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West North Central Shrubs: Choosing Shrubs For Rockies And Plains States

West North Central Shrubs: Choosing Shrubs For Rockies And Plains States


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Gardening in West North Central regions of the U.S. can be challenging due to scorching summers and chilly winters. These shrubs have to be durable and adaptable. The simplest solution to gardening in any zone is to use native plants, but there are also many introduced shrubs for Rockies and plains that are hardy in USDA zones 3b-6a.

Shrubs for Rockies and Plains

Planning landscaping is fun and exciting but with the price of plants, it pays to do some research and select specimens that are suited not only for the zone but also the site exposure and soil type. West North Central gardens run a wide range of zones, but the region is known for its fertile soil and hot summers. Take advantage of the native weather and soil and choose shrubs that are versatile and adaptable.

Shrubs in the prairie and Rocky Mountain area might be deciduous or evergreen, with some that even produce fruit and abundant flowers. Before you purchase, consider a few things. The plains will get hotter than the Rockies, with temps that are often in triple digits, while the evening temperatures in the mountains will drop very low, even in summer.

This boomerang of temperature ranges means that plants selected should be very flexible in their tolerances. Also, soil in higher altitudes is rockier and lower in nutrients than the plains. Natural moisture is diverse in both sites as well, with more precipitation in the mountains but less in the prairie.

Edible West North Central Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs for plains and the Rockies might be conifers or broad leaved. There is quite a range from which to choose, including ground hugging shrubs or large hedge worthy specimens. There are also many that produce edible fruits. Shrubs to try might be:

  • Highbush cranberry
  • American black currant
  • Chokecherry
  • Nanking cherry
  • Buffaloberry
  • Elderberry
  • Golden Currant
  • Gooseberry
  • Oregon Grape
  • Juneberry
  • American plum

Ornamental Shrubs for Rockies/Plains

If you want something to liven up the landscape spring through fall, and sometimes into winter, there is a wide variety from which to choose. Many of these produce spectacular spring floral displays, have colorful or textured bark, or feature interesting leaf forms or growth patterns.

Shrubs to try include:

  • Sumac
  • Forsythia
  • Lilac
  • False Indigo
  • Cotoneaster
  • Euonymus
  • Viburnum
  • Spirea
  • Barberry
  • Mugo Pine
  • Juniper
  • Willow
  • Yucca
  • American Hazel
  • Red Twig Dogwood

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Read more about West North Central/Rockies


Prairie Borders How to design & plant for a small garden

Prairie borders take their inspiration from the vast grassland and horizons of the American plains. This natural style of design is known as Prairie planting. It uses bold blocks of plants and colours. Allowing groups to self seed and colonize. Rich in pollen for insects and following a very natural flow. This guide will show you just how easy it is to achieve in the smallest of gardens.

So you may be wondering what exactly is prairie planting and why is it now so fashionable? Well, the world-famous Piet Oudolf was one of the forerunners in bringing prairie borders to the masses. His creative designs featuring informal shapes block planted with the same species or colour have become his trademark. If you’re still scratching your head, and you don’t want to open a google sinkhole in searching through millions of pictures, then think of those huge herbaceous borders you see at the RHS gardens and stately homes as a starting point or watch the video below of my prairie border guide.

Prairie borders are a beautiful informal planting style that can work in a variety of garden sizes. They are also relatively fuss-free and can bring a sense of calm to a garden. If you’re wanting to see whether prairie planting is for you, then read on!


About 25 percent of the plant species native to North America are at risk of extinction. You can help reverse this trend by planting great native plants in your garden.

From the Appalachian Mountains in the west to the central Piedmont region, and east to the Atlantic Coastal Plain, South Carolina’s landscape is carpeted with a rich array of wildflowers and native plants. It is home to many species of trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Noted for its pleasant spring and fall seasons, long hot summers and short mild winters, South Carolina can also support many non-native species which are beginning to make their way across the landscape. Regrettably, some of these exotic immigrants are invasive and are threatening the native flora and ecology of the state.

According to the U.S Forest Service, Invasive species have contributed to the decline of 42% of U.S. endangered and threatened species, and for 18% of U.S. endangered or threatened species. Invasive species compete directly with native species for moisture, sunlight, nutrients, and space. They displace and alter native plant communities, degrade wildlife habitat and water quality, and potentially lead to increased soil erosion.

The federal government has estimated that nearly 25 percent of the 20,000 plant species native to North America are at risk of extinction, many of these through habitat loss. You can help reverse this trend by planting great native plants in your garden.

A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region or ecosystem without human introduction. There are many benefits in growing native plants.

  • First, these plants are better adapted to soils, moisture and weather than exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world. They need less fertilizers, pesticides or use less water.
  • Second, they are unlikely to escape and become invasive, destroying natural habitat.
  • Third, they support wildlife, providing shelter and food for native birds and insects, while exotic plants do not.

Here is a list of South Carolina native shrubs that are well-suited for plantings in sunny gardens.

  • Never collect native plants from the wild as it will deplete natural ecosystems.
  • When possible, plant species grown straight from local seed sources. These native originals are the best choice, as they co-evolved with specific wildlife, which supports migration, breeding and other seasonal interdependency.


I have several goals, or visions, for the Texas High Plains region. I envision:

  • The Texas High Plains region will be known as “Gateway to Southwest Gardens”
  • Area nurseries will stock and sell a huge selection of low-water use plants suitable for our area
  • Area nurseries will promote and sell a wide range of organic gardening supplies and
  • TV gardening programs that focus on and highlight area gardens, as well as being informational about southwest gardening, will be broadcast locally.


Best plants for a prairie border

These plants are essential for recreating the look of a prairie-style border.

Published: Friday, 6 March, 2020 at 9:39 am

Prairie-style planting, also known as new perennial planting, focusses on the use of ornamental grasses combined with late-flowering perennials, to create a naturalistic look.

The style has largely been popularised by the work of garden designers like Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, whose projects and books will serve as brilliant sources of inspiration if you’re after ideas.

In larger gardens you can plant in drifts of plants. In smaller gardens, try planting the same perennial in small groups of around three, then plant another small grouping of a different perennial mingled in with the first group, and continue in this way. Structure can be added with large ornamental grasses or neat, clipped topiary shapes.

Discover the essential plants to grow in a prairie border, below.

Echinacea

Members of the daisy family (Asteraceae) are an essential component in prairie-style borders. Echinacea purpurea is a stunning representative of the family, with bright pink flowers. If you’re going for a particular colour scheme, there are plenty of other cultivars to grow – ‘White Swan’ has white flowers while those of ‘Art’s Pride’ are warm orange. Also consider Echinacea pallida which has lovely ethereal flowers and less foliage, so it won’t shade out its neighbours as much.

Helenium

Heleniums provide splashes of colour that can be bright and dramatic or darker and more subdued, depending on the variety you choose. They flower late in the season, usually from midsummer and into autumn. Find out how to plant and deadhead heleniums.

Veronicastrum

Veronicastrums have tapering flowers that echo the appearance of many ornamental grasses, so they’re well suited to new perennial plantings. Most are very tall, so plant them at the back of your borders. Fantastic for pollinators.

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckias are native to the meadows and prairies of North America, where they can be seen growing alongside red and pink flowers like Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) and echinaceas. Find out more about rudbeckias to grow.

Achillea

A classic addition to perennial planting schemes, achilleas have attractive feathery foliage and flat-topped flowerheads. There are lots of cultivars to grow, with flowers ranging from white through to yellows, oranges, pinks and purples. Good for the front and middle of the border.

Fennel

This airy perennial provides flowers for pollinators and feathery foliage that will complement the other plants in your borders. Fennel is tall, so can hold its own towards the back of borders. It doesn’t tend to shade out other plants though, so could also be dotted at the front and middle of borders to add height.

Calamagrostis

Calamagrostis are some of the first grasses to emerge in spring, producing a dense sward of green foliage, followed by feathery flowers from June. These tall grasses can reach 2m tall, so are good for the back of the border. Cut back in early spring to make way for new growth.

Panicum

Several Panicum virgatum (a prairie native) cultivars have dramatic foliage that appears to have been dipped in red wine. It’s a gorgeous effect and provides good contrast with the green and gold foliage of other ornamental grasses.

Molinia

Molinia is a small genus containing just two species. Molinia caerulea is a UK native that is useful in prairie planting schemes because it’s partially transparent, meaning you can see through it to view other plants or the sky. Cultivars to grow include ‘Transparent’ and ‘Windspiel’.

Stipa

Two Stipa species in particular will suit prairie borders. The first, Stipa tenuissima grows to around 60cm in height and has feathery foliage that blends effortlessly with other plants. The second, Stipa gigantea, reaches over 2m tall and suits the back of the border. Both provide a hazy foil for flowers that is reminiscent of the North American prairies.


Watch the video: July 2020 North Central U S Climate and Drought Summary and Outlook