Apr 24, 2023 - Things to Do

11 native plants for gardening in Denver

A cluster of butterfly weed. Photo: Alan Cressler/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The arrival of spring has many Denverites grooming their gardens for guests and outdoor gatherings.

Yes, but: Before you get to work, consider native plants that will thrive and foster an eco-conscious garden.

Why it matters: Pollinators are vital to the creation of many plant-based foods, beverages, medicines and fabrics, experts at Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG) tell us.

Details: To make your garden welcoming for pollinators year-round, DBG suggests you:

  • Plant early- and late-season flowers to provide food for fueling up when fewer plants are in bloom. Pasqueflower, creeping phloxcatmint, poppies and beardtongues give early season sustenance. Late-season food comes from asters, sneezeweedsage and goldenrod.
  • Cut your garden back in spring.
  • Leave some ground uncovered by weed barrier or mulch for native bees that nest in dead branches and the hollows of flowering perennials' dried stems.
  • Provide water with bird baths or simply a bowl placed in the open.
  • Reduce or eliminate your use of chemicals. "Even organic treatments can harm pollinators," Gardens spokesperson Erin Bird says.

Be smart: Here are 11 native plants that experts tells us attract pollinators:

1. Leadplant (Amorpha canescens)

  • Attracts butterflies and moths
Photo: Norman G. Flaigg/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

2. Tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)

  • Attracts hawkmoths
Photo: Sally and Andy Wasowski/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

3. Blazing Star (Liatris punctata)

  • Attracts butterflies and moths
Photo: Sally and Andy Wasowski/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

4. Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa)

  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
Photo: R.W. Smith/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

5. Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata)

  • Attracts hummingbirds
Photo: James L. Reveal/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

6. Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

  • Attracts native bees
Photo: Harry Cliffe/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

7. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

  • Attracts butterflies
Photo: R. W. Smith/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

8. Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve var laeve)

  • Attracts native bees
Photo: W.D. and Dolphia Bransford/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

9. Soapweed (Yucca glauca)

  • Attracts moths
Photo: James L. Reveal/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

10. Scarlet Bugler (Penstemon barbatus)

  • Attracts hummingbirds
Photo: Wynn Anderson/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

11. Pricklypoppy (Argemone polyanthemos)

  • Attracts native bees
Photo: Melody Lytle/Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
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