salvia azurea); Schizachyrium scoparium; Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia (similar to Sphaeralcea munroana); Symphoricarpos orbiculatos; and Zauschneria garretti. © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.
  1. Rain Lily Bulb Mix, Pink, White, Yellow Rain Lilies

    Our Rain Lily Mixture (Zephranthes Mix) in pink, yellow, and white will light up a lawn, rock garden, or garden border with bright flowers after a rain. With grass-like foliage, the ...

    Learn More
    Rain Lily Mix Rain Lily Mix Zephyranthes Mix
    Regular Price $13.99 Sale $11.19
    Per Bag of 25
    You save: 20%
    Our Rain Lily Mixture (Zephranthes Mix) in pink, yellow, and white will light up a lawn, rock garden, or garden border with bright flowers after a rain. With grass-like foliage, the stems emerge quickly after rain and open with 6-petaled star-like flowers. Flowers last a day or two, but more will follow quickly, especially after a shower.
    Learn More
  2. Bouteloua gracilis Hachita Grass Plugs, Bouteloua gracilis Hachita, Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs

    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs (Bouteloua gracilis) is the most vigorous selection of this beautiful native grass from the western Great Plains. Beloved for its "eyelash" seed heads,...

    Learn More
    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs Bouteloua gracilis Hachita
    $59.95
    Per Tray of 70

    Hachita Blue Grama Grass Plugs (Bouteloua gracilis) is the most vigorous selection of this beautiful native grass from the western Great Plains. Beloved for its "eyelash" seed heads, it can also be mowed once a month to create a soft, inviting lawn. Quite xeric, 'Hachita' Blue Grama thrives in both sandy soils and clay! You can also interplant plugs with wildflowers to grow a colorful, low-care short grass prairie. For a turf type lawn, plant plugs 6" apart. We recommend using Organic Plant Magic as a root dip to spur grass plug growth. 4" tall (15" with seed heads).

    Learn More