Urban Garden Denver Blog

What I Would Plant

I have been in several conversations recently with friends who are new homeowners and who are also new to Colorado gardening. So for these folks, I am going to list my favorites. I would still recommend waiting a few more weeks for perennials and until mid-May for annuals. Shrubs and trees can be planted now (well – maybe in a week – our forecast includes some low temperatures this week). All of these varieties do well in our dry climate but will need watering to get established. Many of these have shown up in this blog in previous posts, but I thought it might be helpful to put all these together.


  • Oregon Grape – there are varieties for the Rockies – nice evergreen foliage, small flowers and berries. Can plant either a regular size shrub or a creeping version.

    Oregon Grape

    Oregon Grape

  • Sand Cherry – nice flowers and burgundy leaves
  • Forsythia – great yellow flowers to welcome spring
  • Lilac – old-fashioned or dwarf varieties
  • Barberry – distinctive leaf color and berries in winter

Ground covers:

  • Creeping veronica

    Candytuft and Basket of Gold

    Candytuft and Basket of Gold

  • Mat Daisy
  • Hardy ice plant
  • Vinca

Spring-blooming perennials:

  • Candytuft – white blossoms on evergreen foliage, nice compact plant for the front of a flowerbed or border
  • Basket of gold – alyssum –  yellow flowers and gray foliage
  • Iris – stately and old-fashioned – ask a friend or neighbor for some transplants



Summer-blooming perennials:

  • Coreopsis – several varieties – reliable yellow flowers throughout the season
  • Blanket flower – daisy-like flowers – yellow and orange varieties – keep blooming all season
  • Day lilies – lovely succession of blooms, even though each only lasts one day
  • Salvia – many varieties of sage – lavender shades – hardy spike-like flowers
  • Penstemon – mostly pink, purple and lavender, but other colors as well – spike-like flowers – drought tolerant
  • Lavender – takes a few years to establish but hardy and fragrant

My preference is to select a few varieties and plant them in groupings of at least 5 – 7 plants for a mass of blooms. For shrubs, plant 2-3 for a cohesive effect.

Starting a perennial garden takes a few years – so a few annuals in strategic locations will help fill in color – cosmos, marigolds, annual salvia, petunias, zinnias, moss rose.

With watering restrictions this summer, I would suggest limiting the number of new planting areas to a few strategic zones. Then in the fall planting season you can fill in additional areas with perennials on sale.

Penstemon varieties

Penstemon varieties

One online nursery that has great information and planting ideas for our area is High Country Gardens.

Enjoy creating beauty in your yard – and don’t get discouraged by weather set-backs. It can be tricky gardening in Colorado, but it is also very rewarding. As I reviewed my list, I kept thinking of more favorite plants – poppies, yarrow, flax, own-root roses … so many favorites. Start with a few, then add one or two new varieties each year. That way gardening in Colorado can be a lifelong adventure in learning. And by the way, all these pictures are from my garden in past seasons.

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  1. Great article, any tips on vegetables?

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 10 months ago
    • * Carla says:

      I am not a big vegetable gardener, because of the space and water needed. I do love cherry tomatoes and do several plants in a large self-watering pot (with a water reservoir in the bottom). I don’t use pesticides, so I can just eat them warm and fresh off the vine. I would say plant a few veggies that you love to eat. In Denver with our watering restrictions this year, you can still hand-water vegetables more than twice a week, or use drip irrigation. Otherwise, it isn’t enough water to grow veggies.

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 10 months ago
      • Isn’t it terrible that we are limited in self-sufficiency because of water rights battles?! It would be ideal if we could reclaim our gray water and use it wisely, but we aren’t “supposed” to do that either.

        Posted 6 years, 10 months ago
      • * Carla says:

        I will do a future post on rain barrels – which are a great source of water and restricted in Colorado. I want to do a little more research before I post because there have been some recent legislative changes.

        Posted 6 years, 10 months ago

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