Sure, those tropical carrion flowers are incredibly beautiful, and as a bonus, they smell like rotting meat. But are they really going to thrive in a backyard in Boulder?
If your green thumb actually has coloration that's closer to black than jade, take heed -- you can't pick and choose plants willy-nilly and expect them to survive in your yard. You can easily spend hundreds or thousands of dollars hoping that various a species or two will finally stay alive for more than a week or two. Or you might spend that much trying to eliminate a non-native, invasive plant that has taken control of the entire place after you made the boneheaded mistake of planting it.
For starters, you can get a rough idea of whether a plant will survive by checking an interactive map like the ones from the National Gardening Association, Better Homes and Gardens, or Mother Earth News. But don't depend on solely little colored climate region maps that supposedly show places that are suited for certain plant types. Success depends on more than weather patterns. Soil type, other plant life, animals, and many other variables also factor into the equation.
When it comes to picking plants, experienced local gardeners can offer tips that will save you a ton of time and money. Local government agencies, like a county extension and university horticulturists, also are happy to help you determine which plants work best in the area, and how to avoid the kinds of foliage that amount to no more than pestilence.
Finally, consider substituting vegetables for less functional plants. The Great Recession has helped boost gardening by more than 20% in the United States, as people look for ways to lower their food costs and have higher quality food [source: NGA].