CO-Horts Blog

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Plant Select Perennials

Posted by Deana Wise, Broomfield County Extension

Easy Perennials

            I have worked in the grounds maintenance field in one capacity or another for many years (I won’t be more specific, please don’t ask). In my younger days, I took on every plant dare that came my way. The experts said a plant would not survive here; I took that as a personal challenge to prove them wrong. Over time I have learned two things, 1) sometimes plants survive despite our best efforts to kill them and 2) sometimes plants die even when we meet all of their outrageous demands.

            Now that I am a little older and move a little slower, I have chosen to do things the easy way. I now select plants that will perform the best with the least amount of effort on my part. A great resource to aid me in my search is the Plant Select â program ( ).

 Plant Select, created in 1997, is a cooperative work between Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, and many participants from the Nursery and Landscape communities. This popular program trials new plant varieties to determine their suitability for Colorado gardens. If the plants are deemed fit, they are actively cultivated and sold through local nurseries and greenhouses with the Plant Select label. New plants are introduced every year so it pays to check back every spring.

The web site lists: Plant Type, Height, Width, Flowering Season, Flower color, Sun, Water Needs, Hardiness Zone, Soil Type, Deer Resistance ,Good for Pollinators, Winter Interest, and Year Introduced in Plant Select. The color pictures are awesome. A few designs by leading architects are included as a place to start.

One of my favorite Plant Select inductees is the SILVER BLADE® Evening Primrose-Oenothera macrocarpa subsp. incana. Listed as “A southern Great Plains endemic introduced by James Locklear, further promoted by Bluebird Nursery, Clarkson, Nebraska. Silver leaves compliment the clear yellow flowers. Best on well drained sites. Blooms May to frost. Drought tolerant. Perennial. Xeriscape”. Season long blooming, perennial, not terribly invasive and drought tolerant. A perfect plant for our area (except for the well-drained part). This plant will thrive if it is not overwatered.

Oenothera macrocarpa subsp. incana,

Another of my favorites is the ORANGE CARPET® Hummingbird Trumpet-Zauschneria garrettii 'PWWG01S'.Listed on the website as “Rapidly spreading groundcover with masses of orange-scarlet flowers summer to fall. A selection made from seed collected in Idaho, this is the best form of California fuchsia for high altitude or cool climate gardens. Perennial. Xeriscape”. I feel this plant has always been underused. It blooms later in the season when other plants have given up and gone home. The hummers love it too!

Image result for Zauschneria garrettii
Zauschneria garrettii, Photo by High Country Gardens

One of my all-time favorites is the Chocolate Flower-Berlandiera lyrata. According to the website, Chocolate flower is an “Ever blooming native wildflower from the Southwest that produces a continuous succession of dark-eyed, yellow daisies over a compact rosette of foliage. The flowers exude a rich chocolate aroma in the morning hours. Best with minimal water once established. Can reseed. Perennial. Xeriscape”. Who can resist the smell of chocolate every day throughout the summer? This is one of the easiest plants to grow if you ignore it once it’s established. Just worship it from afar and you will both be happy. It can reseed if it is extremely happy; however, you can never have too much chocolate.

Berlandiera lyrata, Photo by ag.
    In closing, the Plant Select website is a great place to find ideas and try out new plants that have been tested in this area. It could save money and frustration in the future, as well as water now. I guess I’ll have to finally give up on growing Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) and be content with just visiting where it chooses to live.


  1. Thanks for posting - if you ever need images for future posts, please don't hesitate to ask!

  2. I love the Zauschneria. Tough as nails and blooms all summer. I have it in a super tough spot along my driveway and sidewalk. Hot and dry. Great plant! Nice post, Deana!

  3. Thank you for this valuable information, I hope it is okay that I bookmarked your website for further references. I found more collection here buy perennials online