Water-Wise Plants for Utah Landscapes
Plants adapted to Utah's arid climate and cold winters have to be tough to survive. However, this doesn't mean that the plant pallette is limited or that the plants cannot beautiful!
USU Extension resources are listed at the bottom of this page.
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 Plant Lists for Salt Lake City||Salt Lake City Public Utilities|
|Weber Basin Water Conservation Learning Garden||Weber Basin Water Conservancy District|
Selecting the right plant for the right place in your garden is essential when creating a water-efficient landscape.
- 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. Keep in mind, that local micro-environments in the landscape, such as low or wet areas, soil conditions such as drainage and rockiness, shade, and other physical features can influence a plant's hardiness or suitability for a particular place. Contact your local Utah State University County Extension office or go to the USDA Plant Hardiness Website to learn the hardiness zone of your area.
Visit a Garden for Ideas
It is a good idea to research the types of plants you would like in the landscape before heading off to the nursery to purchase.
One way to do this is to visit local water-wise demonstration gardens for ideas on plant combinations and mature sizes.
The many water-wise demonstration gardens around the state of Utah can help you visualize ideas for water-wise plant selection, irrigation innovation, hardscape ideas, as well as planning and design.
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