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Landscape Logic column: Flashy, low-water plants attract fly-ins

Becky Garber
Landscape Logic
Catmint with white butterfly
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Hummingbirds, butterflies and bees are the pollinating creatures that bring gardens alive through their beauty and movement as they fly from flower to flower.

While they rush to flashy flowers with bright colors, their real attraction is more for the food than the flash. They hunger for the nourishment in high sugar nectars at the base of blossoms and in the pollen stuck to the tips of flower parts.

Providing good food sources for these pollinators is an easy gardening task that beautifies the landscape and benefits veggies and fruit trees. Attracting more pollinators to our yards is simply a smart and sustainable move.

Plant Select offers several easy-care perennials suitable for the Rocky Mountain region that provide great color while attracting pollinators. The plants listed below need little to no water once established and can all be grown in full sun. Most are also suitable for high altitude gardening.

Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)

Size: 16-to-28-inches tall by 20-to-30-inches wide.

Why grow it: Mounded bluish-foliaged plant all season long until clusters of golden flowers appear in mid-August. Fragrant flowers attract a wide range of butterflies, moths and bees.

Altitude limit: to 10,500 feet.

Woods’ rose (Rosa woodsii)

Size: 3-to-5-feet tall by 3-to-5-feet wide.

Care: Moderately drought tolerant; prefers slightly acidic soil.

Why grow it: Also known as wild rose. Forms pink to lavender flowers that attract pollinating insects. Rose hips are nutritious for large animals in winter; while thickets provide shelter and nesting areas for birds.

Altitude limit: to 11,000 feet.

Rock spirea (Holodiscus dumosus)

Size: 4-to-6-feet tall by 4-to-6-feet wide.

Why grow it: Fragrant, creamy white flowers form on slender, arching branches in early summer that attract both hummingbirds and bumble bees.

Altitude limit: to 10,000 feet.

Rocky Mountain penstemon (Penstemon strictus)

Size: 12-to-36-inches tall by 12-to-18-inches wide.

Care: Prefers dry, well drained soil; will tolerate semi-shade.

Why grow it: Growth begins in early spring and flowers appear in late May through July. Striking, deep blue flowers are attractive to small birds.

Altitude limit: to 10,500 feet.

Catmint (Nepeta x)

Size: 12 to 36-inches tall by 18-to-24-inches wide.

Care: Established plants are quite drought tolerant.

Why grow it: Grey-green foliage with purple-blue flowers that are highly attractive to hummingbirds. Remain attractive throughout growing season.

Altitude limit: to 10,000 feet.

Becky Garber is member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at (970) 468-0340.


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