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    Water-Wise Plants for Utah Landscapes

    blanket flower Gaillardia


    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!  

    Many of the public gardens and water-conservation demonstration gardens in Utah have compiled lists and databases of plants appropriate for our climate. 

    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

    Design Considerations

    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. 

    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