NO water use plants in Alpine Areas

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PLANTS & HORTICULTURE NO water use plants in Alpine Areas

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    I’m currently working on a LEED project that has come to a discussion of whether or not we can produce a desirable landscape solution that uses no water at all. Obviously, we can install temporary irrigation for the initial establishment, but after that it will need to survive on its own.

    The project is a commercial site in a high altitude (8500ft) area of Colorado. I have experience with low-water use plants, but would like any resources anyone has available to find out which ones will continue to survive once supplementary irrigation is taken away. I remember seeing something about the Cheyenne Zoo, but can’t find any information as to what specific plants were used.

    Any suggestions for a plant palette?

    Tanya Olson

    I think you can do it. I would also recommend the Denver Botanic Gardens – they have some really nice high elevation plant palettes. Also High Country Gardens (catalogue).

    Cheyenne is not high enough elevation to be relevant. They have a pretty nice botanic garden, though. I don’t think they have a zoo. OOh – I bet you’re thinking of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs; again not high enough, but might have some nice plants?

    Breckenridge uses russian sage, aspen, aster, grasses. Check out these guys in Crested Butte; that might give you some ideas. Most landscapes in CB have irrigation, but the native landscapes don’t and they are amazing – all kinds of crazy dogwoods that you’ve never seen anywhere else, weird lilies, blooming skunk cabbage…good luck! sounds like a fun project!

    Trace One

    Wow, what happened to the Cheyenne zoo – new owners? they used to have so much information on their non-irrigated landscape – how the plants were planted and maintained was extremely important to the success of the designs..weird..


    good luck with the project, tho,  non-irrigated is my big thing where I work – buckwheat is about the only thing I can count on, however, and it has mixed reception from everyone – I like it..this is the central valley of california – a BIT different conditions..


    : )

    Theodore Tegen

    Yarrow, coreopsis, echinacea, juniper, spruce, potentialla, any succulent hardy to the area (e.g. sedum)


    check out:


    Though they are located in MN, it is one of the best plant search engines I’ve come across.

    Tanya Olson

    I’m certain you are all thinking of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo which is not in WY, but in CO.

    There has never been a zoo in Cheyenne, WY. Here is the link to the botanic gardens, though



    I live in a mountain area and am finishing up my landscape.  I have used Ribes roezlii (sierra gooseberry) it is up to 9200 ft. but there is also the golden currant (9800 ft) and the alpine currant.

    Rob Halpern

    And the Director of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was, in fact, formerly the Horticulturist


    Yes, I was referring to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. Though it is not the same elevation, I wanted to research what they had done a little better and see what might be able to translate. Thanks everyone for the resources so far!

    Rob Halpern

    Well here are many of their exhibit plant lists (expand each section):


    Jordan Lockman

    Look into North American Rock Garden Society. They have a nice forum on their site, that you can look through. I joined the local chapter and have learned a whole lot about alpines and rock gardens. Many of the rock garden plants are the same as what you can use on green roofs.

    So sedums and succulants are the easiest to work with, silene, campunala’s, some Peonies, cold hardy cacti, penstemon, etc. 


    Here is an article that I had run into.



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