Denver YIMBY: Say Yes to Native Plants in your Backyard!

Here's something to be positive about – the native plant gardening revolution. Thanks, in part, to people like author Douglas Tallamy, who wrote “Nature's Best Hope”, we are all reconsidering our extensive lawns and non-native landscapes and are starting to plant native plants. Looking for native plants? Scroll to the bottom of this post for resources including free native plant swaps!


“Chances are you never thought of your garden—indeed, all of your property—as a wildlife preserve that presents the last chance we have for sustaining plants and animals that were once common throughout the U.S. But that is exactly the role our suburban landscapes are playing.” – Douglas Tallamy Native plants are simply easier to care for, require far less (if any) supplemental water, and they support wildlife like songbirds, bumblebees and butterflies. It's a win-win-win.


One of the things we learned from this book is not to look at every insect as a pest. They're bird food! Chickadee parents have to find, catch and feed their nestlings between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars before they leave the nest. That's a lot of caterpillars! Birds don't eat just seeds, they eat insects by the thousands! So next time you see a caterpillar, ant, spider or moth... remember – they're bird food! Don't poison them.


Planting native plants and trees helps support more wildlife and insects (bird food) and so you'll start to see a lot more life in your backyard! Native plants bring in beneficial predators like birds, lacewings, dragonflies, ground beetles, assassin bugs, and hoverflies which will all help you keep pests like aphids and mosquitoes under control.


A well balanced ecosystem with native plants doesn't have the pest issues like non-natives and turf has – the invasive Japanese Beetle, for example, doesn't like most native plants but they love our huge irrigated lawns and roses!


Where to begin? Start with taking out a small section of your lawn and plant beautiful blooming natives like Black Eyed Susans, Penstemons, Gayfeather, Wine Cups, Chocolate Flowers (yes, they do smell just like chocolate,) Hardy Geraniums, or gorgeous native cactus with their brilliant blooms.

Landscape Design from "Low-Water Native Plants for Colorado Gardens: Front Range & Foothills" from the Colorado Native Plant Society

To find lots of native plant ideas and garden designs for your area in Denver, check out this guide from the Colorado Native Plant Society: Low-Water Native Plants for Colorado Gardens: Front Range & Foothills (Download PDF »)

This guide is packed with information on native plants and trees that will thrive in our Denver climate. It also has beautiful Landscape Designs that will help you plan a beautiful native garden that has visual interest and rotating blooms all summer. These plants thrive in the dry heat of summer here in Denver, as they put down deep roots unlike that of our traditional turf lawns, which brown quickly in the summer without tons of water!

Where to Get Native Plants in Denver?

Ask your local nurseries if they have native plants or sections. The more of us who ask, the more likely they will start stocking more native plants! Here are some more resources:

Where To Buy Native Plants » (PDF download from the Colorado Native Plant Society)

Native Plant Seed & Seedling Swaps

You can also checkout all the FREE Seed Swaps and Seedling Swaps hosted by local pollinator groups like People and Pollinators and Front Range Wild Ones. These are a great place to learn more about native plants, talk to other gardeners, and adopt native plant seeds or seedlings to plant in your landscape. These events don't usually even require you bring anything if you're just getting started! The great thing about native plants is that they often produce a lot of seeds, gardeners who start seeds always have too many to know what to do with so are happy to share the abundance!


Here are some native plant swaps coming up:

Denver Pollinator/Native Plant SWAP & GIVEAWAY

Sunday June 12, 2022

9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Location: EarthLinks - 2746 W 13th Ave, Denver, CO 80204 The event is *FREE* to attend and open to the public. Bringing plants to swap is encouraged but not required to participate! Our main goal is to educate our Metro Denver communities, and to encourage the growing of native, locally sourced, pollinator friendly species to promote sustainable landscaping practices in the parcels our communities steward. Learn more, share & RSVP at: https://www.facebook.com/events/722089608933696


Fort Collins Native and Pollinator-Friendly Plant Swap

June 18, 2022

9:00 am - 2:00 pm

Fort Collins Native and Pollinator Plant Swap will be part of the City of Fort Collins Xeriscape Garden Party. Come enjoy the fair and check out the plant swap to pick up some native and pollinator plants and if you can, share some too! More details soon at: Front Range Wild Ones