Living in Colorado, it can be tricky to maintain nice landscaping over the hot summer months. Our weather is fantastic for enjoying the outdoors, but it feels like a desert by the end of the summer. Xeriscaping works beautifully here, but it’s also possible to grow some lovely plants with a smart watering schedule. I’ve learned to choose hearty, drought-resistant plants, and I’ve got a few tips on that process, as well. Here are five of my favorite drought-resistant perennials for our zone 5 climate.
At our first house, I tried a range of drought-resistant perennials, in mostly sunny locations. Many of those plants did fairly well, but these are my top five favorites: Stella D’Oro daylilies, English lavender, Karl Foerster feather reed grass, Walker’s Low catmint, and Boulder Blue fescue. I found all of these plants easy to maintain and flexible when the weather was tough. Plus, they each add a unique visual element to the garden.
How to Choose Drought-Resistant Perennials for Your Yard
If you’re starting from scratch on your landscaping plan, I suggest taking a walk around your neighborhood to notice which plants are thriving. Especially if you’re new to the area, or you live in place where it’s hard to grow certain plants, this will help you get some ideas. I’ve also approached neighbors while they’re out working in the yard and asked for specific plant names. Who doesn’t love a compliment on their hard work?
Next, research your possible plant list and make sure it’s compatible with your climate zone. Denver is in zone 5, but our altitude in the Mile High City can also be a factor. You should consider whether the plants will thrive in a sunny (or not) spot – actually this is essential. Most of the plants in this post do really well in sunny or part-shade locations, but not all plants are as flexible. Also, I’ve learned that drought-resistant plants are especially important for sunny spots in our yard, simply because it’s so dry here that they need to be able to maximize their morning sprinkler soaking.
Grasses do really well in Colorado and are actually my favorite layer in a garden. They add neutral texture and depth to the overall look and they are so so easy to maintain. I like to plant a few different types of grasses with different heights and shapes, to add visual interest.
This tall feather reed grass called ‘Karl Foerster’ is really popular, and I see it all over town. It’s structured and striking (but not gigantic), and super easy to grow and maintain. I usually cut it back at the end of the season so it doesn’t flop all over the other plants over the winter, but it looks great through the entire summer.
Here you can see it on the side of our old house, surrounded by some smaller grasses. (I haven’t started my new landscaping yet at our current house, so I’m showing photos of our first house. These are all established plants, during their second summer.)
One of my other favorite drought-resistant perennial grasses is in the fescue family. If you look at the photo above, there are small, spiky grass bunches along the outside of the taller grasses. Those smallest grasses are ‘Boulder Blue’ fescues. Here is a another blue fescue option. Because they are small and sculptured, they contrast nicely with softer and bushier plants.
Hearty Flowering Perennials
To add some color to the garden, I love drought-resistant, flowering perennials in purples, blues, and yellows. The heartiest plant in town has got to be catmint, specifically the ‘Walker’s Low’ variety. This plant really took over my landscaping in year two after planting. The “low” is definitely a misnomer – it’s a fairly tall and sprawling plant, so learn from my mistake and give it plenty of space! While it didn’t draw the neighborhood cats, this catmint is a bee magnet. I figure that’s a good thing, given the state of bees these days, but I do warn my kids to steer clear. Last year, I cut these plants back after the first bloom and we had a second round of blooms later in the summer.
Another easy plant to grow is English lavender. I planted something along these lines in a full-sun spot in our yard and it did really well. I don’t actually remember what variety it was, other than English lavender, because I grabbed it at Costco a few years ago and just stuck it in the ground. Turned out pretty well!
Finally, another beautiful (and easy) perennial to add to your garden is a ‘Stella D’Oro’ daylily. Just stick these in a sunny spot in your yard and they’ll rebloom through the summer.
This next photo was taken in late summer and doesn’t show them in full bloom, but you can see how they fill in the space between the small boxwoods in front of the house. They seem to prefer sunnier spaces over part-shade, based on how these grew in the second year.
So there you have it! Five easy, drought-resistant perennials for a zone 5 climate. Let me know if you have any other recommendations!
To weeds are plaguing your lawn, you might like 3 Kid-Safe Ways to Kill Dandelions.