A succulent is a plant that has fleshy or fattened leaves that are used as a storage vessel for water. Succulents, in a broader sense, include plants where the succulent part is a stem or root, including geophytes.
Agaves are striking and architectural Southwest native plants and are included in a group of plants I term Southwest evergreens. They are unusual in that at maturity, they only flower once, and then die. for this reason, some classify them as multiannual, rather than perennial. However, as they common name suggests, it takes many years before they flower. Leaves of the Agave are arranged in a spiral beginning from a near invisible stem, forming a rosette.Agaves vary in size from 4-6 inches to larger than man-size.
Not all succulents are cacti, nearly all cacti are succulents (a few exceptions). Nearly all cactus species are native to the Americas, providing a prickly evergreen presence. There are many cactus that are cold hardy for the Texas Panhandle. There might be one for your garden.
Fame flower, flame flower, or rock pink, is a Midwestern native succulent. Ideally suited to western rock gardens, short fleshy narrow leaves emerge in late spring, followed by wiry stems where tiny rose/pink flowers open up each afternoon. In fall, the top foliage dies off and the plant heads underground for the winter. Because of it's unusual nature, it can be tucked in anywhere at the front of a border, just don't forget where you've planted it when doing spring cleanup. Reseeds slightly.
Phemeranthus calycinum was formerly known as Talinum calycinum.
Bear grass is similar in appearance to yucca and clumping grass, but is neither. Usually found growing in high desert areas, along cliffs and rocky slopes. Thin succulent grasslike yellow-green leaves emerge from a trunkless center, are pointed and sharp edged. A plume-like inflorescence with many tiny cream colored flowers emerges early summer. Cold hardy, drought and heat tolerant.
Texas beargrass is a grass-like perennial evergreen plant native in rocky and limestone soils from central Texas to the upper Rio Grande Plains and west to the Trans-Pecos and into S.E. Arizona. Not a true grass, Texas sacahuista is a member of the lily (Liliaceae ) family. It flowers in Amarillo in early April. A short flowering stem barely rises above the many thin leaves. The flowers appear rose or reddish on the outside before opening, are numerous, white to cream colored forming dense vertical clusters.
There are many different sedum species and varieties of this delightful spreading groundcover. I took this picture on a garden tour in Angel Fire New Mexico, and have not been able to identify it yet. It is easy to see from the picture how it got its common name, stonecrop. Sedum groundcovers spread nicely in a low to medium water use area of gritty, well drained soil, and will do just fine in afternoon shade.
The Crassulaceae family of plants fascinates me, and the sedums are one of its larger genera. I first saw ‘Frosty Morn” featured on a gardening program from Iowa, so I wondered whether it’d be drought tolerant. Shortly afterwards, I found it at our local nursery and planted in my xeristrip. It has never faltered. The only disfiguring occurrence is a little nipping by grasshoppers during early summer, which has never seemed to harm it, or other large leafed sedums.
Sedum, ‘Autumn Joy’ is one of those foolproof additions to your autumn garden, so aptly named; for the joy it brings to the autumn garden. Easily propagated by stem cuttings or root division. As with most sedums, afternoon shade helps. Grasshoppers have nibbled at its leaves in early summer without stunting the plant’s flowering ability.
There are numerous interesting yuccas to choose from besides the Yucca glauca or Y. angustifolia seen throughout our area. Y. filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ has some of the most striking variegation and will even flower in part shade, cold hardy to Zone 5. Other Y. filamentosa varieties to consider growing in our area are ‘Bright Edge’ and ‘Golden Sword’.
Dasylirion is one of the plants I call a southwest evergreen. Different in appearance from traditional evergreen shrubs, it fulfills the same purpose in native and xeric landscapes. Symmetrical rosette of narrow leaf blades or leaves emanating from the center of the rosette. Barbs lining the margins of the thick pale green leaves give Dasylirion another common name, sawtooth yucca. As Sotol ages, a trunk may form under the rosette and even multiple heads may develop. At maturity, an 8-10 foot tall flower spike ascends from the center where thousands of small creamy white flowers open.
Texas red yucca is technically not a yucca, but has many of the same qualities as yuccas. Thick, succulent dark olive green leaves grow out of the base, as it is stemless. The coral red flowers appear at the top of a long raceme, often 4-6 feet tall. 'Yellow' and 'Red' blooming yuccas are also available. Although it's natural range is north eastern Mexico and West Texas, it is cold hardy throughout much of the Southwest. Allow for sharp drainage in moister climates to prevent root rot.