photo by Lisa Bird

Berlandiera lyrata

Appearance: This very aromatic plant has bright green, flat spreading leaves with shallowly lobed edges.  The flowers are daisy-like, with green center and light yellow petals.  The underside of the petals have maroon markings on them.

Habitat: This plant is very drought tolerant and blooms profusely throughout the season.  The flowers have a wonderful chocolate scent are are edible.  Chocolate Flower prefers full sun and needs very little water.  Found on the Western plains to northern Mexico, in dry rocky soils.  Hardy to Zone 4. (more…)

Sphaeralcea coccinea

Cowboy’s Delight

Sphaeralcea coccinea

Appearance: This small perennial appears to be a sweet little hollyhock. It grows to just over 12″ tall, and the silver-green, hairy leaves are each deeply lobed into three sections. Another variety found in cultivation, Sphaeralcea munruona is very similar, but with more gently lobed leaves. The wheel-shaped bright orange flowers are under an inch in diameter. Their bright appearance in often otherwise dull areas is what earned it its common name of cowboy’s delight. Blooming starts in June and continues through September.

Habitat: Cowboy’s delight thrives in sunny, open areas and can be found in both the plains and foothills. (more…)

Iris missouriensis

Appearance: Wild Iris is a bluish-purple native flower characteristic in appearance to cultivated irises.  It grows to about 2 feet in height and blooms from May to July.

Habitat: It is found in foothills to subalpine life zones, mostly in moist open areas, wet meadows, and stream sides at 4,500 to 9,500 feet elevation.  Growing in full sun, it drenches meadows in its vivid blue color, and is prevalent in areas that have been grazed heavily. (more…)

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…)

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…)

Sprinkled with 5-petaled flowers of a light true blue, Blue Flax is a short-lived perennial with graceful, wiry stems sporting blue-green needle-like leaves. Plants reach two feet in height.

L. perenne originated in Eurasia.  The very similar native American species, Linum lewisii (sometimes considered a subspecies of L. perenne), was named in honor of Meriwether Lewis, the first European to discover and describe the plant. Both are frequently included in wildflower mixes and used for erosion control. You can see them both growing alongside highways in the Pikes Peak area.


Mariposa Lily

Calochortus gunnisonii

Appearance: Blooming from March to June, this is one of the most beautiful, simplistic wildflowers of Colorado.  A close relative to lilies, the cup-shaped flowers of Mariposa Lily have 3 translucent petals, usually white with a tinge of pink or blue.  Inside the cup of petals is a ring of bright yellow hair.  This native perennial grows up to 20” tall on a single slender stem.  Narrow, grass-like foliage usually withers at the base of the plant by bloom time. (more…)

American PlumPhoto by Lisa Bird (Prunus americana)

Appearance: American plum, a member of the Rose family, is one of the first native woody plants to bloom in the spring, with the white, fragrant, 5-petalled blossoms appearing before the leaves unfold.   There are numerous 1”-2” long, blunt thorns along the branches.  The leaves are long, pointed and oval-shaped.  American Plum bears edible 1” diameter fruit which ripen mid- to late summer, and fall color can be a muted reddish-orange. (more…)

Zinnia grandiflora @ChatfieldBG 2006jun29 LAH 003rAPPEARANCE

Resembling a carpet of sunshine, prairie zinnia will delight you with a profusion of gold flowers late summer through fall. A native southwest perennial, prairie zinnia grows low and mounded. Tiny needle-like leaves of light green grow 4 to 8 inches tall topped with vibrant, nearly round yellow-rayed flowers.


This native wildflower loves the heat and sun. It thrives in dry, well-drained soil and can grow on slopes and in rugged terrain. Prairie zinnia is hardy in zones 4-7 and is deer and drought tolerant. It grows naturally throughout the southern regions of the intermountain west. Start seeds indoors in the spring or sow in the garden in late spring. For a longer flowering period, sow the seed in succession. It will self-seed once it is established.


Prairie zinnia forms masses of golden flowers resembling daisies on finely textured foliage growing from a woody base. The low, shrub like growth makes a good ground cover, spreading 4 to 15 inches wide. Prairie zinnia is perfect for naturalizing, in borders and edging around other dry loving plants such as penstemon and cacti. The flowers remain from summer to fall and attract birds and butterflies. Remove the dead flower heads to increase the number of flowers and length of bloom.

Contributed by Valerie Smith, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 520.7684, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, or

Photo by Leslie Holzmann, Colorado Master Gardener.

Wine Cups Joan Nusbaum 415-1APPEARANCE

Are you thirsting for color in your summer garden?  Winecups may be the drink you are looking for. Deep magenta, cup-shaped flowers give this summer blooming perennial its common name.  Its richly colored, five petal flowers have a white center and stand above the green, deeply lobed leaves. Reaching just 5-10 inches in height, it likes room to spread, as much as 20-30 inches at maturity.  Blooming from June through late frost gives the garden a splash of color through most of the growing season.


This native thrives in ordinary loam or dry clay soil and is hardy up to 8,000 feet.  It prefers full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.  Winecups requires low to moderate watering making it a good choice for a xeric landscape. Overwatering causes the stems to become straggly and collapse.


With its low growing, spreading habit, Winecups  looks good cascading over walls and tumbling down slopes, but also works well in the front of the border or in a wildflower garden. No matter where you plant it, you can be sure its eye-catching color will liven up the landscape well into the fall. Winecups was included on the 1999 Plant Select list. You can read more about Plant Select choices at :

Contributed by Lisa Bird, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at (719) 520-7684 (new number) or

Photo courtesy of Joan Nusbaum, Colorado Master Gardener