Utah gardeners are no strangers to the challenges of landscaping in a region known for its desert climate and water scarcity. Our state is one of the driest in the country with one of the lowest relative humidity percentages.
That’s why adding native plants to your landscape is a wise choice to transform your Utah garden into a sustainable oasis.
In this blog, we’ll explore the numerous benefits of incorporating native plants, and plants that perform as native plants, into your landscape. And why they are an excellent choice for Utah gardens.
(Trivia Time: Did you know Utah is the Penstemon capital of the world? We’re home to over 100 varieties of native Penstemon! Amazing, right?)
Understanding Utah Native Plants
To truly grasp the significance of Utah native plants, we first need to get clear on what “native plants” are in the first place. These plants are the true residents of the region, handpicked by Mother Nature herself. No human intervention, just pure adaptation and harmony with their natural surroundings.
As for Utah native plants, their resilience and endurance in the face of the arid and demanding ecosystem are particularly noteworthy.
This inherent trait not only supports their survival but also highlights the crucial role they play in preserving local biodiversity and maintaining a delicate ecological balance.
When choosing native plants, or plants that perform as native plants, you’re not only curating a beautiful display of colors and textures, you’re also conserving water and reducing the need for constant pampering. Think of it as a partnership with nature itself. It’s like painting your surroundings with the brushstrokes of local beauty while creating a haven for wildlife.
The Benefits of Native Plants
Drought-Tolerant and Water-Wise
Imagine a landscape that flourishes even in the face of water scarcity — that’s the magic of drought-tolerant and water-wise native plants.
These plants have evolved to thrive with minimal water, seamlessly synchronizing with Utah’s testing environment. Their natural ability to endure periods of drought without compromising their vitality is a testament to their adaptability.
Their water-wise reputation is well-deserved, as they help manage rainwater runoff ensuring that every drop maintains healthy soil which contributes to the reduction of flooding and erosion. A healthy and harmonious ecosystem in your backyard.
Native Plants Are Low Maintenance
Let’s break it down into three reasons native plants are low maintenance:
- Reduced need for fertilizers and pesticides
Native plants have aced the skill of self-sufficiency and have coexisted with local insects and critters for eons, developing their own defense mechanisms. This means you can say goodbye to excessive fertilizers and pesticides, as these are needed more often for non-native plants.
- Less work
Imagine a garden that doesn’t demand constant pampering and one less thing on your to-do list. Native plants, thanks to their intrinsic adaptation, require less hands-on care. This means you get to spend more time savoring your outdoor oasis instead of constantly tending to it.
- Preserves the ecosystem
Unlike some non-native plants that can escape cultivation and wreak havoc on natural habitats, native plants stay rooted to their home ground. Instead, they help preserve the balance of local ecosystems and foster harmony within your landscape.
Explore here for a list of low-maintenance vegetation you can add to your yard.
Resilience and Longevity
The enduring beauty of Utah’s native plants is not just a stroke of luck; it’s a result of their unique qualities that promote resilience and longevity. The first two benefits, drought tolerance, and low maintenance, form the foundation that sets the stage for their remarkable staying power.
But what are they resilient against that contributes to their longevity?
As part of the natural Utah ecosystem, it’s only natural that they would evolve strategies to withstand what nature throws their way, from the blazing sun to the harshest winds to freezing winters.
Picture a garden that is alive with the sounds of birdsong and the flutter of butterfly wings. This is part of the joy that comes with adding native plants to your landscape. Native plants provide essential sustenance and refuge for local wildlife. Birds, butterflies, bees, and beneficial insects are drawn to these plants, which enriches the biodiversity of your garden.
When you choose native plants for your garden, consider what creatures they’ll attract. This will help guide you towards a charming and beneficial environment for you and the animals around you. You’ll be glad you created that perfect sanctuary!
At Glover, some of our all-time favorite plants are either low-water use or native to Utah.
Perennial: Russian Sage (Salvia yangii, previously Perovskia atriplicifolia)
If you’re looking to attract pollinators with long-lasting blooms without having to worry about watering nearly at all, Russian Sage is an excellent option. You’ll see this tough yet beautiful plant in park strips, roadsides and xeric landscapes, their pale purple blooms almost always humming with both native and non-native bees.
Shrub: Sumac (Rhus sp.)
This tough shrub comes in a variety of growth habits that all perform well in low-water conditions and hot, dry sites. Larger, bushy cut-leaf varieties such as Tiger Eyes Sumac are striking specimens in the landscape, while the native low-growing three-leaf varieties are excellent for mass plantings.
Tree: Crabapple (Malus sp.)
Put aside your childhood memories of messy sidewalks covered with fallen crabapples. These days, crabapple trees produce persistent fruit: small berry-sized apples that hang on graceful branches through the wintertime and provide much-needed forage for birds. We especially love crabapples for their beautiful spring blossoms, as well as their adaptability to heat, drought, poor soils, and harsh winters.
Let’s clear the air on some common misconceptions and address some challenges that come up with native plants.
- Not all natives: Just because a plant is native to the cool alpine climate of Utah’s mountains doesn’t mean that it will like hot and dry conditions in our lower elevations. That means that aspens and alpine fir trees won’t like sunny, urban conditions or secondary water.
- Non-native durable: Conversely, there are plenty of plants from places around the globe with climates similar to Utah’s that will thrive here in low-water conditions. These plants can add interest to your yard without increasing water usage.
- Limited availability: Although some native plants aren’t always readily available in nurseries, many are becoming easier to find due to increased demand. In fact, many common landscape plants found in garden centers are cultivated forms of Utah native plants!
- Inadequate irrigation system: If your irrigation isn’t tailored to your drought-tolerant plants, like spraying water over sidewalks, you’re wasting water instead of conserving it.
- Turning off your water: Don’t assume that just because you add a cactus to your park strip, you can stop watering altogether. Take note of what your existing trees and landscape plants are used to and make sure that they still get enough water.
- NOTE: New plants, even natives, will need extra water while the root systems get established. Check out our recommended water establishment protocol here.
- Not being pretty: A drought-tolerant landscape can be stunning when designed well. It’s not limited to the common perception of rock-only xeriscaping. You can have lush perennials, trees, shrubs, and even a lawn while still conserving water. Remember, it’s xeriscape, meaning low water, not zeroscape!
Native Plants in Your Yard
Your yard is more than just a piece of land — it’s a blank canvas ready to bloom.
Bringing Utah native plants into the mix isn’t a passing fad; it’s a powerful move toward a greener future. So let’s explore the world of sustainable landscaping design, where the uniqueness of native plants turns your outdoor space into a flourishing paradise.
Sustainable Landscaping Design Tips
Before you pick your plants and take out your tools to embark on your landscape journey, keep in mind these 3 essential concepts for a drought-tolerant Utah landscape:
The layout of your lawn and flower beds can affect how drought-tolerant your yard is.
By creating separate zones for your lawn and flower beds, and using properly sized drip systems, you can save a lot of water. And that’s where xeriscaping comes into play, a sustainable landscaping technique miming the desert environment. It uses drought-tolerant plants and mulch or rocks to create a beautiful and low-maintenance yard.
Choose drought-tolerant vegetation that is suited to your climate. But note, that overwatering will defeat the purpose of choosing drought-tolerant plants, so make sure to water them only when necessary.
A well-designed irrigation system will help you conserve water. Consider using a drip system or other low-flow irrigation methods.
Now that you have these fundamentals under your belt, you’re ready to start your design layout:
- Visualize: Draw a basic plan of your yard, including existing features like trees. Afterward, make copies or use tracing paper as you add elements to the design.
- Nature’s Footprint: Note key features of your existing landscape, such as hills, sun/shade exposure, and privacy issues.
- Shape Your Goals: List your goals, both current and future, such as hosting dinner parties, having an area for kids and pets to play, or creating a relaxing spot to read a book.
- Workaround Anchor Spots: Add your goals to the plan, starting with big items like a patio and fire pit then fill in around them.
- Home Inspiration: Keep in mind your budget and short-term goals, and look at your house exterior for design inspiration.
Not ready to do this on your own? You don’t have to! Check out Glover Nursery’s landscape consultation and design services here.
The thing is, as long as you carefully select plants that thrive in arid conditions and pair them with efficient irrigation systems, you can forge a landscape that breathes vibrant life while conserving precious water resources. The harmony of perennials, trees, shrubs, and a well-tended lawn births a drought-tolerant wonder that’s bound to captivate both your neighborhood and your heart.
When planting native plants, always look up tips to ensure you’re correctly caring for them. However, below are some general tips to follow:
Planting Tips —
- If you have heavy soil in a flat area, you may need to add materials like Organic Compost or Soil Building Conditioner to improve drainage and aeration while helping to maintain appropriate moisture levels. These types of amendments will help vegetation like penstemon thrive. Save money by amending your soil with our bulk products.
- Pull any weeds before planting to give your natives enough room to establish.
- Grow native plants together to ensure they get the right water frequency and prevent non-native vegetation from taking over.
- Avoid using weed fabric, which can kill off beneficial microbes in your soil. Instead, use a 3” to 4” layer of mulch or increase your planting density.
- Know how large your tree, shrub, or perennial will get when it’s fully mature, and make sure that it has enough room to grow without being overcrowded.
Care Tips —
- Even drought-tolerant natives need regular watering to ensure that they get through their first year or two in your yard while the roots are establishing. Our recommended watering protocol can be found here.
- Mulch well in the winter to avoid frost-heaving.
- Clip off spent flower stalks and lightly prune shrubs and trees.
By understanding their specific needs and providing the right care, gardeners of all levels can create a thriving ecosystem in their yards.
Not ready to do this on your own? You don’t have to! Check out Glover Nursery’s landscape consultation and design services here.
At Glover Nursery, we understand that selecting drought-tolerant and native plants that grow well in various Utah conditions and climates can be challenging.
That’s why our landscape design service is here to support you with our seasoned designers. We’ll help you create an alluring, low-maintenance, and drought-tolerant landscape tailored to your needs and the Utah climate. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our services and how we can assist you in achieving the perfect landscape for your home.
As you can see, adding native plants (or plants that act like natives) to your Utah landscape is not just a trend— it is a great way to improve the beauty of your yard and help the environment while saving money on water and maintenance. These plants attract wildlife, preserve local beauty, and contribute to a more eco-friendly future.
You can start by exploring Glover Nursery’s wide selection of Utah native plants that’ll inspire and enhance your gardening journey.
Visit our nursery to receive expert guidance from our knowledgeable team. Let us help you transform your yard into a stunning and sustainable space that showcases the true beauty of native plants. Together, we can make a positive impact on Utah’s landscape and create a more eco-friendly future for all.