What Are the Best Native Plants for Fort Collins, Colorado

Native plants make an amazing addition to any landscape for more reasons than just their aesthetic. In addition to their beauty, native plants are superior to non-native plants because they are naturally more low-maintenance, are accustomed to our arid environment making them drought-tolerant, are more capable of resisting pests, attract insects and wildlife that are native and beneficial to the environment, and so much more. Overall, plants that are native to Northern Colorado are better for promoting a natural and healthy environment than plants that are not native. Here are some native plants for Colorado that we carry in our Fort Collins nursery to get you going on native landscapes of your own!


Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus)

Hardy, drought-tolerant, and stunningly beautiful. Bright blue spikes tower high on this Beardtongue and are loved by hummingbirds and bees. Rocky Mountain Penstemon is one of the easiest Beardtongues to grow and has a long blooming period of about a month in the spring. It is easy to grow, long-lived, and thrives in any well-draining soil with full sun exposure.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon

Plant Characteristics:

  • Plant Type: Perennial

  • Hardiness Zone: 3-8, hardy to 10,000 feet

  • Light Requirements: Full sun

  • Height: 24-30 inches

  • Width: 24 inches

  • Foliage Color: Green

  • Bloom Color: Blue/purple

  • Bloom Time: Mid-late spring

  • Attributes: Attracts bees, attracts butterflies, attracts hummingbirds, cut flower, deer resistant, easy-care, native, rabbit resistant, xeric, multiplies/naturalizes

Penstemon Planting & Care:

Penstemon do not like to be over-crowded by other plants. Plant only in sandy, well-draining soils. They will not grow well in clay-heavy soil. It is also recommended to avoid overly rich soils as too much compost or fertilizer will shorten their lifespan. They establish in approximately 8-10 weeks (given the proper growing requirements are met), after which watering amount and frequency can be reduced. Avoid mulching the ground beneath as this could lead to soil that is too rich or too moist. Fertilize sparingly (once per year in the fall is plenty).


Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Showy tangerine-orange flowers are heavily laden with nectar and pollen. They are particularly attractive to hummingbirds, Monarch butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects. They produce silky seed pods in the fall. Good drainage is imperative for these plants to thrive.

Milkweed

Plant Characteristics:

  • Plant Type: Perennial

  • Hardiness Zone: 3-9, hardy to 8,000 feet

  • Light Requirements: Full sun

  • Height: 24-28 inches

  • Width: 12-24 inches

  • Foliage Color: Green

  • Bloom Color: Orange, yellow

  • Bloom Time: Late spring to summer

  • Attributes: Attracts bees, attracts butterflies, attracts hummingbirds, cut flower, fragrant, deer resistant, drought-tolerant, native, staff favorite, xeric, multiplies/naturalizes

Milkweed Planting & Care:

This perennial plant stays dormant a bit longer than most, often taking until late spring to start showing signs of life. Milkweed requires sandy, well-draining soil (there are some varieties that do well in clay-heavy soil). Do not plant in soil that is overly rich or heavily amended. They love to be planted in the hot sun and only require infrequent (but deep) waterings after their second growing season. These plants should never be divided as disturbing the tap root can cause irreparable damage.


Abbotswood Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa 'Abbotswood')

This excellent dwarf shrub provides brilliant summer interest, producing masses of bright white blooms at a time when few other plants flower. Use as a border, for mass planting, as a groundcover plant, or as an accent. This deciduous shrub is fast-growing and suitable for a variety of purposes and locations.

Abbotswood Potentilla

Plant Characteristics:

  • Plant Type: Shrub

  • Hardiness Zone: 3-7

  • Light Requirements: Full sun

  • Height: 18-24 inches

  • Width: 30 inches to 3 feet

  • Foliage Color: Green, silver

  • Bloom Color: White

  • Bloom Time: Summer

  • Attributes: Attracts birds, attracts butterflies, deer resistant, drought-tolerant, easy-care, native, salt-tolerant

Abbotswood Potentilla Planting & Care:

This compact shrub has a moderate mature size, making it perfect for a variety of locations. They grow best in full sun and are somewhat drought-tolerant after they are established. After planting, be sure to water deeply 1-2 times per week, especially in the heat of the summer. Do this throughout the first growing season to ensure the plant has a chance to properly establish its roots. This shrub can tolerate a variety of soils, though a well-draining soil is preferable for best results. Fertilize in the spring before new growth begins.


Annabelle Hydrangea(Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle')

This variety of hydrangea features stunning pure white flowers that are much larger than other species. Hydrangeas are a wonderful option for more shaded areas. Their flowers appear in late spring to early summer and often continue into fall. Strong, straight stems hold the huge flower heads up well, despite heavy rain. This full, lush shrub needs plenty of room to show off its spectacular beauty.

Annabelle Hydrangea

Plant Characteristics:

  • Plant Type: Shrub

  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9

  • Light Requirements: Partial sun, shade

  • Height: 4-5 feet

  • Width: 4-5 feet

  • Foliage Color: Green

  • Bloom Color: White

  • Bloom Time: Spring, summer, fall

  • Attributes: Attracts butterflies, easy-care, fast-growing, native, deciduous, cold hardy

Annabelle Hydrangea Planting & Care:

Be sure to plant this flowering shrub with plenty of room to grow. They grow quickly and easily reach a rather large size! They prefer to grow in rich, well-draining soil that remains moist, but not soggy. It is recommended to mulch the area around the base of the plant to help hold moisture in. This also serves the purpose of protecting the plant throughout the winter season. Water deeply 1-2 times per week throughout the first growing season to help encourage healthy root growth. Apply fertilizer and prune in the spring just before new growth begins to emerge.


Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)

This perennial produces charming, nodding pink flowers that give rise to feathery, smoky-pink seed heads that decorate the plants in mid-summer. Spreading slowly from its roots, Prairie Smoke can be used as a small-scale groundcover. This plant is extremely cold hardy and easy to care for.

Prairie Smoke

Plant Characteristics:

  • Plant Type: Perennial

  • Hardiness Zone: 3-7, hardy to 10,000 feet

  • Light Requirements: Full sun

  • Height: 6-12 inches

  • Width: 6-12 inches

  • Foliage Color: Green

  • Bloom Color: Pink

  • Bloom Time: Spring

  • Attributes: Attracts bees, attracts butterflies, attracts hummingbirds, cut flower, deer resistant, native, staff favorite, xeric, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, easy to grow, multiplies/naturalizes, winter interest

Prairie Smoke Planting & Care:

This intriguing plant grows best in infertile soil that has not been enriched or amended with excessive compost or fertilizers. It does not tolerate clay-heavy soils well, however. So make sure to amend the soil with sand and other materials that will improve drainage. Prairie Smoke prefers full sun in cooler summer climates or afternoon shade in regions with hotter, more intense summer heat. Fertilize lightly in the fall. Do not deadhead the flowers and leave the feathery heads throughout the winter for some visual interest throughout the cold months. Cut the plant back to the ground in early spring before new growth begins to emerge. These plants can be easily divided in the spring, though dividing is not necessary.


Ivory Halo Dogwood (Cornus alba 'Bailhalo')

The beautiful three-tone variegated leaves of this shrub are quite an eye-catcher. They grow moderately quickly and maintain a compact and rounded form that is conducive to many situations. Another perk of this plant is its exquisite red bark throughout the cold season, which creates visual interest that lasts all year round.

Ivory Halo Dogwood

Plant Characteristics:

  • Plant Type: Shrub

  • Hardiness Zone: 3-7

  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade

  • Width: 5-6 feet

  • Foliage Color: Green & white variegated

  • Bloom Color: White

  • Attributes: Attracts birds, native, winter interest, deciduous, extreme cold hardiness, high soil tolerance

Ivory Halo Dogwood Planting & Care:

Ivory Halo Dogwood shrubs are capable of tolerating a wide range of soils. While they prefer moist, rich, well-draining soil, they will tolerate clay, sand, and wet soils. They are not extremely drought tolerant, so do be sure to keep the soil moist, watering weekly or as often as needed. These shrubs don petite white flowers in late spring to early summer, and the bark turns a bright red color in the winter months when its leaves have dropped. Fertilize in the spring and prune annually, removing one-third of the oldest stems. This will encourage the bright red color throughout the winter.


Yucca 'Golden Sword' (Yucca filamentosa 'Golden Sword')

The leaves of this plant are boldly striped, sword-like, and topped by tall spikes of fragrant, ivory white blooms. Yucca plants are fantastic for introducing contrasting shapes, colors, and textures to your landscaping, and create considerable visual interest throughout the entire year.

Yucca 'Golden Sword'

Plant Characteristics

  • Plant Type: Shrub

  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9

  • Light Requirements: Full sun

  • Height: 3-4 feet

  • Width: 4-5 feet

  • Foliage Color: Green, multicolor, yellow

  • Bloom Color: White

  • Bloom Time: Spring

  • Attributes: Attracts birds, attracts butterflies, deer resistant, drought-tolerant, easy-care, native, salt-tolerant, cold hardy, low-maintenance

Yucca 'Golden Sword' Planting & Care:

Yucca plants thrive in lean, well-draining soil that has not had an extensive amount of compost, fertilizers, or other soil amendments introduced. These plants can tolerate light shade, but for best results, plant in full sun. Make sure to water deeply and consistently throughout the first growing season to help the plant establish a strong root system. Once established, this plant is drought tolerant and watering frequency can be reduced. Golden Sword Yucca is very low maintenance. You can remove the spent bloom spikes, but not much more maintenance is required.


Gold Star Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa 'Gold Star')

This densely-branched deciduous shrub is valued for its beautiful display of large golden-yellow blooms. It is very versatile, is highly heat-tolerant, grows well in less than ideal soils, requires little maintenance, and provides you with quite an enjoyable sight.

Gold Star Potentilla

Plant Characteristics

  • Plant Type: Shrub

  • Hardiness Zone: 3-7

  • Light Requirements: Full sun

  • Height: 18-24 inches

  • Width: 30 inches to 3 feet

  • Foliage Color: Green

  • Bloom Color: Yellow

  • Bloom Time: Summer, fall

  • Attributes: Attracts birds, attracts butterflies, deer resistant, drought-tolerant, easy-care, native, salt-tolerant, winter interest, extremely cold tolerant, fast-growing

Gold Star Potentilla Planting & Care:

This beautiful shrub thrives in light, well-draining, slightly sandy soils, and is uniquely tolerant to infertile soils. Be sure to water deeply and consistently during its first growing season, as this will help encourage strong root growth. Once established, this plant is moderately drought tolerant and highly heat tolerant. It is recommended to fertilize lightly in the spring before new growth begins to emerge. Prune as needed after flowering to maintain the desired shape.


Tiny Wine Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

The dark bronze-maroon foliage of this shrub is colorful all season and contrasts beautifully with soft pink and white flowers in late spring. The dainty flowers cover the stems, providing an exceptionally showy display. This durable shrub is perfect for season-long color in the landscape and is a great choice for patio containers.

Tiny Wine Ninebark

Plant Characteristics:

  • Plant Type: Shrub

  • Hardiness Zone: 3-8

  • Light Requirements: Full sun

  • Height: 3-4 feet

  • Width: 3-4 feet

  • Foliage Color: Red

  • Bloom Color: Pink

  • Bloom Time: Spring

  • Attributes: Attracts birds, deer resistant, drought-tolerant, native, winter interest, extremely cold hardy, dwarf

Ninebark Planting & Care:

This shrub prefers well-draining soil, though it is extremely adaptable to other soil conditions. Plant in full sun for best results, and water regularly throughout the first growing season. Once the plant is established, the watering frequency can be reduced. Fertilize in early spring and prune back as desired after the plant has flowered. Up to one-third of the branches may be pruned back in late winter. Blooms will appear on old wood.


Native Plants for Colorado

These are just a few of our favorite native plants for Colorado. If you want more information or ideas on other native plants Fort Collins, check out our Plant Finder! This will give you plenty of ideas for how to grow plants in Fort Collins, and the best part is, that all the plants in our Plant Finder are plants that we carry in our Fort Collins nursery! Availability may vary, so give us a call or stop by the Garden Center to check out what we have in stock. And as always, never hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

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