Just What Is A “Native” Shrub?

Just what is a “native” shrub?

It’s all the rage to plant natives.
Several web sites blithely suggest looking around the nearby countryside to see what’s “native”. Clearly, these folks don’t live in Alamosa.

I live on the southwest side of Alamosa and gaze out my window looking for natives. I see small sand dunes, salt grass, and what’s commonly known as “chico”. Nope, this is NOT what I want in my yard, but it’s what is native around my house.  So what to do?

I water most of my yard using a low pressure drip system so I’m not limited by Alamosa dryness for my plant selections. However, I do consider cold hardiness, elevation, and the ability to tolerate wide temperature fluctuations, wind, and alkali soil.

I tend to look for shrubs that are listed as native to Colorado or New Mexico and sometimes Wyoming. You can use the “Tree Finder” on the AlamosaTrees.net website to search for trees and shrubs that are native to Colorado or New Mexico.

The following is a list of my favorite deciduous “native” shrubs, all of which are doing well in my Alamosa yard.


I also have the native currants that spring up all around Alamosa.  However, I don’t have any of the native chokecherries that are popular with many folk, are drought tolerant and do well in alkaline soil.

The information in this article is mostly from “Trees for Conservation: a Buyer’s Guide” from the Colorado State Forest Service and the “Sunset Western Garden Book.”

"I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially." E.B. White