Make your neighborhood ‘greenery’ with envy

This spring, transform your yard into a water-wise landscape with these six native plants.

March 14, 2017 | By: Kim Unger
Pantone color swatch of the color greenery
Pantone’s color of 2017 is a little bit yellow and a little bit green.

The Color of the Year for 2017 is … drumroll please … “greenery.”

That declaration, from the company behind the color matching system used by designers, printers and paint manufacturers, is a yellow-green shade (Pantone 15-0343 to be exact). The hue is meant to inspire a reconnection with nature.

At Denver Water, we happen to like greenery. As in, the kind that fills a water-wise landscape along with colorful flowers that attract nature’s pollinators.

With spring fast approaching, now is the time to start thinking about your landscape plans. Whether you want healthy native grass (or “turf,” as they say in the industry) or eye-appealing flowerbeds, here are six suggestions to get you started.

  1. Coronado red hyssop (Agastache pstessene)

    A tight photo of red hyssop plant in bloom
    Otherwise known as hummingbird mint, this plant’s fragrance is a deterrent to deer and rabbits. Photo credit: Doreen Wynja


The trumpet-like flowers on the red hyssop provide nectar for hummingbirds and bloom between July through September. This plant will grow about 16 to 18 inches tall and thrives with moderate to low watering. We recommend planting it within view of a window as its light, minty fragrance provides for some great bird-watching opportunities.

2. Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

butterfly feasts on the nectar of the butterfly milkweed plant
The Perennial Plant Association’s 2017 Plant of the Year, butterfly milkweed is a favorite of pollinators. Photo credit:


Don’t let the name fool you, this bushy perennial plant is far from a weed. Its bright orange flowers are a favorite of butterflies, including the magnificent monarch. Butterfly milkweed prefers full sun in soils that have good drainage, such as sandy soils. Add some ladybugs to help control the aphids who may want to chomp on the leaves.

  1. Denver gold columbine (Aguilegia chrysantha)
A close up of a yellow columbine flower
Bees and butterflies enjoy the 3-inch flowers of this columbine. Photo credit: NetPS Plant Finder


Coloradans know the state flower is the Rocky Mountain columbine, but it is not the only columbine found here. The Denver gold columbine is a bright yellow variety that thrives in sunny or partly shady locations. This native plant flowers in May and June, and will rebloom later in the season when the faded flowers are removed.

  1. Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis)

    close up picture of seed groupings on blue grama grass
    This plant is not a fan of shade and will remain dormant in winter or drought.


Did you know that Colorado has a state grass? The blue grama grass was adopted in 1987. Growing 12 to 20 inches, it is drought-resistant, tolerates high pH soil conditions and retains its color through the fall season. This feathery plant sprouts small eyelash-like seed groupings and does not like heavy clay soil, so don’t forget to amend first.

  1. Blue mist penstemon (Penstemon virens)

    blue penstemon plant growing out of the rocks
    Commonly found in the foothills, the powdery blue flowers will bloom in late spring. Photo credit: Dave Powell, distributed under CC BY 3.0 license.


Blue mist penstemon is a great addition to your garden. This small plant, which will grow about 10 inches, provides a foraging source for birds and insects, and attracts pollinators, such as bees and hummingbirds.

6. Purple poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrate)

Close up of the purple poppy mallow flowers
Visited by pollinators, purple poppy mallow flowers will open in the morning, and close in the evening. Photo credit: Stan Shebs, distributed under CC BY 3.0 license.


If you’re looking for a plant to fill in some bare space, consider the purple poppy mallow, or “wine cups.” It grows about 1 foot tall, but has a spread of about 3 feet. It needs to be planted in soil where water can drain and not pool at the root of the plant. It can be planted in hanging baskets or planter boxes where it can cascade to create a wall of flowers.

Switching to water-saving native plants is easier than it sounds. Remodel your yard with help from the Center for ReSource Conservation with a selection of preselected garden boxes. Denver Water customers qualify for a discount.

6 thoughts on “Make your neighborhood ‘greenery’ with envy”

  1. i need a grass alternative. i cannot afford 300-400$ a month in water. thanks for these. anything that is a hard to kill ground cover would be wonderful to know about. thanks!!

    1. Google mini & micro CLOVER! Those cross breeds can be added to your lawn by just thatching (raking away old matted dead grass below the healthy stuff), sowing sparingly by hand (even mixed with clean sand if you want to, as they don’t require excellent soil). Water for a couple of weeks until it sprouts, then you can cut both water use & mowing frequency IN HALF! Clover pulls nitrogen from the air, so keeps the grass healthy without fertilizer, & crowds out weeds so no herbicide is needed either (+ ironically, herbicide will kill the clover, so don’t use it & you won’t be contaminating groundwater either). Stays green despite dog pee, likes our Zone 5 climate. If you want to plant varieties that aren’t still under patent, your search will also find suitable white clover varieties with the same qualities, but they grow taller so will need more frequent mowing (otherwise they’ll flower & attract bees which is fine if you’re a beekeeper!) The mini & micro clover seeds should come with a coating that creates their dream pH level; older varieties may appreciate being tossed with a little lime before sowing to reach that pH. Regardless, a little seed should go a long way. Please report your results; clover went out of fashion in the 1960’s and some people can’t shake the impression that it’s a weed since herbicide kills it, but it’s about the best earth-friendly lawn solution out there! Plus bunnies love it. If you ever start a whole new lawn from seed, there are grass seed mixtures with clover in them. I know Amazon has mini & micro clover seeds, and grass+clover seeds are widely available in garden & hardware stores.

  2. ‘m interested in gardening. I grow shrubs, trees, flower beds and now I see what I can add to my garden and beautifully selected herbs. Thanks.

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