Sandy soil is soil where a majority of particles are large, from .05 mm to 2 mm in diameter, that drains quickly but holds nutrients poorly. Sandy soil can have differing combinations of clay, sand and silt, but the major percentage of particles is sand.
Western ironweed is a prairie native to the Great Plains states. Mid-summer to fall deep purple flowers clusters appear at the top of stalks. Ironweed can be invasive, rooting madly down to a foot so control could be difficult. Drought tolerant and cold hardy for the right location.
Yaupon holly is a tall shrub or a small tree growing typically to 8-12 feet in the Texas Panhandle. Cold hardy to Zone 7 (still best to plant in a protected location), it prefers partial shade, especially afternoon shade. Low (once established) to high water use. Small leathery, glossy, evergreen, dark green leaves (to 1.5” long) have toothed margins on dense branching. Insignificant greenish white flowers in springtime followed by red berries in the fall. Female plants require a male plant to pollinate and bear fruit (dioecious). Attractive tall, traditional looking shrub.
Spring blooming crocus is a favorite among gardeners, heralding the end of winter. Many species of crocus can actually bloom in winter months. I've seen crocus bloom as early as mid Janurary, although February and March are more common. There are many different species of crocus, most people choose them by color, height or bloom period. Their colors range from yellow to purple, lavender, violet and white, some in combination of colors. Commonly, Crocus chrysanthus, C. venus, and C. angustifolius. C.
Although usually sold as Clemantis paniculata, it could be C. terniflora. Sweetly fragrant, low water-use vigorous growing vine for great late summer display. Creamy white flowers form silvery seed heads. Cut back in spring as it blooms on new growth.
Russian sage is a must have shrub for every low water-use landscape. Russian sage is used extensively throughout our southwest landscapes, planted along with Buddleia, Carl Forester Reed Grass, Salvia greggii cultivars, Anisacanthus quadrifidis wrightii and Hesperaloe parviflora. It is hard to beat its use where a long flowering, showy, low care, drought tolerant shrub is needed.
Lower growing Southwestern native shrub, both cold and heat tolerant. Finely cut greenish silver leaves. Flower stalks with insignificant flowers. Grows best in soils with good drainage. Will grow in heavy clay soil if grown among grasses.
Golden current makes an attractive taller shrub at the edge of a lawn or vegetable garden, positioned to catch extra irrigation water. For three stunning weeks in spring it will be covered with tiny yellow flowers. I planted two in 2008, and have yet to notice the tasty berries, red currents, for which they are known. Quite cold hardy, if placed in full sun, it'll need twice a month watering to survive, or in half or more shade, once a month watering is sufficient. Multi stem shrub with small, rounded leaves with cut edges makes an attractive barrier or hedge plant.
Perennial vine native to the Southwest. Late summer to fall bloom with slender, thin whitish sepals, followed by attractive plumes that are feathery seed clusters. The vine is valued for it's delicate beauty of leaf, flower and plume and drought tolerance. Clematis drummondii is a larval host and/or nectar source for the fatal metalmark butterfly.
White flowering zinnia is native to the Southwest and Northern Mexico. A low mounding plant, it becomes completely covered with small white flowers with a central yellow disk, similar to our native prairie zinnia, Zinnia grandiflora. Blooms from June through fall. Desert zinnia is toxic if ingested by humans.
Junipers are native to much of the U.S. and come in many sizes and shapes. Juniperus horizontalis is the low growing and spreading juniper, used mainly as an evergreen groundcover. There are many varieties available, one or more to suit every purpose and location. Colors and heights vary from the common dark green evergreen to blue green, blue and even lime or chartruese. Their hallmark is their fine texture, many of the newer varieties have a pleasant soft touch. Water use can vary as well, but typically, once established many will thrive on once a month deep watering.
Daffodils are the most notable of the spring bulbs. Reliable from year to year, daffodils can be depended upon to bloom even when faced with late season blizzards and are unpalatable to deer and squirrels. Daffodils aren't too particular about soil, but do better in amended soil, planted about 4 inches deep in October to December. Typical bloom times are February through April, depending on the variety, and there are thousands of varieties to choose from.
The old fashioned larkspur is a drought tolerant reseeding annual, previously associated with delphiniums (now in the Ranunculaceae family). I’ve grown it in my alley, in the xeristrip, and its crept into my medium water-use zone. Deadheading keeps millions of tiny seeds from overcoming your garden next year, and also keeps the blooms coming. Larkspur can flower for six weeks. Again, deadheading is important to prevent a massive infestation throughout your landscape.
Salvia argentea is a first class drought tolerant biennial to add texture to your xeristrip. Light gray green tomentose (hairy) foliage adds contrast against accent rocks. This biennial will flower the second year, but I could do without the sticky, and somewhat unsightly stalk whose white flowers open in succession and quickly turn brown. Cutting off the stalks only encourages the plant to send up more sticky stalks. The leaves of the plant may appear to mimic Lamb’s Ears, however, they are not tough and resilient, tears easily, and are shredded by hail.
Black dalea, an autumn blooming southwest native shrub, should be used more in the home xeric landscape. Growing only to about 3 feet, black dalea spreads out with thin, wiry branches and small, green, compound leaves. The shrub becomes completely covered with tiny purple flowers as to be enshrouded in a purple cloud.
Many references are unsure of its cold hardiness to zero, and it had thrived nicely in my city garden in Amarillo. However, it does not seem to be reliably cold hardy. It's a beautiful shrub that provides stunning late fall color that is worth replanting.
You can't have just one. As soon as you plant one, you'll have a drift, then a sweep, then a field if you have the space. But I still don't consider the prairie coneflower to be invasive, merely pleasant. Next to the Indian Blanket, the Mexican Hat shouts Southwest prairies. And its a tough hombre. If your stand becomes too dense or too much, just weed some out. They're adaptable to most native soils and will thrive on available or once a month supplementation. Coneflowers bloom yellow, reddish or brown late spring into fall and make an attractive display when mixed.
Native to the plains, Coreopsis tinctoria, has naturalized throughout most of the U.S., especially in disturbed soil. Prefers moist sandy soil. An annual, it may last more than one year. Very showy flower with yellow outer rays, with a maroon blotch towards the center ray. Sow seeds in early spring. Heat tolerant, once a month watering is recommended for well drained soil.
Blue grama grass is a short, clumping warm season grass with thin blue green blades that is native throughout the Great Plains and Southwest. Able to grow in poor, dry soils, blue grama grass needs only about 12 inches of annual precipitation to survive. If seeded thick enough and with moderate irrigation, blue grama will form turf. Once establish, reduce to monthly supplemental irrigation, and mow not more frequently than monthly to a height of 4 inches. One advantage of blue grama over buffalograss is the speed of germination; it will germinate in 5-7 days.
One-seed juniper is the juniper found in the dry hills and mesas throughout our area and the Southwest in elevations from 3500 to 8000'. Slow growing on top, it's tap root grows quickly and deeply, making them very difficult to transplant. It's habit is shrubby with several stems and branches growing low to the ground, making it a good habitat plant. Extremely drought, heat and cold tolerant.
Beautiful xeric sage with aromatic soft gray green leaves, mostly evergreen. Summer to fall blooming with mauve/purple sticky but fragrant flowers. Takes a few years to reach mature height. Requires good drainage and dry soil in the winter. A Plant Select® Plant. Native to California and will grow in the High Desert regions. Cold hardy to Zone 5 and quite heat tolerant.
First class native wildflower for your low water-use location whether you live in the city or country. No soil amending is even needed for Engelman's daisy, but you might want to improve the drainage if you soil is compact, or amend with some organic matter for caliche soil. Toowell amended soil will cause E. pinnatifida to grow too tall and gangly. If this happens, cut down nearly to the ground at the end of June, or mid July. It will grow back and begin flowering within 3 - 4 weeks. Will reseed some.
The flowers of Salvia darcyi are similar in appearance to Salvia greggii, however the shrub itself is more herbaceous than shrubby. I know of no common name for S. dacryi. Some sources say it is cold hardy to Zone 7, however it thrives in Denver Botanical Garden’s Zone 5. S. darcyi is native to the mountains of Northern Mexico and will do well in amended soil. Hummingbirds love it.
I have it planted in my xeristrip for a number of years. It will flower more vigorously with irrigation everyother week, when needed during hot drought years.
If you find yourself in Palo Duro Canyon at the end of April or beginning of May, the purple haze dotting the cliffsides is feather dalea. Sporadic blooms will open after showers throughout summer, though never as profuse as in springtime. With monthly irrigation in a xeric garden, feather dalea adds color and texture with it's twiggy, but sturdy, appearance. Small purple flowers combined with white plumes carries the haze impression from a distance.
Another tough and pretty wildflower that populates a wide area from the plains of Oklahoma down to the Chihuahua Desert and over to Colorado and Utah. Leaves are lower near the base of the plant from which stems emerge and bloom in late spring to early summer. Yellow rays with a red to brownish center.
Snow on the Mountain is a showy plant native to the plains states. Heat and drought tolerant in the Texas Panhandle. Striking variegated green and white foliage, with small white summer flowers. Can be invasive and is toxic to humans, sap of plant may cause dermatitis. Deer resistant. Control spread by deadheading.
Sand lovegrass is a warm season bunch grass typically found in sandy soils east of the Rockies over a wide range of the U.S. The grass clumps themselves are usually 12-18" tall with the plumes rising to 3-4 feet. Will grow in clay and poorer soils. Very pleasing wispy, arching habit with a soft sway and rustle in the wind. Can grow in partial shade. Seed heads are somewhat purple, fine textured. Will reseed. Low or no water-use.