Sturdy Flowers to Develop in Sagebrush Nation

The deserts and mountains of the West appear to get all the eye, however between the deserts and mountains is an enormous panorama that most individuals simply drive by means of on their strategy to some place else. The sagebrush steppe is a dry, grassy plain that takes up a lot of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington. It is among the few true steppe areas on the planet, and its native flora has a magnificence all its personal. The local weather is characterised by scorching summers, chilly and dry winters, plentiful solar, and erratic precipitation. Anybody who lives in Twin Falls, Idaho, or Moab, Utah, will know precisely what I imply.

sagebrush steppe
The sagebrush steppe in Utah is a dry, grassy panorama.

Gardening right here is usually a problem, however there are many vegetation—native and in any other case—that discover this local weather to be precisely what they should flourish. Many flowering natives present year-round curiosity with spring and summer season shade and distinctive winter textures. Loads of conventional backyard favorites additionally thrive as long-lived anchors on this demanding panorama. All will admire full solar and well-draining soil. Listed below are some favorites.

Bridges penstemon
Bridges’ penstemon offers nectar to hummingbirds all summer season lengthy.


There’s a giant range of native penstemons within the Mountain West. For the sagebrush steppe, it’s arduous to beat Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri, Zones 4–10), with its hovering spires of grape-scented flowers, and firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii, Zones 4-8), with its early-season fire-engine-red flowers which are an early feast for hummingbirds. Bridges’ penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus, Zones 4b-8) is one other nice choose that has a low, shrubby kind and flowers all summer season. There are dozens extra penstemons which are all value rising.

Romance foxtail lily
‘Romance’ foxtail lily has big bottlebrush flowers which are a lightweight salmon pink.

Foxtail lilies

Eremurus spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9

Foxtail lilies hail from the Himalayas, however they’re proper at house in semi-arid western gardens. Leaves emerge in spring after winter’s moisture, adopted by hovering spires of compact blooms which are adored by bees. When summer season warmth units in, the vegetation retreat, leaves and all, to fleshy octopus-shaped roots, awaiting subsequent spring’s moisture and sunshine. ‘Romance’ foxtail lily (Eremurus ‘Romance’, Zones 5–9) is especially pretty with its salmon-colored blooms.

Wrights buckwheat
Wright’s buckwheat turns into lined in cotton-like white flowers in June.


Eriogonum spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9

Wild buckwheats attain their best range within the Intermountain West, so there are loads to select from. Two of my favorites are Wright’s buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii var. wrightii, Zones 4–9), which has fluffy mounds of white flowers, and Kannah Creek® sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. aureum ‘Psdowns’, Zones 3–8), which has long-lasting lemon-yellow flowers.

Rubber rabbitbrush with russian sage
Rubber rabbitbrush is a late-blooming shrub with goldenrod-yellow flowers. Picture: courtesy of Charles Mann

Rubber rabbitbrush

Ericameria nauseosa, Zones 4–9

Rubber rabbitbrush grows abundantly alongside roadsides all through the arid West, with a number of hard-to-distinguish varieties accessible. Almost all will kind golden domes in late summer season and fall, particularly alongside roadsides, the place they information your manner by means of canyon nation and past. Late-season pollinators will feast on their nectar till the show fades in mid-autumn.

Apache plume
Apache plume’s white flowers give strategy to pink, feathery seed heads.

Apache plume

Fallugia paradoxa, Zones 4–9

It’s straightforward to know why Apache plume is within the rose household, with its crisp, white, five-petaled blooms. This shrub can attain 4 toes tall and 6 toes large and makes a great basis plant, particularly as flowers morph into fuzzy pink seed heads that glow when backlit by night solar.

That is solely a starter listing, and you would properly add dozens extra for a very sturdy, water-wise, and colourful sagebrush nation backyard. For extra powerful, colourful flowers for the Mountain West, try:

And for extra Mountain West regional reviews, click on right here.


—Dan Johnson lives and gardens in Denver and in Tucson, Arizona. He’s an affiliate director of horticulture for the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Photographs, except in any other case famous: Dan Johnson

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