Baby Blue rabbitbrush
When I was in high school in a student exchange program, Jen from Sydney, Australia came to Colorado in the fall. It wasn’t until we took a road trip down to the Royal Gorge area did she say, “This area looks exactly like a John Wayne movie. This is always how I imagined the American west to look.” She never said that about the suburbs of Denver. Have we gotten that far away from our regional “reality”? With our bluegrass lawns and Maple and Honeylocust trees we have lost some of the reality of the American west. People from other parts of the world often have a clearer image of the American west than we who live here. Why do we so often alter it to look like somewhere else? Growing native plants that love the sun, tolerate the wind and cold as well as drought is a sensible way of reclaiming the natural beauty of our region.
Everything old is new again, from the remaking of ‘True Grit’ to Plant Select® “reintroducing” Baby Blue Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus var. nauseosus). This great native plant loves the sun, endures the wind and cold and is very drought tolerant. Baby Blue features needle-like, vivid blue leaves and is more compact than the straight species. Bright yellow flowers cover it in late summer and extend well into November. Butterflies love it. One year I had hundreds of Painted Lady Butterflies covering the blooms. I have a soaker hose snaking through the prairie grass for extra irrigation, but I did not need to include this plant in the loop! It is best to water as needed the first year to get your plant established. But once established, if it receives too much water it will likely need pruning to maintain a nice shape.
Group this plant with other outstanding natives such as Tall Western Sage (Artemisia tridentata) or Little Blue Stem (Schizachyrium scoparium), or even with the new Plant Select® hybrid blue grama ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’). Add even more color with past Plant Select® great plains prairie selections like, Silver Blade Evening Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa subsp. incana), Prairie Jewel Penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus), and just for fun, you could add the aroma (not yet available through the movies) of chocolate with Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata). Imagine your American west – it’s easy when you plant a great native like Baby Blue rabbitbrush.
Baby blue rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus var. nauseosus)
Height: 16-24 inches
Width: 20-30 inches
Blooms: Bright yellow blossoms, September-November
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Dry to xeric (Little or no irrigation needed once established.)
Hardiness: USDA zones 4-9 (up to 8000’)
Culture: Clay, loam soils, or sandy soil
Thanks to Shalene Hiller, City of Westminster, for writing this piece.