Issue 94 20 More Great Perennials for High Altitudes

Perennials for high altitude regions have to be tough. They need to like cooler summer temps, strong, sweeping winds and intense sunlight. Plus, the soils are usually thin and lack moisture-holding humus the higher you go. All the plants on this list have been shown to tolerate altitudes of up to 8000 feet, but remember to give them some extra water and protection from sun and wind the first year as they get established.
Plant Name Bloom Light Height/Width Cold/Heat Zones Comments
Alpine aster
Aster alpinus
Pink or lavender flowers in late spring Full sun 6 to 12 in./
8 to 18 in.
3 to 8/
8 to 1
Tolerates wind and drought; intolerant of wet soil in winter.
Balloon flower
Platycodon grandiflorus
Blue, pink or white flowers in summer Full sun to part shade 6 to 36 in./
12 to 18 in.
3 to 9/
9 to 1
May need staking in windy areas. Intolerant of wet soil.
Bergenia
Bergenia cordifolia
Red, pink or white flowers in midspring Full sun to part shade 8 to 24 in./
12 to 24 in.
3 to 9/
9 to 1
Tolerates wind and drought.
Black snakeroot
Actaea racemosa
Tall spikes of white or pale pink flowers in mid- to late summer Part shade 4 to 6 ft./
2 to 4 ft.
3 to 8/
8 to 1
Tolerates high altitudes because it prefers the cool summer temperatures.
Boltonia
Boltonia asteroides
White or pale pink flowers in late summer into fall Full sun 4 to 6 ft./
2 to 3 ft.
4 to 9/
9 to 1
Tall stems stand strong in stiff winds.
Brunnera
Brunnera macrophylla
Blue flowers in midspring Part shade 12 to 18 in./
15 to 24 in.
3 to 7/
7 to 1
Tolerates wind but prefers some protection from hot sun.
Bugleweed
Ajuga reptans
Spikes of blue, pink or white in midspring Full sun to part shade 4 to 6 in./
10 to 24 in.
3 to 9/
9 to 1
Tolerates wind and drought.
Columbine meadow rue
Thalictrum aquilegiifolium
Fuzzy lavender flowers in early summer Light shade 2 to 3 ft./
2 to 3 ft.
5 to 8/
8 to 1
Tolerates wind but may need extra moisture.
Garden phlox
Phlox paniculata
Fragrant white, lavender, red or purple flowers in mid- to late summer Full sun 12 to 48 in./
12 to 36 in.
4 to 9/
9 to 1
Tolerant of wind and strong sun, although dark-colored flowers will fade quickly.
Geum
Geum chiloense
Orange and yellow flowers in early summer Full sun 15 to 30 in./
15 to 18 in.
4 to 9/
9 to 1
Tolerates drought and wind; intolerant of wet soil in winter.
Lamb’s ear
Stachys byzantina
Purple spikes in early summer, but usually grown for the felted gray leaves Full sun 8 to 12 in./
12 to 18 in.
4 to 8/
8 to 1
Tolerates wind and drought.
Lungwort
Pulmonaria longifolia
Shades of pink, blue or white flowers in early to midspring Part shade 6 to 12 in./
12 to 24 in.
3 to 8/
8 to 1
Tolerates wind and drought.
Maltese cross
Lychnis chalcedonica
Bright orange red flowers in summer Full sun 36 to 48 in./
18 to 24 in.
3 to 9/
9 to 1
Tolerant of heat but can flop in windy spots. Needs humus in the soil to keep the roots moist.
Monkshood
Aconitum napellus
Shades of blue, purple or white in mid- to late summer Part shade 2 to 4 ft./
1 to 2 ft.
3 to 7/
7 to 1
Tolerant of wind, but does best with extra moisture; plant will be shorter in dry conditions.
Obedient plant
Phystostegia virginiana
Pink or white flowers in mid summer to fall Full sun 18 to 48 in./
24 to 36 in.
3 to 9/
9 to 1
Tolerant of drought and wind. Best in poor soil, rich soils grow weak floppy stems.
Penstemon
Penstemon spp. and hybrids
Violet, purple, red, pink or white flowers in summer Full sun 4 to 72 in./
10 to 36 in.
3 to 10/
10 to 1
Tolerant of drought.
Perennial geranium
Geranium spp. and hybrids
Blue, pink or white flowers Full sun to part shade 6 to 36 in./
6 to 36 in.
3 to 9/
9 to 1
Tall varieties may flop in windy locations. Tolerates full sun in the cool summer temperatures at high altitudes, needs shade in hotter areas.
Pink coreopsis
Coreopsis rosea
Pink flowers in summer Full sun 12 to 24 in./
18 to 30 in.
3 to 8/
8 to 1
Tolerates wind, but needs moist, well-drained soil.
Spiderwort
Tradescantia hybrid
Violet, blue, red or white flowers in late spring or early summer Full sun to part shade 15 to 24 in./
15 to 24 in.
3 to 9/
9 to 1
Tolerant of wind and drought.
Spike blazingstar
Liatris spicata
Spikes of purple in midsummer Full sun 18 to 48 in./
18 to 24 in.
4 to 9/
9 to 1
Tolerates wind and drought, intolerant of wet soil in winter.