Your mountain garden can thrive if you start by choosing the right plants! These are plants that will tolerate the high-altitude conditions in your particular climate zone. Many trees, shrubs, perennials, and cool-season annuals grow well at higher elevations.
The Mountain Floral Palette
Consider classics like columbine, delphinium, lupine, bleeding heart, shasta daisies, and gaillardia in your garden. Enduring favorites like peonies and colorful oriental poppies are the mainstays of many a mountain perennial garden — and for good reason: they are all plants that will thrive at elevation!
Mountain gardeners should select perennial varieties that bloom in early to mid-summer. Late bloomers (good at lower altitudes) will get caught by the early fall mountain freezes. Brown-eyed Susan, painted daisy, yarrow, sunflowers, and columbine can also be seeded or planted in gardens or natural areas.
Don’t overlook roses. Grafted roses may not be winter hardy over 6500′ and should be treated as an annual in the mountains. Look for roses grown on their own roots including miniature roses and Rugosa roses. The Canadian, Parkland, and Explorer series also do well. It is important to follow instructions on winterizing your roses by protecting canes and roots from cold temperatures.
For the Vegetable Garden
Look for all of those cool-season veggies that grow so well at lower altitudes in the spring and fall. They’ll be happy all summer long in the cooler growing climate in the mountains! Vegetables like leafy greens and root vegetables are good choices, as are broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and peas.
Shrubs That Will Shrug Off the Cold
There are many shrubs that do well in a mountain landscape. The curly leaf mountain mahogany is a native evergreen and has a beautiful upright shape. It sports attractive seed heads in late summer. The tiny trumpet honeysuckle would make a nice addition to a mountain landscape. It offers showy, fragrant, reddish-pink trumpet-shaped flowers for many weeks in the summer.
One of our favorites is the serviceberry bush. It offers beautiful white flowers in the spring, followed by edible fruit (serviceberries) the service berry bush also provides fall color in shades of oranges and yellows. The red twig dogwood provides a showy red contrast against winter snow banks. It grows to a height of 3 feet with a spread of 3 feet.
The Apache plume is a native shrub with a white flowers similar to that of a rose. These are followed by feathery, rose colored seed tails. Planted against a dark background, the Apache plume’s white stems are striking. Often overlooked and many times hard to find, the Russian hawthorn is a small tree (or large shrub). The Russian hawthorn sports yellow to orange fall color and provides food for the birds in the winter. The beautiful cinnamon bark of the native river birch
gives the tall shrub an interesting winter texture.
The lingonberry, an evergreen 4 to 8 inches high is rated to zone 2 and ideal for a part shade border. This shrub is self pollinating and its berries are great for jams, jellies, and sauces.
Wild Cranberry? Yes! This conversation piece grows to zone 3 and is evergreen. The wild cranberry has delicate foliage followed by edible berries in the fall.
Echter’s plant profile signage provides and elevation guide for most plants, and our nursery, perennials, and annuals experts will be happy to answer questions about the suitability of plants for a high-altitude garden.
Remember to harden your plants off before planting! It gives them the best possible chance to adjust to their new environment!