As a rule, plants for mountainous areas must be more rugged than plants for lower elevations. Mountain perennials, for example, must be able to withstand daily temperature fluctuations of 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, high summer heat, intense sunlight, decomposed granite soils, shorter growing seasons, and cool nights. Then there’s water to consider, given that many mountain homes have wells with limited water supplies.
Here are several perennials that require little water and grow well in gardens above 8,000 feet in elevation. Keep in mind, however, that nearly all perennials need more water during their first season to become established.
Groundcovers include the sun-loving sea thrift, basket of gold, candytuft and dianthus, as well as the shade-loving lungwort, moneywort and dead nettle.
Taller water-wise perennials for sun include oriental poppy, yarrow, penstemon, columbine and blanketflower. Many shade perennials require a little more water than their sun-loving cousins. Some shade perennials requiring low to medium water are ligularia, meadow rue and bleeding heart.For striking color combinations, consider planting mauve-flowered beebalm with silver artemisia and lavender catmint. Another possibility is deep-blue-flowered mountain bluet with orange-yellow blanketflower, white snow-in-summer and light-green-leafed oregano.
Perennials are a sure-fire way to jump-start the high elevation gardening season — and with careful selection, success is easy.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).
- Flowers For Mountain Communities
- Ground Covers for Mountain Communities
- Herbaceous Perennials
- Native Herbaceous Perennials for Colorado Landscapes