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Gardening with Deb: Perennials for large spaces

Deb Babcock
Babcock_Deb

As you start deadheading and cleaning up the garden now that many of our spring and summer blooms are done, you might find large spaces that could use some additional flowers to fill them out. As you contemplate which plants to bring into your garden to fill a sizeable space, check out these Zone 4 beauties.

Blue Spires Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spires’) is a spiky dark-blue perennial that grows to 4 feet tall by 4 feet in diameter. It likes a sunny space and is xeric (requiring very little water once established). As an added bonus, deer and rabbits don’t care for this plant.

Another colorful large-space plant is the Wild Four O-Clock (Mirabilis multiflorus) with its magenta-pink flowers (hundreds of them on a mature plant). This plant grows to 18 inches tall by 4 to 6 feet across and likes sunny to partly-sunny areas and is extremely xeric, growing best with minimal irrigation. It, too, is deer and rabbit resistant but does attract butterflies.



Hostas are wonderful for shady spots and will grow up to 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide. There are many, many varieties to choose from offering colorful foliage in an array of shapes and sizes.

For a cheerful touch of yellow in a large space, consider Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp). This sun-loving plant will grow 2 to 10 feet tall and spread up to 6 feet. It features brightly-colored flowers in oranges, reds and golds.



Anything but a weed, Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum macultum), offers gorgeous blooms, striking, large foliage and in the fall, attractive fuzzy seedheads. This plant likes full sun and moist soil. It grows to 7 feet tall and up to 4 feet across.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) provide a long bloom season and are available in a wide range of hues. Growing up to 5 feet tall and 1 to 4 feet wide, this plant can thrive in full sun to part shade in moist soil.

Bush Morning Glory (Ipomea leptophylla) is a not a vine, but a 3-foot-tall by 3 to 5-foot-wide shrub-like plant growing on a large tuberous root. It blooms with beautiful pink-purple flowers in late summer. Xeric, it likes a sunny location.

Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) is a plant found in many gardens throughout the Steamboat area where it adds a colorful accent with its red and yellow bi-color flower spike. This xeric plant grows to 3 feet tall by 3 feet across and likes a sunny location. It is rabbit and deer resistant as well as a hummingbird attractor.

No local garden is complete without a penstemon plant, and the Pink Wild Snapdragon (Penstemon palmeri) is one of the few fragrant plants in this species. This plant grows up to 5 feet tall by 2 feet wide and requires sandy or gravelly soil in a sunny location. It is extremely xeric and is attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.

As a fragrant butterfly and hummingbird attractor, Beebalm (Monarda) is a great choice for a large space. One plant will grow 3 to 4 feet tall by 3 feet across. There are several hybrids of this plant offering blooms in shades of bright red, pink and white. This plant prefers a sunny to partly-sunny location.

Garden centers are starting to put their plant stock on sale, so fall is an economical time to fill in some of the spaces in your garden. Be sure to look for the Zone 4 designation, check out how much space the mature plant will need and what kind of environment (sun/shade, xeric/moist) it needs before finalizing your choice.

Fall is a good time to plant new flowers in your garden since the weather is cooler but the soil still warm enough for them to start establishing a root system before the snows come.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Questions? Call 970-879-0825 or email: csumggardeners@co.routt.co.us.


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