Plants, whether native or non-native once established, that thrive with supplemental irrigation of one inch per month during the growing season under average climate conditions in clay soil if that amount of moisture has not been received.
Centranthus ruber is a versatile plant, able to be used almost anywhere in the landscape except full shade. Long blooming except during the heat of the summer. Deadhead after the spring bloom for better appearances. Reseeds some, but not a problem. Quite drought tolerant, it will still do nicely in medium and high water use areas, except for wet, soggy clay. It appreciates good drainage and moderate amending but will do well in poor soil. Centranthus ruber 'Alba' is a pleasant white blooming variety. Readily available at local nurseries.
A long-lived evergreen penstemon for the average bed or border. Small orange red tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, as do most red tubular flowers. Low growing and longer flowering than most, especially the more mature the specimen.
After several years, the pine needle like foliage can resemble a miniature bonsai. Pineleaf penstemon is also a must-have for the low water-use bed or border or rock garden because of its evergreen foliage and longer blooming nature. In late summer, snip off the dried, spent flower heads; some re-blooming may occur.
Wagons Ho! Rugged, ragged and windblown -- a true picture of the western and southwestern landscape. If you have a skeleton of a steer's head, now is the time to use it, along with that wagon wheel. Sometimes referred to as the western sage.
Big sagebrush is a coarse, many-branched, aromatic, pale-grey shrub with yellow flowers and light silvery-grey foliage. It flowers in late summer to early fall. The leaves are wedge-shaped with three lobes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oregon grape holly is an evergreen holly-like shrub native to the Pacific Northwest Rockies down into California. Upright, it is slow growing but can reach a height of 8 feet. Best when grown in shade, especially out of afternoon sun. Prefers a more humusy soil but will only required once a month watering when established, however, can also be placed in medium and high water-use areas. Bright yellow flowers in spring, followed by dark blue berries in summer. The thick, glossy, holly-like leaves have spines at the points. Leaves turn from green to red in winter.
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.
A good drought tolerant ground cover for use in a border, in a xeristrip or a rock garden. Evergreen grayish green leaves with fine hairs (tomentose). Will grow too tall and gangling in too rich and moist a soil. Some areas of the country have noted Cerastium tomentosum to be invasive, but I have not seen those tendencies here. A good substitute for the annual alyssium. Cerastium tomentosum var. columnae is a commonly available variety.
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.
Nandina is one of a few single species genera, a member of the barberry family (Berberidaceae). Though one species, several cultivars are available to add texture and interest to our low maintenance, low water-use landscape in either sun or shade. I plant mine in full shade, as there are few shrubs that will flower there. I personally favor protecting Nandina with afternoon shade, if planted in a sunny location.
Dark green, semi-evergreen aromatic leaves are the feature most prized, along with the tiny yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom spring to fall. Damianita prefers full sun and lean soil and does well in heat and temperatures to zero degrees. Daminaita will lose its leaves in cold winters.
Santa Fe phlox is rarely available even at native plant nurseries, but when it is, don't pass it up. Sun loving and drought tolerant, the Santa Fe phlox blooms late spring throughout the summer with once a month watering. Five petaled, small pink flowers about an inch across with a small white eye can cover the plant. Native to canyons, mesas, and rocky desert slopes from West Texas to southeastern Arizona and into northern Mexico. Seeds of the phlox pop out when they are mature, making seed collection and propagation difficult.
Gregg's mist flower is a Southwest native for the partly shaded bed medium to low water-use bed. It's a butterfly magnet, particularly for the Monarch butterfly which passes through about the same time the mist flower is bloom in late summer into fall. Masses of lavender blue flowers top the plant for which it gets it names, the appearance of blue mist. Frequently, butterflies will be seen topping the flowers. Gregg's mist flowers will spread by roots, allow it some room.
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.
Lavender cotton, or gray santolina is a low mounding woody subshrub that should live on the lean side. Not that it won't overgrow if fed. It will maintain its compact shape in poorer soils without amending or fertilizing. Small silver gray leaves cover the shrub. Tiny yellow button flowers appear in summer. Evergreen, the santolinas are native to the Mediterranean area. Aromatic and edible, it's leaves were used as a flavoring in broths, sauces and grain dishes. Low water-use.
Mat daisy is a low growing spring blooming plant. Drought tolerant. Not exactly a groundcover, as the top growth disappears during summer and reemerges as a green basal rosette in fall, getting ready to bloom again in the spring. Blooms late March to May with small white daisy-like flowers that have pink undersides. Forms a compact ground-hugging mat. Will self seed some, but never invasively.
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.
Mock orange is one of those versatile old garden shrubs you can place almost anywhere; it will even flower in deep shade. Fragrant single pure white flowers in spring that may reoccur in the fall with a much lesser show. Drought tolerant once established. The versatility and fragrance must certainly be the reasons gardeners choose mock orange, it certainly isn’t for its irregular shape. I’m afraid I haven’t shown it much respect, allowing its mostly shady corner to be littered with gardener’s menagerie of plastic pots and unused brick-o-brack.
Low growing, drought tolerant evergreen groundcover that becomes covered in tiny sky blue flowers in early spring for about 6 weeks, then sporadically throughout the year. I’ve seen a few twinkling blue blooms in every month of the year. The tiny leaves of V. pectinata are gray-green and tomentose. Allow plenty of room for the spread of this fabulous groundcover; it’ll just keep going and going and going. And you won’t want it to stop.
I prefer dwarf chamisa to the full size species. Dwarf Chamisa fits better into home xeric areas and has green leaves, rather than gray or silvery. It's silvery stems combine well with its green foliage and yellow gold flowers. Although given the species and variety name "nauseosus" it has a pleasant fragrance. Dwarf chamisa blooms profusely in late summer and will readily re-seed.
The Arizona rosewood is classified either as a quite tall shrub or short to mid height tree. One of it's best features is that it is evergreen, with slender glossy green leaves approximately 3 inches long. It puts on small white flowers in summer. One of the few drought tolerant, native, evergreen trees available in the trade. Slow growing.
Cypress vine is a native annual tropical vine of the Americas, but has naturalized in Florida and the Gulf Coast areas; said to be cold hardy to Zone 6. Fine lacy or thread-like leaves twine as it grows, putting on scarlet red flowers in summer. In addition to being a climber, it can be used as a groundcover.
Buffalograss is North America's only native turfgrass, grows well in clay soils. A warm season grass that spreads by stolons, it is our best selection for low water-use lawns. It will survive very nicely on 15-20 inches of annual precipitation. For green turf summer long, a once a month watering is all that is needed. The common species is short to 4-8 inches, light gray/green to blue/green and goes dormant in fall, greening up again in May. Many newer varieties are being developed for wider blades and deeper green colors, such as Legacy® and Turffalo®.