Gardener Profiles General Knowledge

Going Native

As spring planting is approaching, I am thinking of those plants in my garden that seem to thrive in Utah’s heat and not require as much water! What an asset to my landscape because these plants require much less water, which results in a lower water bill.

Did you know that Utah is the second driest state in the nation with an average annual rainfall of just over 15 inches? Wow! So you can understand the importance of planting more drought-tolerant, water-wise plants–and even more specifically–planting “native” plants.

What do I mean by “native”? Native plants are ones that have been growing in a region for a very long time and have historically been proven to adapt to local conditions; thus requiring less water, less maintenance, and being more resistant to area pests and disease–making them the perfect choice for a “green” landscape.

If you want to get started on using native plants to your region, I found this great website at The website hosts a “Native Plants Nursery Finder” which lists, by state, the nurseries that specialize in native plants sales. It also has a “Regional Plant List Finder”–just plug in the state you are interested in and a whole slew of native plants, trees, and shrubs pop up that are relevant to that area.

When I plugged in my own state of Utah, I was excited to see that I actually have several plants that are already growing in my garden that are native to our area (i.e., Prairie Aster, Silvery Lupine, Sunflower, and Penstemon).

"Sunflower" | Photo Credit: Tina Phillips

There are other drought tolerant plants that do well in our area, although not necessarily native to this area, but they seem to thrive well in our desert-like conditions (i.e., Coreopsis, Salvia, Russian Sage, Coneflower, Liatris (Gay Feather), and Shasta Daisy to name a few).

"Shasta Daisy" | (c) 2011 Garden Stems

"Echinaccea" | (c) 2011 Garden Stems

As you look around your own existing landscape, I bet you will be surprised to find you already have a few native plants growing there. I guess the idea is not to stop there, but to build on this beauty and get back to your garden’s roots.

Jeni is a native of Lincoln, Nebraska and has lived and gardened in Utah for the past 22 years. She is the owner and author of Garden Stems, an online gardening resource, and on the Advisory Council for a local botanical garden. She was featured in 2009 on Women on the Web (

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