As a Utah resident, you enjoy the state’s diverse landscape, from the sweeping mountains and glistening rivers in the north to the red rocks in the south. But as a homeowner, you’re less certain of how to incorporate Utah’s landscape into your yard’s design.
Whether you want a more beautiful yard or want to help Utah’s unique ecosystems thrive, native trees and plants make the perfect choice for your home. We’ll give you a few native landscaping ideas in our blog post below.
Why Choose Native Plants?
Many Utah homeowners choose non-native grass, tree, and plant species for their yards. While these choices can look beautiful-and, in some cases, don’t negatively impact Utah’s environment-native plants can give your yard a unique look that helps it stand out from the rest.
Apart from their beauty, native Utah plants come with a host of benefits for homeowners, including:
Reduced water use. Most Utah plants are drought-resistant, which saves you on maintenance and utility costs. Utah plants also have root systems that help the soil store water, which can cut down on flooding and erosion.
Reduced need for fertilizers and pesticides. Many non-native species require fertilizer to thrive, but native plants usually flourish in their natural environment without too much extra help.
Less work. You might have to spend hours of your time on your thirsty Kentucky bluegrass or temperamental peach trees for them to outlast Utah’s harsh weather. Fortunately, native plants require less of your time, money, and work to survive.
Apart from their benefits to you personally, native species benefit Utah’s environment overall. They give native butterflies, birds, bees, and other animals food and shelter, which makes Utah’s ecosystem more diverse and sustainable. Native plants also help conserve precious water, which Utah desperately needs as the southwestern drought continues.
Even if you don’t want to fill your yard solely with native plants, consider adding a few of the trees, shrubs, and flowers below to your yard.
The trees you choose to plant will depend in large part on your budget and aesthetic. However, Utah features so many diverse native plants that there’s something for everyone in the mix. Consider the following as you landscape your yard:
Blue Spruce: If you need to fill a large, open space, plant Utah’s state tree in your yard. The spruce grows slowly but adds beautiful blue-green colors to your yard all year long.
Utah Juniper: These small trees thrive in most conditions, including intense heat, freezing cold, and little water. They need full sunlight to grow and rarely reach more than 15′.
Boxelder: These deciduous trees grow well in rich, moist soil, but can also adapt to poor, dry soil as well. They can host harmless but annoying boxelder bugs, but the trees have pretty bright green leaves and offer plentiful shade. Narrowleaf Cottonwood: This tree grows best at higher elevations, including areas along the Wasatch Front. You’ll need a large space for this plant to grow well, but over a 20-year period it can grow into a beautiful, large shade tree.
Bear in mind that some trees grow faster than others. Work your trees’ growth into your overall landscaping plan, and remember that while you can move smaller plants and flowers as the tree grows, the tree itself will remain in the same place for the next several decades.
Certain Utah shrubs provide a nice alternative to non-native grasses and water-loving shrubbery. Try some of these shrubs to create a green yard tailored to a desert climate:
Mormon Tea: This perennial shrub provides excellent shade coverage for a rock garden. You don’t need to prune Mormon Tea; it does well in full sunlight and poor soil conditions.
Rubber Rabbitbrush: This shrub usually grows 5′ or smaller. It produces bright yellow flowers between August and October, which give your garden a burst of color when the other plants fade.
Big Sagebrush: Sagebrush produces pale green leaves year-round and gives off an aromatic scent, especially after rain. A variety of Utah species rely on sagebrush to thrive; plant some and watch the variety of birds that flock to your yard for food and cover.
Yucca: This desert plant produces beautiful cream-colored, tulip-like blossoms that give off a sweet scent. The sharp leaves can hurt, so plant yucca away from the sidewalk. The uniquely shaped leaves and deep green color can make your yard stand out.
If you plant native shrubs, be prepared to host a few more bird species in your yard, such as quail who feed on Mormon Tea seeds.
Native flowers can add bright accents to your yard without using too much water. Consider the following alternatives to more popular non-native flowers:
Desert Four O’Clock: This plant produces bright magenta-colored flowers in July and August. It does well in the sun and needs only minimal watering.
Indian Paintbrush: This wildflower is notoriously difficult to cultivate, but once you establish the plant, it endures harsh conditions exceptionally well. Indian Paintbrush is named for its vivid red blooms, which attract native hummingbirds.
Bee Balm: This easy-to-grow plant produces bright pink, red, or white flowers that attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
Wasatch Penstemon: Choose this plant to add splashes of deep, serene blue to your yard. It has dark green leaves and thrives in poor soil with only minimal care.
As you and your landscaper develop a plan for your home, consider adding some of these native trees, shrubs, and flowers to give your yard some local color. Talk to your landscaper for more suggestions on native plants, and enjoy your beautiful yard as it develops!