Perennials for Dry Climates
Choosing your plantsAdapted from: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Sources, Credits and Copyright
Plants for mountainous areas must be able to withstand daily temperature fluctuations of 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, high summer heat, intense sunlight and cool nights. Water is one of the most limiting factors for many mountain homeowners with wells.
Several perennials require less water and grow well in gardens above 8,000 feet in elevation.
One example is ground-hugging plants including white-flowered Mount Atlas daisy and pink thrift. Pair them with the compact varieties of lavender-blooming catnip.
Taller water-wise perennials include oriental poppy and yellow yarrow.
Mauve-flowered beebalm grows on dry hillsides and does well when planted among other tall flowers to conceal the spindly stems. Consider support from baby's breath and tall native daisies.
Drought-tolerant mainstays for mountain gardens include the deep blue-flowered mountain bluet, orange-yellow blanket flower and white snow-in-summer. Consider planting these with light-green leafed oregano.
For a partially shady spot, try white or blue bellflowers.
Perennials are a sure-fire way to jump-start the high elevation gardening season -- and with careful selection, success is easy.
Selecting a location
Gardening successfully in the mountains is no small challenge. Location and plant selection are equally important to the success of perennial gardening in mountainous areas, where the growing season lasts 90 or fewer days.
Location differences are magnified at high elevations where pronounced microclimates exist. In these climes, the interaction between sunshine, inanimate objects and terrain make decisions about plant location critical. A plant growing in the shade of a rock might as well be in a whole different climate than the same plant located just three feet away in full sun.
Take advantage of cooler eastern exposures to reduce evaporation or use the drip line of a roof to harvest water. If your growing season is especially short, consider movable containers to follow the path of the sun across the sky over the seasons. Sheltering walls and overhangs offer plant havens in cooler periods, as do sunny open spaces during warmer weather.
Plant June to July (NH) and take time to amend soil with compost, peat, or well-composted manure. This helps shallow, rocky soils hold the balance of water and air needed for root growth.