Covering the ground with a solid mass of brilliant fuchsia-purple flowers, Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) demands a second look. The succulent green leaves glimmer in the sun, giving the plant its common name, while the flowers have glistening thin petals surrounding a yellow center. Waves of bloom carpet the foliage from late spring until late summer. The show even continues in winter, when plants turn a deep burgundy-red. Other species of Delosperma, with yellow or salmon-pink flowers, are also now available.


Dwarf Pussytoes (Antennaria parvifolia)

Photo by Lisa Bird

Appearance: Dwarf Pussytoes has pretty white flowers clustered like a cat’s toes on stalks growing to 6 inches in height.  The lance-shaped leaves grow in low mats, so the combination of the leaves and flowers on stalks makes it ideal for use as a groundcover.

Habitat: One of nine species found in the southern Rockies, it is commonly found in open mountain and foothills areas in sandy, well-drained soils. It has low moisture requirements and grows in sun to part shade. (more…)

Gazania linearis ‘Colorado Gold’

Gazanias for Colorado! With this cultivar, those of us in cold-winter areas can overwinter these daisy-like flowers usually reserved for gardens in warmer climates. Clumps of strap-shaped green leaves grow only three-inches high, while the big, sunny blossoms hover above on their short stems, stealing the show. The flowers close up at night, and stay that way on cloudy days. An extra bonus: the leafy clumps are evergreen.


Poison Ivy in Summer photo by Lisa Bird

Poison Ivy

Toxicodendron rydbergii

Appearance: Poison Ivy is a member of the Sumac family and recognizable by its three shiny leaflets, white flowers in March to June, and smooth white berries later in the summer.  It grows to a mature height of 2 feet.

Habitat: Found in the plains and foothills, it grows on rocky slopes and at cliff bases in full sun to partial shade. (more…)


The petite, sky-blue flowers of forget-me-nots have charmed gardeners for ages. Also available in delicate pink or white, the blossoms are suspended by wiry stems above crinkled, heart-shaped leaves of forest green. The plants form a groundcover six to twelve inches high and two feet wide. Even though the species is native to Europe, it has naturalized in North America to the extent that the forget-me-not is the state flower of Alaska.


While the plants are hardy from USDA zones 4 to 8, they may be perennial, biennial, or even annuals. In any case, forget-me-nots reseed abundantly and will renew themselves indefinitely provided their needs are met. Naturally growing along streams or at the edge of ponds, this woodland species prefers cool, damp conditions. Soil should be rich in humus, so dig in plenty of organic matter before planting. Plants do best in the shade, especially as the weather warms; intense high-altitude sunlight will burn leaves.

Landscape Use

Forget-me-nots bloom at about the same time as mid-season tulips, and make a beautiful underplanting that will hide the bulbs’ fading foliage. Naturalize them in woodland gardens, under trees, and in any informal garden that receives regular watering.

Article and photo by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener.

Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatilis) is a long-lived, low maintenance ground cover for small. Gray, slightly fuzzy leaves are present year round, forming clumps 6 to 18 inches tall and 6 to 12 inches wide. In early Spring the plants are totally covered with masses of tiny cross-shaped flowers. Eye-catching colors range from soft yellow ‘Citrina’ or ‘Dudley Neville’ to the blindingly intense golden yellow of ‘Gold Dust.’ A similar species, Mountain Gold (Aurinia montanum) is more compact, with smaller leaves. Mountain Gold is also a bit harder to find at a garden center.



After months of dreary landscapes, Aubrieta’s vibrant purple flowers bring welcome color to the early spring garden. Each blossom has four petals arranged in a cross, with a clump of yellow stamens in the center. In full bloom, the flowers completely hide low growing mats of evergreen foliage, six to twelve inches tall and about two to three feet wide.


Also known as Rock Cress and Lilacbush, Aubrieta is native to southern Europe, which provides a hint about the conditions it prefers. Situate in full sun. Well-drained soil is a must, as plants will turn yellow and die if the roots are constantly wet. A gravel mulch retains moisture, keeps down weeds, and encourages new seedlings. Provide regular watering the first year; older plants can tolerate a bit of drought. Shear after bloom to encourage a repeat performance. These perennials are hardy to zone 4.

Garden use

Aubrieta is ideally suited for the rock garden, where it won’t be overpowered by more aggressive neighbors. The purple flowers contrast vividly with yellow basket of gold, which blooms about the same time. Conversely, the gray leaves of snow-in-summer provide a soothing complement. Aubrieta may also be used as a small-scale groundcover, perhaps planted under early bulbs such as species tulips or miniature daffodils. Try it in the front of the garden, as an edging, or spilling over a low retaining wall.

Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener

Angelina Stonecrop is a garden asset all year long. In summer, the low-growing succulent forms spreading mats of cheerful yellow-green, adorned with clusters of yellow star-shaped flowers. These blooms attract butterflies. But it is in winter that Angelina really shines, when those same fleshy leaves turn an incredible, brilliant orange, with subtle shades of red and yellow. The colors are so intense, the ground appears to be on fire. Such a show would be welcome at any time, but is especially appreciated when everything else is dead or dormant.

All the stonecrops are very easy to grow. They thrive in full sun, and tolerate dry, poor soils. Too much water will kill them. Hardy from zones 3 to 9, they tolerate our Colorado winters with no problem.  Pruning to control size may be done at any time; no other maintenance is needed. Even deer and rabbits tend to leave them alone.

Landscape Use
Angelina Stonecrop is well-suited to rock gardens, especially where it has room to spread. The trailing plants will cascade over walls or the edges of containers. Or place it in front of the border, where its winter glow will complement the browns and golds of dormant grasses.

Article and photo by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener

Thymus - Thyme @CSUtilXeriscapeGarden 9Aug2006 LAH202r-1APPEARANCE

This common thyme is a green foliage plant that grows 12-15 inches high and up to 2 feet wide with purple, white or pink flowers.  Although used for cooking, this variety is not reliably hardy over the winter. It is an attractive plant and worth considering for your garden. Your choices for thyme include many scented varieties as well as the creeping thymes that form wonderful groundcovers.


Thyme vulgaris requires 10-12 inches of spacing between plants, low to moderate water and well drained soil. It will tolerate dry conditions in full sun to partial shade in Zones 5-9. To prevent unattractive winter dieback, site in locations with good snow cover during the winter. Alternatively, water monthly during the winter.

Thyme comes in upright and prostrate forms and is considered non-aggressive. It may be started from stem cuttings or by dividing another plant. Harvest the aerial parts for cooking. Other reasons to grow thyme are to deter cabbage worms and encourage bees to visit.


This standard kitchen herb is rarely browsed by deer. Depending o the variety, thyme is useful as a creeper between stepping stones or as a turf substitute in some landscapes where foot traffic is light. This plant blooms profusely in early summer but does not compete with other plants.

Contributed by Nadine Salmons, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or

Photo courtesy of  Leslie Holzmann.

Dwarf Periwinkle – Vinca minor

Vinca minor @XG may142008 LAH 001rs-1Appearance

With violet-blue blossoms scattered across a field of emerald green, Dwarf Periwinkle is a popular groundcover in the Pikes Peak region. Also available in white and purple-red, these 5-petaled pinwheel-shaped flowers bring welcome color to a shady spot. The shiny leaves are arranged along stems that may reach three feet in length, but are only six inches high. The stems will root wherever they touch the ground.


Dwarf Periwinkle requires partial to full shade; the leaves develop chlorosis and the plant declines in full sun. It does best in fertile, well-drained loam, but will tolerate less-than-optimal conditions. While preferring damp soil, established plantings will endure some drought. Allowing the foliage and soil surface to dry between waterings helps prevent Vinca Stem Blight, a fungal disease brought on by constantly wet conditions.

Landscape use

Because it competes successfully with tree roots, Periwinkle is frequently used as an evergreen groundcover under woody plants. The trailing stems are also attractive spilling over the sides of flowering containers.

Contributed by Leslie Holzmann, Colorado Master Gardener. For information, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or

Photo courtesy of Leslie Holzmann.