15 Top Native Plants of the Mountain West

Try these tough, low-maintenance plants for a beautiful, easy garden.

Kelly D. Norris


  • view all thumbnails
Pasque Flower
1/16
Pasqueflower

    One of the first flowers to wake up in the spring, pasqueflower bears lovely silvery foliage and cheery purple blooms. It has an extended season of interest thanks to its graceful seed heads that remain showy through early summer. Allow it to reseed and it will establish a small -- non-aggressive -- colony in your garden.

    Name: Pulsatilla patens

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 1 foot tall

    Zones: 4-9

2/16
Purple Prairie Clover

    Even though we rarely see it in gardens, we love this tough plant. It bears loads of neon-purple flowers through the summer. Look for a selection called 'Stephanie'; this standout has a more compact habit and more intense color than the species.

    Name: Dalea purpurea

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 18-36 inches tall

    Zones: 3-8

3/16
Prickly Pear

    Hardy, drought-tolerant prickly pear cactus rewards you in late spring with its striking pink or yellow flowers. After it's done blooming, enjoy the gray-green pads.

    Name: Opuntia polyacantha

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained to dry soil

    Size:To 15 inches tall

    Zones: 3-9

4/16
Yucca

    One of the few evergreen perennials for the North, yucca offers beautiful blue-green foliage and striking architectural texture. Fragrant white flowers appear in summer and add to the plant's appearance. Bonus: It does well in light shade and is rabbit resistant, too!

    Name: Yucca glauca

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall

    Zones: 4-9

5/16
Idaho Fescue

    Idaho fescue is the perfect grass for adding cool color to your landscape. While not as famous as its common cousin (blue fescue) the Idaho type has larger, longer leaf blades, giving it a more graceful effect. For the best color, look for a new selection named 'Siskiyou Blue'.

    Name: Festuca idahoensis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size:To 18 inches tall

    Zones: 5-9

6/16
Liatris

    Add vertical drama to your garden in mid- to late summer with liatris. It's a favorite of migrating monarch butterflies, and a durable perennial to boot. Liatris is an extra-tough plant that tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. For a stellar combination, plant it with butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

    Name: Liatris pycnostachya

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, damp to dry soils

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 3-9

7/16
Indian Paintbrush

    Attract hummingbirds to your garden with this drought-tolerant perennial's brilliant vermillion flowers. We also love the Indian paintbrush's long bloom season -- flowers appear from late spring until frost. Pair it with blue ornamental grasses such as blue grama or blue fescue for a stunning combination.

    Name: Castilleja integra

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: 4-7

8/16
Poppy Mallow

    This incredible groundcover bears bright wine-red flowers all summer long. Poppy mallow is long lived, drought tolerant, and pest free. It's perfect for the front of the border or scrambling over a rock wall.

    Name: Callirhoe involucrata

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained to dry soil

    Size: To 8 inches tall

    Zones: 4-8

9/16
Butterfly Weed

    Try this prairie plant and we bet it will soar to the top of your favorite-plants list. Butterfly weed's electric-orange flowers are a butterfly magnet. And it may even attract monarch butterfly caterpillars that will happily munch on the foliage.

    Note: This long-lived plant can take a few years to get established -- so be patient with it.

    Name: Asclepias tuberosa

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 4-10

10/16
Goldenrod

    Native goldenrod is a perfect perennial for fall gardens. Many fine species come from the Great Plains and a number of named selections are derived from them. Try 'Fireworks' for its excellent architecture, 'Laurin' for its compact habit, and 'Crown of Rays' for its multitude of flowers in early fall.

    Name: Solidago selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 4 feet tall, depending on variety

    Zones: 4-8

11/16
Red Hyssop

    Anise-scented and easy-growing, red hyssop adds texture and a splash of silver to your garden. For extra variety, look for selections with red, apricot, salmon, or magenta blooms. You're not the only one who will love this summer-blooming perennial; it's sure to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, too. (But happily, not deer or rabbits! They avoid it because of its aromatic foliage.)

    Name: Agastache rupestris

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size:To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 4-9

12/16
Little Bluestem

    One of our all-time favorite grasses, we love little bluestem's bronze-kissed, blue-gray foliage through spring and summer. Then in fall, the blades turn a gorgeous shade of purple-bronze and continue to look good all winter.

    Name: Schizachyrium scoparium

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 3 feet tall

    Zones: 3-9

13/16
Compass Plant

    Try compass plant for a dramatic presence in the summer garden. Yellow, sunflower-shaped blooms sit atop towering, 9-foot stems. This incredibly drought-tolerant plant has earned its moniker because the plant aligns itself north to south to conserve water on hot summer days.

    Name: Silphium laciniatum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 9 feet tall

    Zones: 3-8

14/16
Pale Purple Coneflower

    There are a boatload of coneflower varieties on the market, but one great, underused variety is pale purple coneflower. This top-notch plant bears pink flowers in mid-summer. The bloom color is enhanced by the dark, raspberry-red cones at the center of each bloom.

    Note: Like many coneflowers, it will self-seed and produce a nice colony in your landscape.

    Name: Echinacea pallida

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 40 inches tall

    Zones: 3-10

15/16
Green-Flowered Hedgehog Cactus

    This plant has earned its fun moniker: It grows in tight, spiny green globes. Enjoy this plant's dramatic texture in rock gardens and other well-drained spots. Hedgehog cactus offers extra appeal in early spring when it unveils its iridescent green flowers.

    Name: Echinocereus viridiflorus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, dry soils

    Size: To 9 inches tall

    Zones: 4-10

16/16
Popular Slideshows
We've pulled together galleries of top plants for ...

This Colorado gardener didn't let cold temperature...

These brand-new varieties offer exciting colors, m...

Looking for an inspiring container garden? Take our short quiz and receive a customized planting strategy perfect for you. Start now!


Top Brands


Related Links
We've pulled together galleries of top plants for ...

This Colorado gardener didn't let cold temperature...

These brand-new varieties offer exciting colors, m...

For a fast holiday decoration, try this easy idea....

Share Your Thoughts