Regional Picks: Tough Roadside Plants – Mountain West

Fine Gardening - Issue 137

1. Woolly Veronica

Woolly Veronica

Name: Veronica pectinata

USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 7

Size: 3 inches tall and 8 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; adaptable to many soil conditions

This ground-hugging, matlike perennial can take a beating and still look great. With its mass of silvery leaves, woolly veronica can easily smother most weeds. Little violet-blue blooms with cheery white centers cover the plant midspring, then continue off and on throughout the season. Shear back the spent blooms to freshen its look around midsummer. I also like to interplant this veronica with spring- and fall-blooming bulbs.


2. Himalayan Knotweed

Himalayan Knotweed

Name: Persicaria affinis and cvs.

Zones: 3 to 8

Size: Up to 10 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist soil

A plant with four-season interest, Himalayan knotweed is a tough ground cover with whimsical racemes of tiny, whitish pink flowers, which rise 4 to 6 inches above the red-tinged stems and dark green leaves. In winter, the foliage turns cinnamon red—a beautiful contrast against a fresh dusting of snow. Mow or weed-whack plants in midsummer to encourage fresh foliage. ‘Dimity’ (pictured) is a popular cultivar with rose-colored blooms.


3. Lydia Woadwaxen

Lydia Woadwaxen

Name: Genista Lydia

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: 2 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

This subshrub bursts into sunshine yellow blooms that smother the plant in late spring. Plant it en masse or against anything purple to make a bold statement. Lydia woadwaxen can take the hot, exposed conditions that are the hallmark of many roadways in the Mountain West, though I’ve found an extra squirt from the hose is needed intermittently to keep it happy.


4. Small-Leaf Pussy-Toes

Small-Leaf Pussy-Toes

Name: Antennaria parvifolia

Zones: 2 to 8

Size: 4 to 6 inches tall and 1 foot wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Reminiscent of the toe pad on a cat’s paw, the pearl-like blooms of small-leaf pussy-toes project 4 to 6 inches above a gray-green mat of leaves. While it can handle light foot traffic, you might want to provide stepping-stones in busier locations, such as curbsides. If you don’t want the plant to spread, trim back the seed heads before they burst into a mass of white fuzz; otherwise, enjoy the spectacle come fall as they float along on a light breeze.


Lise Mahnke is a landscape designer and editor of the blog Dry Ideas in Denver, Colorado.

Photos: (1), courtesy of; (2), Kerry Ann Moore; (3), courtesy of; (4), courtesy of Sally and Andy Wasowski

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