Native Plant of the Month

Native Plant of the Month
This year we are starting a Native Plant of the Month section for our e-newsletters. Every month we will feature a different native plant based on what’s in bloom and what’s valuable for wildlife – and we’ll let you know if we sell it at our native plant nursery!


January: Schizachyrium scoparium/Little Bluestem

This month we are featuring Schizachyrium scoparium, which is a warm season, drought-tolerant grass and otherwise known as Little Bluestem.

Blue blades of grass turn deep mahogany-red after the first frost and stand out in the snow nearly all winter long.

Little Bluestem’s dense mounds growing up to a foot in diameter provide shelter for small mammals and songbirds and is of high forage value.

You can find this plant all around HPEC’s demonstration gardens and open space. We also have Little Bluestem available at our native plant nursery.


February: Mirabilis Multiflora/ Desert 4 o’clock

Height: 12–30 inches
Season of bloom: Early summer to fall (June–October)
Bloom color: Pink
Light requirement: Open, sun
Water requirement: Drought tolerant

Mirabilis Multiflora is a beautiful, drought tolerant perennial found in the arid plains and foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s vibrantly deep pink and broadly tubular flowers bloom in 5-lobed cups growing in the leaf axils of this bushy plant. The repeatedly forked stems of this perennial form stout, leafy clumps. Large, showy, five-lobed, magenta-purple flowers, open in late afternoon and closing in the morning. The foliage is dark green.

Eco-relationships: Attracts birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Visited by many nocturnal insects, including the hawksmoth, Sphinx chersis moth, and Eumorpha achemon moth, as well as pollen-collecting bees visiting at dusk and dawn. 


March: Erigeron speciosus/Showy Daisy/Aspen Daisy

Family: Sunflower – Asteraceae

Characteristics: Upper and middle stem leaves glabrous except for ciliate margins (edged with hairs); plants uniformly leafy with middle leaves as large as lower leaves

Height: 3 feet

Season of bloom: Summer (June–August)

Bloom color: Purple

Light requirement: Full sun to shade

Water requirement: Drought tolerant

Soil requirement: Any

Landscape use: Borders, rock gardens, ground cover, container plant, butterfly garden, perennial garden

Eco-relationships: Flower heads attract and provide a landing platform for pollinators; attract a wide range of pollinators including true bugs, thrips, beetles, butterflies, moths, bees, and flies. Supports Conservation Biological Control (a plant that attracts predatory or parasitoid insects that prey upon pest insects.)

Life zone: Foothills to subalpine

Habitat: Aspen groves, forest margins and openings at 6,000 to 11,000 feet


April: Aquilegia chrysanthae/Yellow Columbine

Family: Hellebore – Helleboraceae

Characteristics: A particularly showy race of the golden columbine of the southern Rockies. The huge, yellow flowers can be over three inches across and the spurs are even longer. Self sows generously.

Height: 24–36 inches

Season of Bloom: Late spring to Late summer (Late May–August)

Bloom color: Yellow

Light requirement: Sun to part shade

Water requirement: Low-moderate

Soil requirement: Clay or organic soils

Landscape use: Perennial borders and cutting gardens

Eco-relationships: Attracts birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and/or bees

Life zone: High desert, foothills


May: Dalea purpurea/ Purple Prairie Clover

Family: Pea – Fabaceae

Characteristics: Lower parts of stems glaborous; spikes dense and cone-like, concealing the axis; calyx covered with dense, short, white, appressed hairs; stems erect

Height: 18 inches

Season of bloom: Spring to early summer (March–June)

Bloom color: Purple

Light requirement: Full sun

Water requirement: Drought tolerant

Soil requirement: Any. Will grow in poor, heavy soils and sterile soils.

Landscape use: Wildflower meadow, perennial garden, butterfly garden, flowers for cutting and drying

Eco-relationships: Bee pollinated; this plant fixes atmospheric nitrogen and can provide nitrogen to improve soil fertility; wind tolerant and deer resistant. Special value to native bees, bumble bees and honey bees.

Life zone: Plains, foothills

Habitat: Grassland slopes, shrubby hillsides


June: Penstemon Grandiflorus/ Large-Flowered Beardtongue

Family: Plantains

Characteristics: Grows in clumps with erect or spreading stems; pappus (extension of the ovary) twice as long as the basal scale; leaves stiff-hairy

Height: 30″ x 12″

Season of bloom: Late Spring/Early Summer (May–July)

Bloom color: Lavender to Blue

Light requirement: Sun/ Partial Shade

Water requirement: Low, especially in winter

Eco-relationships: The heads attract and provide a landing platform for pollinators, attracting true bugs, thrips, beetles, butterflies, moths, bees, and flies.

Life zone/Habitat: Plains/Prairie