Limemound Spirea

Specs: Lime green leaves and petite pink blooms make this flowering, medium-size shrub stand out.
Appeal: They add structure to a garden.
Sun or Shade? Full sun to partial shade
Plant Near: Your favorite annuals, such as red geraniums, for more color
The Expert Says: “You get more bang for your buck when you buy shrubs because they take up more room, and you don’t have to do much to them as long as they’re getting adequate water and light.” —Alissa Shanley, owner, B. Gardening Landscape Design,

Bowles Periwinkle

Specs: A standout with its vibrant violet-blue pinwheel-shaped flowers, this evergreen perennial makes a fantastic ground cover.
Appeal: Its water needs are minimal once the plant is established.
Sun or Shade? Either
Plant Near: Irises, black-eyed Susans, or other vertical plants for height contrast
The Expert Says: “Periwinkle tolerates light foot traffic.” —Sandy Brown, designer, Lifescape,

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

Specs: This small tree (it grows to about 15 feet tall) has oval leaves—which turn a stunning shade of red-orange in the fall—and sprouts white flowers in the spring.
Appeal: It serves as a nice focal point for the rest of the garden.
Sun or Shade? Sun
Plant Near: Johnson’s blue geraniums to add texture and interest
The Expert Says: “I suggest using a few different plants [including the serviceberry tree] as your structure and planting colorful perennials in masses.” —Paul Wrona, principal, Elevate By Design,

Snow Angel Coral Bells

Specs: This hardy perennial has marbled leaves and sprouts pinkish-red flowers.
Appeal: They add brightness to a shaded garden.
Sun or Shade? Shade or filtered sun
Plant Near: Eastern redbud trees (their flowers are also magenta and pink)
The Expert Says: “Coral bells are our most popular perennial. They’re easy to grow, and they come in a multitude of colors, from chartreuse to dark purple leaves.” —Trela Phelps, general manager, City Floral Garden Center and Greenhouse,

Morning Light Miscanthus

Specs: Sharp blueish-green blades define this wild-looking ornamental grass.
Appeal: The grass typically comes in later in summer, so the perennial helps keep your garden looking fresh longer.
Sun or Shade? Sun
Plant Near: Black-eyed Susans for a simple and elegant combination
The Expert Says: “Miscanthus has a nice look and is low maintenance. Use annuals to get a color pop.” —Chris Turner, principal, Elevate By Design

Ice Plants

Specs: Available in various varieties and hues, these perennials sprout iridescent flowers that thrive in our climate.
Appeal: They’ve adapted to lots of sun, so your garden will bloom with color throughout the summer.
Sun or Shade? Sun
Plant Near: Popular bearded iris for extra brightness and contrast
The Expert Says: “It’s a sheet of highlight color when they bloom—just a kind of flashy ground cover that is hard to compete with around here.” —Dan Johnson, associate director of horticulture, Denver Botanic Gardens,

More Ideas!

Searching for extra inspiration? Visit The website—a collaboration between Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, and horticulture pros—highlights plants that flourish in high plains and intermountain regions, and new ones are added every year after extensive trials. Translation: Your not-so-green thumb isn’t an excuse any more.

—Photos (from top): Shutterstock, Wikipedia, Shutterstock (2), Oglesby Plants Intl., iStock

This article was originally published in 5280 Home Summer 2016.
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at