Water-Wise Plants for Utah Landscapes
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 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.
- 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 utahpublicgardens.org.
Related Extension Fact Sheets and Publications
Extension Fact Sheets
Selection and Culture of Landscape Plants in Utah: A Guide for High Mountain Valleys
Shrub Selection for Utah Landscapes
Native Plants in the Landscape: Apache Plume
Native Plants in the Landscape: Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany
Native Plants in the Landscape: Firecracker Penstemon
Native Plants in the Landscape: Little Bluestem
Native Plants in the Landscape: Mexican Cliffrose
Native Plants in the Landscape: Mountain Beebalm
Native Plants in the Landscape: Prince's Plume
Seasonal Splendor (Planting for Color)
Annuals for Utah Gardens
Recommended Plant Groupings for Low-Water Landscapes
Native Plants for the Intermountain West
Waterwise Design for The Intermountain West
A Professional and Do-It-Yourself Guide