Master Gardener: What is Plant Select? |

Master Gardener: What is Plant Select?

Estella Heitman
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Plant Select plants are available locally, including at Windemere in Steamboat Springs. (Courtesy photo)

Plant Select is a program started more than 20 years ago as a collaborative effort between the Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University, in cooperation with members of the local horticulture industry. The program was established to promote evaluation and introduction of new and unusual plants designed to thrive in the high plains and intermountain regions.

Plant Select is now a nonprofit Colorado corporation with funding provided through grants, memberships and plant royalties. Plants offered for consideration and accepted as evaluation targets for “Plant Select” identification are grown and rated, typically over a three-year period. A plant ultimately selected as “Plant Select” through this process has been judged according to the following characteristics, which form the cornerstone of the Plant Select endeavor:

• Thrives in a broad range of conditions

• Flourishes with less water

• Is resilient in challenging climates

• Is unique or one of a kind

• Is disease and insect resistant

• Displays long-lasting beauty

• Is noninvasive

Who wouldn’t want to have a plant that meets these stringent criteria? In Routt County, with a short growing season, high altitude and frequent drought, gardening is, in general, a challenge. By becoming aware of Plant Select and the plants selected for Plant Select identification, gardeners here can find “the right plant for the right place,” purchasing and nurturing plants which have a very reasonable opportunity to survive and thrive in the Routt County landscapes. As an added bonus, there is now a Plant Select demonstration garden within the Yampa River Botanic Park, so people can see these plants growing in our local Routt County environment.

Where can I find Plant Select Plants?

Since Plant Select plants are new, those selected in recent years can often be difficult to find at local nurseries, because these retailers are profit-based and likely to stock primarily well-known plants that move off the shelf quickly in local markets. Part of the endeavor of the Plant Select corporation is to make these plants known to the local horticulture industry and to help gardeners locate resources for purchasing desired plants. The first choice for consumers is to go to the Plant Select website and click on the tab “Where to Buy.” It is also a good idea to check with a local nursery and ask for special orders or a section in the nursery dedicated to Plant Select plants.

• Royalties: Each plant identified as Plant Select carries a very small additional “royalty” charge. The monies garnered from these royalties are returned to the Plant Select Corp. and are used to help support continuing research for the Plant Select program.

• Website:

• Books: “Pretty Tough Plants: By the Experts at Plant Select”

Estella Heitman is a master gardener who has made her retirement home in Routt County for the past 12 years after many years of part-time residence. Migrating from the Midwest, she had many lessons to learn as a transplanted High Country gardener. She enjoys the challenges and joys of gardening in the mountains at 8,000 feet elevation at her home near Stagecoach Reservoir.

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