Low Water Shrubs for Colorado

There are many benefits to using Colorado native shrubs for home and commercial landscapes. Colorado native shrubs are naturally adapted to their specific Colorado climate, soils, and environmental conditions.  You can create a lush, attractive native landscape utilizing native shrubs and perennials.

Another benefit of using Colorado natives in landscapes is that they may attract a wide variety of wildlife including mammals, birds, and butterflies. Landscaping with natives on a large or small scale can maintain biodiversity that otherwise could be lost to development.

Where To Grow Native Shrubs

There are several factors to consider in designing a native landscape. Due to Colorado’s wide variation of elevation and topography, native plants are found in a variety of habitats. To maximize survival with minimal external inputs, plants should be selected to match the site’s life zone and the plant’s moisture, light, and soil requirements. Even if a plant is listed for a particular life zone, the aspect (north, south, east or west facing) of the proposed site should match the moisture requirement. For example, a red twig dogwood, which has a high moisture requirement, should not be sited with plants of dissimilar water needs. Similarly, a red twig dogwood should not be planted on a south-facing slope, where a significant amount of additional moisture would be required.

Growing native shrubs does not exclude the use of adapted non-native plants. There are many non-native plants that are adapted to Colorado’s climate and can be used in a native landscape as long as moisture, light, and soil requirements are similar. Even if a site has a non-native landscape that requires additional inputs (such as an irrigated landscape on the plains), dry land native plants can be used in non-irrigated pockets within the non-native landscape. These native “pocket gardens” can be located in areas such as parkways and next to hardscapes that are difficult to irrigate.

Culture and Maintenance

Successful establishment of native shrubs may require supplemental moisture after planting. Once established, the watering frequency can be reduced or even eliminated if the plant was sited in its native environmental conditions. Container grown shrubs can be planted at any time during the growing season. Container grown native shrubs are often grown in a soiless mixture of peat and bark, so the planting site should be amended with some organic material. Using native shrubs offers many benefits in addition to reduced maintenance. Natives are part of our natural heritage and the ecosystems of Colorado. Native plant communities make Colorado visually distinct from the eastern, southern or western United States. Native plant gardens are wildlife habitats and each plant contributes to the biodiversity of the state.

Native Shrubs for Colorado Landscapes

Native shrubs are becoming more available in the nursery as container-grown plants.  Over time, they will reward the homeowner with their natural beauty and other benefits. Native shrubs should not be collected from the wild because this reduces biodiversity and causes a disturbed area that may be invaded by weeds.

Check out the Xeric selections at Creek Side Gardens:

Large shrubs 6-10’ when mature

  • Rocky Mountain Maple
  • Serviceberry
  • Rocky Mountain Juniper
  • Mountain Mahogany
  • Chokecherry
  • Gambel Oak

Medium shrubs 4-6’ when mature

  • Leadplant
  • Sage Brush
  • Apache Plume
  • Fernbush
  • Three-leaf Sumac
  • Golden Current

Small Shrubs less than 4’ when mature

  • Manzanita
  • Rabbitbrush
  • Shrubby Potentilla
  • Yucca
  • Waxwoaden