Using the Plant Finder

The Plant Finder is for educational purposes. It is a recommended list of plants that should thrive in the short growing season of our semi-arid, high desert environment. The intent of this list is to reduce water usage while encouraging greater plant variety in residential landscapes. 

This plant database is loosely based on the plant list utilized by developers, builders and designers. However, the Plant Finder is intended for residential use only and cannot be used as a reference for the Town of Castle Rock Landscape and Irrigation Performance Standards and Criteria Manual, design review or the plant list specifications. All non-residential landscapes must be designed with plants from the plant list found online at


Cultivar - many plants have been bred for desirable characteristics, such as more drought tolerance, more shade tolerance, smaller growth and additional colors. Some cultivars are mentioned by name in the plant finder. When acquiring plants, please review the specific considerations for various cultivars as they may behave differently than another cultivar.  

Deciduous - a tree or shrub that sheds its leaves during the winter.

Fire-resistant - though many plants can be resistant to fire, all plants can potentially add fuel to the fire. If this is a concern for you, we recommend you pay attention to where you place your plant material (plant more sparingly and add boulders to some areas, instead of foliage) and how you maintain it (remove all dead foliage as soon as possible). Plants that are fire-resistant generally have more moisture content, are deciduous, and have open, loose branch structures. 

Fire prone - it is recommended to create a minimum 3-foot 'defensible space' and not use fire-prone plants near utility boxes, utility meters, structures, fenced outbuildings or decks. Fire-prone plants will ignite quickly and burn readily. One such plant is juniper.

Native - plants that grow naturally in the Colorado area and tend to be more adapted to local environmental conditions.

Ornamental - plants that are best known for their decorative value.

Reproductive components - all plants have reproductive components that come in a variety of forms and sizes, such as seed, tuber, rhizome, nut, acorn, samara, pod, drupe, cone, and fruit. Reproductive components may provide an element of decoration, attract wildlife and require additional maintenance.

Shade canopy - while most trees provide some shade, a shade canopy tree is typically one that has a wider crown with full leaves and branches, providing shade to the underlying area. It is differentiated from the smaller, ornamental trees which do not provide as much shade.

Water requirements- given our arid environment, plants usually need supplemental water during the growing season.

  • Very low water - requires less than 5 inches
  • Low water - requires less than 10 inches
  • Medium water - requires less than 15 inches
  • High water - requires more than 15 inches
  • Drought tolerant - once established, plants will only require periodic irrigation, especially during long, dry periods.

Wildlife - grazing wildlife appreciate any plants high in moisture content, especially new buds. They tend to graze more frequently when regular food supplies are low such as in late winter and early spring. The best deterrents for deer are fences and physical barriers. Some spray-on repellents can deter deer as do plants with fuzzy or leathery leaves, thorns or if they produce a strong scent.


The Plant Finder list of plants and descriptions primarily come from The Xeriscape Plant Guide 100 Water-Wise Plants for Gardens and Landscapes by Denver Water.

The Denver Botanic Garden is the ideal location to see many of the plants listed in the Castle Rock Plant Finder. Many of the pictures provided were taken at the Denver Botanic Gardens (with permission).

Photos and plant descriptions were also provided by Plant Select, Little Valley Wholesale Nursery, Garden In A Box and the CSU Extension Master Gardeners.

Plant Select® is a nonprofit collaboration of Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and professional horticulturists. Its mission is to seek out and distribute the very best plants for landscapes and gardens from the inter-mountain region to the high plains and beyond.

Garden In A Box is an offering from The Center for ReSource Conservation (CRC) with professionally designed gardens containing perennial, xeric plants. Castle Rock Water partners with CRC to provide these gardens, as well as several other conservation services, to our customers.

CSU Extension Office is a great resource for plant (and animal) information specific to Douglas County. They have several xeric plant demonstration gardens in Castle Rock including at the CSU Extension Office, 410 Fairgrounds Road, and Douglas County Government Office, 301 Wilcox St.