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Herbaceous Perennials That Do Well in Colorado

By James Klett, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, horticulture

There's nothing quite like a perennial garden. Many gardeners, in fact, establish perennials early so they don't have to rely on labor-intensive annuals for summer bloom.

Thanks to efforts at the W.D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC) at Colorado State University, we can select perennials that will grow well in our gardens. More than 800 different perennials are planted on a three-quarter acre plot at PERC. Many are suitable for Colorado gardens, but the four outlined below excel. They are:

  • Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly weed - This plant prefers full sun and dry and infertile soils. It develops a taproot, making division difficult, but it's easily propagated by seed. Orange-colored, it produces many flowers from spring to mid-summer. Its name is derived because it is attractive to butterflies.

  • Kniphofia hybrids - Torch lily/red hot poker - This plant prefers sun and well-drained soil. With linear sword-shaped leaves that are 2 to 3 feet long, it produces red-orange flowers that mass on the top of the stem. They are tubular in shape.

  • Linum flavum - Golden flax - This great rock garden or border plant produces yellow waxy flowers from June to August. it grows 15 to 18 inches high with leathery-like leaves.

  • Penstemon grandiflorus Shell leaf pink penstemon - This plant produces beautiful large pale pink flowers on tall erect stems. (These make good cut flowers.) The foliage is blue-green, waxy and somewhat evergreen in nature. The plant grows to between 2 and 3 feet tall and 18 to 24 inches wide.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010