As our urban landscape stretches towards the plains and into the foothills, the "borrowed view" of the surrounding areas includes native plants that are valuable additions to the home garden.
Rabbitbrush is one of the most ornamental and useful native plants for a Colorado garden. It is a globe-shaped shrub two to six feet wide and two to four feet tall with small, silvery leaves and, in the late summer, clusters of yellow flowers. Rabbitbrush grows at 5000 to 9000 feet elevation, thrives in full sun and tolerates alkaline soils that drain well. It sports fluffy seed clusters through the winter months, which add texture and interest to the garden.
These tall shrubs have become popular in xeriscape gardens since their deep root system allows them to flourish in dry climates. If given extra water and fertilizer, rabbitbrush can overwhelm the landscape. Rabbitbrush is flammable, so do not plant it near buildings. Cut the plant back to about one foot in the early spring to help maintain the plant's natural globe shape and to keep the plant dense.
There are many companion plants that mix well in designs with rabbitbrush. Consider planting purple aster, Russian sage, or blue mist spirea nearby.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension reference materials:
- Xeriscaping: Perennials and Annual Flowers
- Pruning Flowering Shrubs
- Xeriscaping: Trees and Shrubs
- Trees and Shrubs for Mountain Areas
There are many Plant Talk articles about Xeriscape.
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Updated Thursday, June 18, 2015