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    Water-Wise Plants for Utah Landscapes

    blanket flower Gaillardia

    Utah's arid climate and cold winters require plants that are tough and adaptable. However, this doesn't mean that the plant pallette is limited or that the plants are not beautiful!  

    There are many resources available through Utah State University Extension, and the many public gardens and water-conservation demonstration gardens in Utah that have compiled lists and databases of plants appropriate for our climate and water. Check out some of the water-wise plant lists below:


     Water-Wise Plant Lists

    Conservation Garden Park Plant Database  Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District
    Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Utah Special Collection  LadyBird Johnson Wildflower Center 
    Native Plants for the Intermountain West  Wyoming Extension/WERA-1013
    Plant Select ®  Colorado State University & Denver Botanic Gardens
    Tree Browser  Utah State University
    USU Botanical Gardens and Utah House  Utah State University
    Water-Wise Plants for Utah Landscapes Database  Utah Division of Water Resources
    Water-Wise Plant Lists for Salt Lake City  Salt Lake City Public Utilities
    Weber Basin Water Conservation Learning Garden  Weber Basin Water Conservancy District

    Plant Selection

    Mojave sage low-water landscape

    Plant selection is a fun part of the design process for most people and selecting the right plant for the right place is essential for creating a water-efficient landscape.  Visit local water-wise demonstration gardens to get ideas for plant combinations and mature sizes.  It is a good idea to research what plant or type of plants you would like in the landscape before heading off to the nursery to purchase.  This way you can consider all of the aspects involved in the design and extend the bloom time and interest through the seasons.

    Design Considerations

    • Fit and Function: Choose plants based on height, width, shape, color, and form that will best help accomplish the design goals. Plants can be used to conserve energy or water, block undesirable views or noise (dense plant material), control erosion on steep slopes (lower growing groundcovers) and attract birds, butterflies and bees. There are many resources for water-wise plant lists and tree selection that are searchable by desired characteristics and water use.
    • Choose Adapted Plants:  Use plant species that are adapted to the landscape environment—the soil, water, temperature, light, and pest conditions—to help minimize maintenance and water requirements. This does not necessarily mean that water-wise landscapes are composed entirely of native plants.  In fact, some native plants, such as Aspen, do not generally do well at the altitudes and water levels in most gardens as they are adapted to high elevations and wet-meadow situations. There are many plants from other dry regions around the world that are well-adapted to suit the low-water requirements of our region.
    • Hydrozones: Grouping plants according to their water needs allows for more efficient irrigation as plants are less likely to be over or under-watered. Also, remember that smaller plants tend to have lower water requirements than larger plants.
    • Seasonal Interest:  Think about the timing of the foliage, bloom and seed head displays of the planting material to ensure interest year round. Try to Incorporate spring, summer and fall interest in each planting group so that no place in the landscape looks bare.
    • Hardiness Zone: Use plants that will survive in our climate. Plant hardiness zones in Utah range from 4-9. The hardiness zones were established by the USDA and are based on the minimum, annual survival temperatures for plants. Plants for hardiness Zone 4 can survive -20 to -30 °F, Zone 5 can survive -10 to -20 °F, Zone 6 can survive 0 to -10 °F and Zone 7 can survive 0 to 10 °F. However, micro-environments created by the plant’s surroundings can also influence its hardiness for the region. Contact your local Utah State University County Extension Agent or go to the USDA Plant Hardiness Website  to learn the hardiness zone of your area.

    Visit a Garden for Ideas

    There are many Water-Wise Demonstration Gardens around the state of Utah that are full of ideas to conserve water in your landscape.  From water-wise plants, to irrigation innovation, to planning and design, these gardens are a great way to learn about water-wise gardens and get ideas for your own garden. To find a garden in your area, visit the Utah Public Gardens website at

    coneflower at Utah House

    Related Extension Fact Sheets and Publications

    Extension Fact Sheets



    Combinations for Conservation

    Combinations for Conservation

    Recommended Plant Groupings for Low-Water Landscapes



    Native Plants for the Intermountain West

    Landscaping on the New Frontier

    Landscaping on The New Frontier

    Waterwise Design for The Intermountain West

    Water Efficient Landscaping in the Intermountain West

    Water-Efficient Landscaping in the Intermountain West

    A Professional and Do-It-Yourself Guide