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PRETTY TOUGH PLANTS: Discover the Plant Select® Program

By: Nell Frazer Lindqust, IBG Greenhouse & Nursery Coordinator | 04/03/2019

The Plant Select® program identifies, promotes, and distributes plants that are well suited for gardens in the Intermountain West. Created in 1997, the program is a nonprofit collaboration of Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, professional horticulturists, and public gardens. Since 2012, the Idaho Botanical Garden has showcased some of these plants in our Plant Select® Demonstration Garden. IBG became a licensed propagator in 2018, meaning the Garden can propagate these special plants for use throughout the garden and for sale.

Plants chosen for the program exhibit these eight attributes:

  • Flourish with less water
  • Thrive in a broad range of conditions
  • Habitat-friendly
  • Tough and resilient in challenging climates
  • One of a kind/unique
  • Resist disease & insects
  • Long-lasting beauty
  • Non-invasive

There are currently over 150 plants in the program, including annuals, perennials, groundcovers, vines, and trees. A few of the favorites here at IBG include winecups (Callirhoe involucrata), ‘Marian Sampson’ hummingbird trumpet mint (Monardella macrantha), ‘Vermilion Bluffs’ Mexican sage (Salvia darcyi), and ‘Orange Carpet’ hummingbird trumpet (Zauschneria garretti). Plants being considered for the Plant Select® program are trialed in multiple locations for several years, including at Colorado State University, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and select public and private gardens in the Intermountain states. Each year the program introduces a slate of new plants.

More information about Plant Select® is available on the website, http://plantselect.org/. The website includes information about plants in the program, a gallery of design ideas, downloadable landscape designs, and retail sources. More detailed information about the plants is available in the book Pretty Tough Plants: 135 Resilient, Water-Smart Choices for a Beautiful Garden.

So, where can you buy these remarkable plants? IBG will feature many of them at our annual plant sale. IBG members can shop on Thursday, May 10th, and the sale will be open to non-members on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12th! Plant Select® plants have also been spotted at some local nurseries, so ask your favorite nursery if they carry them; if not, ask them to start! Another source is online at High Country Gardens, https://www.highcountrygardens.com/plant-finder/plant-select-plants.

IBG considers the Plant Select® program to be an invaluable resource to Intermountain gardeners, as we continue to grapple with the issues associated with future decreased water availability and changing climate.