Here you’ll find great plant selections for the Mountain West, Northwest, Southwest, Northern California, and Southern California.
Panayoti Kelaides is the senior curator and outreach director at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
|Gentiana septemfida ‘Select’|
1. Salvia pachyphylla
Comments: The most long-blooming, trim, and spectacular salvia in my book.
2. Eremurus stenophyllus
Comments: Foxtail lilies are the punctuation mark of the garden: life (and the garden) would be humdrum without them. This is the easiest and flashiest of them all.
3. Iris bucharica
Comments: Juno irises are the aristocrats of bulbs. This is everyman’s Juno (and an easy doer everywhere).
4. Pulsatilla vulgaris
Comments: The European pasque flower is easily grown and stunning in flower or seed. A must for every garden.
5. Tulipa humilis
Comments: This graceful, small tulip has naturalized for me. Its flowers can be rose pink or deep purple red. It is a stunning beauty.
6. Aquilegia caerulea
Comments: The most graceful, giant-flowered columbine. It has a heavenly lavender fragrance. If I didn’t list this I would have my Colorado citizenship revoked.
7. Gentiana septemfida
Comments: The brilliant blue flowers form masses in my garden all summer. I couldn’t live without it! It is everyman’s gentian and should be in every garden.
8. Origanum libanoticum
Comments: Summer for me MEANS oreganos: they shimmer and dangle and wave everywhere in my gardens: I cannot have enough. More! More!
9. Delosperma lavisiae ‘Lesotho Pink’
Comments: This is currently my favorite ice plant (and that says a lot): steel blue mats turn deep purple blue in winter. It is smothered with refulgent magenta flowers from late March to June and sporadically thereafter…superb!
10. Kniphofia caulescens
Comments: The foliage is awesome and the flowers to die for: all Kniphofias rule!
11. Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’
Comments: Any form of little bluestem is superb, especially in fall and winter when they turn dusky rose and glow in backlight. My own personal national grass.
Mary Ann Newcomer is a writer and garden designer in Boise, Idaho.
Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’
1. Philadelphus lewisii
Comments: Idaho’s state flower. When in full bloom, early June, the river banks are covered with these gorgeous shrubs.
2. Lavendula intermedia ‘Grosso’
Comments: A pollinator magnet, great for the household and the garden.
3. Solanum lycopersicon
Comments: Pass the salt, please.
4. Rhus ideaobata ‘Latham’ or ‘Heritage’ or ‘Fall Gold’
Comments: There is not finer fruit.
5. Malus (espaliered variety w/6 different cultivars on one trunk)
Comments: Of course I know this is cheating. Six cultivars on one plant.
6. Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’
Comments: White pine, Idaho’s state tree, in a most elegant form.
7. Syringa vulgaris ‘Ludwig Spaeth’
Comments: Dear to my heart.
8. Iris germanica
Comments: Truly, the goddess of the perennial garden, with a fragrance like grape bubble gum.
9. Edible greens: mache, lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, a mix of all.
Comments: They give and give and give.
10. Helleborus orientalis
Comments: I’ve discovered these late in life, I adore them. January through June.
11. Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’ or ‘Pee Wee’
Comments: Gives three seasons of interest. Awesome. Even drought tolerant if placed properly.
Katy Nicolich is the founder of Blue Sky Perennials in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1. Lavandula angustifolia
Comments: Everyone needs a little lavender for fragrance and to attract bees and butterflies.
Comments: Huge flowers in mid-summer, easy to grow.
3. Salvia officinalis
Comments: Essential for the gardener who cooks; a beautiful plant.
4. Iris (bearded iris)
Comments: Dramatic early summer color; easy to grow.
Comments: Every garden should have at least one very fragrant rose; ideally near the lavender.
7. Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
Comments: One of the best ornamental grasses.
8. Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese Sweet’
Comments: Another essential herb for the gardener who cooks.
Comments: A “must have” for a summer glass of iced tea.
10. Tropaeolum majus
Comments: An edible annual, easy to grow from seed; cheerful flowers.
11. Agastache rupestris or cana
Comments: Attracts hummingbirds!
Contributing editor Linda Chalker-Scott is an extension specialist in urban horticulture iin Seattle, Washington.
1. Hydrangea macrophylla
Comments: Old-fashioned shrub, but beautiful, long-lasting flowers. And the biochemistry behind what makes the flowers blue is fascinating!
2. Cercidiphyllum japonicium
Comments: Nice tree for urban landscapes. I love the leaf shape and the magnificent color changes throughout the seasons.
3. Philadelphus lewisii
Comments: Vigorous, sturdy, large shrub with the most heavenly scented white flowers. Bees adore this plant.
Comments: Another hardy shrub for urban landscapes. Dwarf s are best suited for small sites, and the profuse, long lasting blue flowers are a delight for bees.
5. Fragaria chiloensis
Comments: A tolerant, attractive, sun-loving and low-growing groundcover that can disguise a multitude of landscaping sins.
6. Oxalis oregana
Comments: A dense, attractive and low-growing groundcover that thrives in deep shade.
7. Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma’
Comments: A redbud with deep, wine red blossoms. Lovely glossy leaves, great tree for small urban landscapes.
8. Acer palmatum
Comments: What would a Pacific NW landscape be without a Japanese maple? So many choices!
9 Quercus garryana
Comments: Any large landscape needs this magnificent oak tree. I grew up on a farm where we had several of these oaks, and they were absolutely gorgeous.
Comments: You can’t go wrong with a tidy shrub that produces such amazing flowers. Bees love them too.
Comments: Any non-bearded, and I am partial to whites, blues and purples. A Frank Lloyd Wright kind of plant, beautiful symmetry.
Riz Reyes is the founder and owner of Landwave Gardens in Shoreline, Washington.
Comments: Planting a fruit tree, such as an apple, when children are young is a way of having something grow with them.
2. Lathyrus odoratus
Comments: Sweet peas are easy and wonderfully fragrant and fun to pick.
Comments: Nasturtiums are fun, easy and edible!
Comments: Daylilies are tough, highly attractive and easy and also edible.
6. Vaccinium ‘Sunshine Blue’
Comments: Dwarf semi evergreen plant with wonderful blueberries and fall color.
7. Hosta ‘Guacamole’
Comments: Fun name, easy to grow, colorful leaves and fragrant flowers.
8. Cosmos astrosanguineus
Comments: Chocolate Cosmos.
Comments: Easy long-lived bulbs.
10. Pisum sativum
Comments: Peas are easy to grow.
11. Helianthus annuus
Comments: Sunflowers are traditional and will always be admired by young children.
Garden writer and speaker Marty Wingate lives in Seattle, Washington.
Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’
1. Mahonia nervosa
Comments: Northwest native with four-season interest.
2. Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’
Comments: Smaller mock orange with heavenly fragrance.
3. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’
Comments: Small broadleaved evergreen for year-round filler.
4. Thujopsis dolabrata ‘Nana’
Comments: Dwarf conifer with chunky foliage.
5. Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’
Comments: Flowers from late July into October.
6. Cotinus ‘Grace’
Comments: The best smoke bush and doesn’t mind being cut back hard.
7. Aster frikartii ‘Monch’
Comments: Sweet lavender blue daisy flowers just keep coming all summer long.
8. Mahonia ‘Lionel Fortescue’
Comments: Spikes of fall and winter flowers feed overwintering Anna’s hummingbirds.
9. Azara microphylla
Comments: Broadleaved evergreen with tiny winter flowers that smell like chocolate.
10. Rosa ‘The Fairy’
Comments: Continual sprays of pink roses on stems that will climb up an arbor or into a shrub.
11. Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’
Comments: White flowers brighten dark winter days.
Landscape designer Scott Calhoun is the owner of ZonaGardens in Tucson, Arizona.
Agave ‘Victoria Regina’
1. Prosopis juliflora
Comments: With age, the Arizona native mesquite tree develops craggy dark bark. It has ferny foliage, and is so drought tolerant as to be nearly indestructible.
2. Hesperaloe parviflora
Comments: A Chihuahuan desert succulent that sends up dozens of pink/red shafts in late spring.
3. Leucophyllum pruinosom
Comments: A tough silvery shrub with purple flowers that smell like grape bubblegum.
4. Echinocereus engelmannii
Comments: Engelmann hedgehog has incredible russet and yellow spines, magenta flowers, and strawberry-flavored fruit.
5. Penstemon superbus
Comments: Tall, elegant coral-colored flower spikes and glaucous foliage set superb penstemon apart.
6. Astrophytum myriostigma
Comments: The bishop’s cap cactus is covered in gorgeous silvery felt.
7. Ferocactus cylindraceus
Comments: The compass barrel cactus can tolerate temperatures up to 154 degrees F. ‘Nuff said.
8. Fouquieria splendens
Comments: The ocotillo has zigzagging thorny canes topped by orange-red flowers favored by hummingbirds.
9. Agave victoriae-reginae
Comments: A truly spectacular agave with a tight crown and white markings.
10. Yucca rostrata
Comments: Beaked yucca sports shimmering silver atop a stout trunk.
11. Encelia farinosa
Comments: Brittlebush’s chartreuse daisy-like flowers hover over its silver foliage.
|Ocimum basilicum “Green Ruffles’|
1. Agastache ‘Ava’
Comments: Hummingbird magnet, long blooming, great color, cold hardy.
2. Penstemon pinifolius ‘Compactum’
Comments: Hummingbirds, evergreen foliage, drought tolerant, long lived, very showy.
3. Salvia ‘Raspberry Delight’
Comments: Very long blooming, sweet herbal scent, very showy flowers, hummingbird magnet.
4. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Sharon Roberts’
Comments: Twice blooming each summer, sweetly fragrant, long bi-colored flower spikes.
5. Campsis ‘Madam Galen’
Comments: Tough, large growing vine, profuse bloomer with huge flowers, hummingbirds.
6. Malus ‘Indian Magic’
Comments: Four season interest, persistent apples feed songbirds in winter, showy fragrant flowers.
7. Pinus leucodermis
Comments: drought tolerant and pest resistant, olive green needles, slow growing.
8. Pyrus hybrid: 4-in-1 grafted variety
Comments: grow 4 different types of pears on 1 tree, late blooming for more reliable fruit set.
9. Vitis ‘St. Theresa’
Comments: Outstanding seedless grape for all soil types, incredibly sweet fruit.
10. Rubus ‘Caroline’
Comments: Primocane raspberry, large, sweet berries, easy to grow.
11. Ocimum basilicum
Comments: Essential culinary herb.
Jo O’Connell owns Australian Native Plants Nursery in Ventura, California.
1. Banksia integrifolia
Comments: Fantastic tree, very frost hardy, tall and narrow, no leaf drop, cut flower and foliage, wreaths can be made out of the foliage, flower and seed pods, no fertilizer issues or soil fungal problems. Great street tree or windbreak!
2. Hibbertia aspera
Comments: Fabulous low-growing groundcover, cold hardy to 16 degrees F at least, full sun or shade, great foliage, bright yellow flower, drought tolerant, erosion control, hanging over a wall, easy plant!
3. Grevillea hybrids
Comments: Countless long-flowering shrubs from groundcover to large shrubs and trees, bird attracting, cut flowers, screens, drought- and frost-hardy, long-flowering (often in winter, spring, and summer), even more flowers when pruned!
4. Acacia spectabilis
Comments: Beautiful small 12-ft. tall tree with white powdery trunk, very frost- and drought-hardy, bright yellow flowers in spring, blue foliage!
5. Lomandra longifolia ‘Breeze’
Comments: Handsome, tough, frost- and drought-tolerant, full sun or deep shade, water or no water, responds to pruning, mass or specimen plantings!
6. Dianella caerulea ‘King Alfred’ or ‘Casa Blue’ or ‘Becca’
Comments: Love the beautiful grass-like plants, some very blue or blue-green to green strappy leaves and blue and yellow flowers followed by masses of blue berries after flowering in summer. Great for erosion control and binding soil! Container plants too!
7. Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’ or ‘Red Gem’ or salignum forms
Comments: Beautiful shrubs with colorful leaves all year, great cut flowers, hedge, and screen, frost- and drought-hardy.
8. Leucospermum cordifolium ‘Sunrise’
Comments: Stunning in flower, bright orange “pincushion” flower heads, usually wider than tall shrubs, drought tolerant, excellent for screening, cut flowers and specimen shrubs.
9. Correa pulchella
Comments: Great 4-ft. shrub for full sun or dry shade, flowers from fall through spring, attracts hummingbirds. Drought- and frost-hardy and low hedge and screen!
10. Adenanthos sericeus
Comments: Woolley Bush is so soft and velvety that it is hard to walk past without caressing it! Grows in full sun or shade, drought- and moderately frost-tolerant, great cut flowers and hedge or screen.
11. Scaevola ‘Mauve Clusters’
Comments: Fabulous groundcover for all soils and situations. Long flowering, full sun or shade, drought- and frost-hardy, container plant, hanging basket or groundcover.
Contrributing editor and blogger (Garden Rant) Amy Stewart lives in Eureka, California.
Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’
1. Salvia confertiflora
Comments: Gorgeous dramatic dark red inflorescence, hummingbirds love it.
2. Stipa arundinacea
Comments: The most fabulous ornamental grass ever. Shades of pink, gold, copper, and green, thrives on neglect.
3. Ricinis communis
Comments: You knew I’d have to include at least one murderous plant, didn’t you? Castor bean is gorgeous, dramatic, and deadly if you eat it, so just don’t eat it and you’ll be fine. Unfortunately, it needs a little more heat than my climate provides, so this is my one bit of zone denial. I have to force them indoors with heated seed mats and everything.
4. Lavandula X intermedia ‘Grosso’ or ‘Fred Boutin’
Comments: You can’t live in California and not grow lavender. Period. It’s against the law. This is the one that works so well in soaps, baked goods, and lavender martinis.
5. Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’
Comments: Love the bright green inflorescence. Hummingbirds love it, too. Needs sun, but almost no care beyond that. I plant Phlomis around it, which turns out to protect it from our light frosts and really keep it going.
6. Leonotis leonurus
Comments: Brilliant, fabulous, bright orange color, gets nice and tall, also thrives on neglect (are you seeing a pattern here?).
7. Rosmarinus officinalis
Comments: Again, if you live in California and you don’t have rosemary in your garden, there’s something very, very wrong. Beautiful all year long, amazing fragrance, and rosemary focaccia!
8. Verbena bonariensis
Comments: Tall, spiky stems with brilliant purple flowers that hold on for months and months. Once again, no water, no care. Insanely easy to make more, just chop up some healthy, leafy stems and stick them in the ground during rainy weather. Because you can see right past them, they are one tall plant that can go anywhere. And they make the most boring garden look fabulous.
9. Salvia gesneriiflora ‘Tequila’
Comments: Yes, another salvia! This one blooms all winter long for the hummingbirds, and it’s HUGE, great for filling up some big space you don’t know what to do with.
10. Romneya coulteri ‘White Cloud’
Comments: I have to include at least one California native, and this giant crazy white flower with big yellow centers, resembling nothing more than fried eggs, has to be it! Beautiful, amazing, and incredibly tough.
11. Eschscholzia californica
Comments: Okay, one more native. The California poppy. World’s happiest flower. And weirdly, it doesn’t exactly behave as an annual. Leave those plants alone and they’ll come back year after year.
|Calamagrostis X acutiflora ‘Karl-Foerster’|
1. Escheveria imbricata
Comments: Super easy in mild climates, producing more ‘pups’ than a person could want! Forms beautiful drifts that are sure to impress your friends, making them think you know SO much about gardening!
2. Anigozanthos ‘Harmony’ and ‘Tequila sunrise’
Comments: Forms towering spikes of flowers lasting from May through October. Don’t be fooled by the other varieties, these are the two that reliably perform best in our climate.
3. Eleagnus pungens ‘Gilt Edge’
Comments: You can’t kill this plant even if you try. It loves sun or shade, it’s drought tolerant, and snails & slugs leave it alone. It really brightens up a shady area, acting as the missing ‘sunshine’.
4. Sarcococca ruscifolia
Comments: This plant will live in a cave, seriously! It’s one of the few that really thrives in deep shade, but the best part is that it’s always healthy and evergreen AND it produces highly fragrant teeny tiny flowers in the late winter (when nothing is blooming!). Plant this by a doorway and you’ll be greeted by its jasmine-like scent in the dreary months of March, when you need it most!
5. Coprosma repens ‘Pink Splendor’
Comments: Can you tell I love shrubs? This one’s shiny, colorful leaves turn shades of pink and terra cotta once the cold temps hit it, really jazzing up a winter bed. It’s one of my go-to shrubs to add structure to a planting bed (along with, I guess, all the others listed here!).
6. Callistemon ‘Little John’
Comments: A dwarf variety of your grandma’s big ‘ole bottlebrush shrubs. This one, however, has beautiful bluish grey leaves, it’s super compact, and blooms almost nonstop throughout the year with cranberry red flowers. This one is also almost impossible to kill.
7. Calamagrostis X acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
Comments: Again, a super-reliable grass that adds much needed vertical height to a bed, towering to 6′ with its late summer blooms. Another easy one for a guaranteed ‘wow factor.’
8. Phormium ‘Maori Maiden’
Comments: A crucial plant to add structure, exciting colors and the necessary occasional ‘exclamation point’ to a planting bed. Plus, it looks FABULOUS with Anigozanthos ‘Tequila Sunrise’ planted near it. Do that and you’ll have 6 months of guaranteed excitement!
9. Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’
Comments: Enough about shrubs, here’s a flower for you. This climbing rose is partially evergreen here (yay!) and it blooms from April through December. No kidding. It’s amazing, and you will NOT be disappointed. Plus, it’s disease resistant and forms gigantic clusters of blooms, each one resembling a bride’s bouquet. Alas, it has no scent. But that’s okay.
10. Aeonium ‘Zwartzkopf’ or ‘Sunburst’
Comments: These are so easy in mild climates. AND, they’re impressive as heck, can be used as a super cool ‘cut flowers’, are easily passed along to friends, and always look great no matter where you stick them.
11. Euphorbia ceratocarpa
Comments: You simply MUST find this euphorbia, no matter what! It’s another towering beauty, up to 6 ft. tall when in bloom. Speaking of blooms, they’re light and airy, and acid yellow and absolutely cover this euphorbia for six months out of the year. It’s such a stunning showstopper. Place it next to Rosa ‘The Prince’ (see how I snuck in a bonus plant here?) for a fantastic color combination.
Scott Daigre, creator of Tomatomania, owns a garden design company in Ojai, California.
1. Olea europeana ‘Little Ollie’
Comments: Handsome, worry free and classic. As comfortable massed in a formal garden as it is mixed into a naturalistic drought-tolerant planting.
2. Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’
Comments: Great color in every season, tough character and interesting ultimate shape.
3. Rhus lancea
Comments: Perfect midsized tree that offers flexibility in sitting, shaping and ultimate size.
4. Aloe marlothii
Comments: Striking color and texture with an amazing bloom.
5. Dymondia margaretae
Comments: Sturdy ground cover that works in a variety of ways and spaces.
6. Watsonia pillansii
Comments: Favor orange and coral shades. Tough and beautiful, deciduous for a shorter period than most bulbs. Spring’s great surprise.
7. Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Ken Taylor’
Comments: Classic style, great winter bloom, and a more relaxed feel make this a winner.
Comments: Spring has arrived when these great blooms show their beautiful faces.
9. Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’
Comments: Great structure, gorgeous summer bloom, and super fall color in a tough package.
10. Rosa ‘Butterscotch’
Comments: Great midsized climbing rose with stop-you-in-your-tracks color.
11. Euphorbia cotinifolia
Comments: Staggering color, superb shape and flexibility in sitting makes this one an easy qualifier.
Contributing editor and landscape designer Billy Goodnick blogs at Cool Green Gardens. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’
1. Correa ‘Ivory Bells’
Comments: Go to plant for soft gray foliage in full sun or partial shade.
2. Pennisetum orientale
Comments: Well behaved small grass that adds flair in perennial borders.
3. Carex praegracilis
Comments: Lawn substitute.
4. Tibouchina heteromalla
Comments: Gloriously tropical-looking big shrub, silvery leaves.
5. Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’
Comments: Woodland look that works in Southern California.
6. Cercis occidentalis
Comments: Tough native, small enough for any yard, winter flowers.
7. Coleonema pulchrum
Comments: Star performer, delicate look.
8. Aloe striata
Comments: Medium succulent with scrumptious foliage margin and bright winter flowers.
9. Dymondia margueritae
Comments: Tough as Sally Hansen’s nails, super low, water thrifty ground cover.
10. Plectranthus argentatus
Comments: Silvery mound in low sunlight, low water.
Virginia Hayes, curator of the living garden collection at the Ganna Walska Lotusland botanic garden, writes a weekly column in Santa Barbara, California.
2. Cuphea micropetala
Comments: Tough and handsome.
Comments: Color, color, color.
4. Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’
Comments: Must have.
5. Arctotis acaulis ‘Big Magenta’
Comments: Killer color foliage and flowers.
Comments: Care free.
7. Cestrum ‘Newellii’
Comments: Handsome and attracts insects and birds.
9. Abelia X grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’
Comments: Good for a dark corner.
10. Cordyline ‘Festival Grass™’
Comments: Saturated color.
11. Globba winitii
Comments: Had to throw in one of my favorite potted plants.
Get our latest tips, how-to articles, and instructional videos sent to your inbox.