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.
Scarlet globemallow is a welcome addition to any xeric or High Desert garden. Small coral flowers bloom from May (sometimes April) through into the fall. Although scarlet globemallow will survive with no additional moisture in our climate, once a month watering insures steady blooms. The plant is similar in appearance to S. ambigua, which can bloom coral, white, lavender and pink.
Big Bend silverleaf is the most cold hardy of the Leucophyllums and has wintered over in Amarillo, Zone 7, for 5 years so far. Possibly cold hardy to Zone 6. It is hard to beat a more attractive summer blooming shrub for small xeric spaces. After summer rainfalls, Big Bend silverleaf, native to the Big Bend National Park area, becomes covered in silver blue flowers that twinkle like jewels among its silvery gray leaves. Hard to find, it's worth searching for.
Tansy aster is an annual native to the Southwest and throughout the Plains even into Canada. Fernlike, or tansy-like (tannacetifolia) light green foliage with beautiful aster-like lavender flowers with yellow disks about 1 1/2 to 2 inches across. Blooms from late spring through fall. A once a month watering will keep the blooms coming throughout the summer. It will keep its compact shape in lean, poor soil but will become much larger in well amended soil. Minimal amending is recommended. Tansy aster is another example of our natives plants giving so much, asking so little in return.
Switchgrass is one of the best native ornamental grasses of our tall prairies. Switchgrass forms upright bunches of wide 1/2 inch green blades, with open pale purple inflorescence arising another 2 feet in late summer to fall. Switchgrass will thrive with every other week supplemental irrigation. There are many varieties of switchgrass, 'Prairie Sky' is the most drought tolerant (low, xeric) with blue blades. Other fine selections are 'Heavy Metal' with metallic lavender blue foliage turning reddish towards fall, and 'Shenandoah' with leaf blades tipped in red.
Western sand cherry is a shrub native to the northern plains favoring sandy soils. Cold and heat tolerant, and low water-use once established. Beautiful, fragrant white flowers in spring time, producing edible black cherries (however, some references advice not to eat the fruit if it is bitter).
Golden sulfur buckwheat is one of those plants you'll come across while hiking in the West and wonder why it isn't in your garden, its so adorable!
The leaves are gray-green, spatula shaped and woolly underneath, to about 2-3 inches. They form a rosette at the base. In early spring, tall, stout stems extend upward up to 2-3 feet. The bright golden flowers are nearly luminescent, appearing first as ball-like umbels (clusters), then each ball opening up to a circle of golden flowers. As the flowers age, then turn orange.
Rose of Sharon, or Althea, is another reliable old-fashioned garden plant well suited for the Texas Panhandle. My favorite cultivar is Diana because of the brilliant, pure white 4-5” flowers and somewhat glossy green leaves. Diana is also one of the smaller varieties up to about 6 - 8 feet, while others can reach 10’ tall. Similar to most altheas, 'Diana' is a prolific bloomer.
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 I had to pick my favorite plant, this is it. Long blooming and drought tolerant with only minimal maintenance of late winter cutting back, and maybe a bloom pick-me-up deadheading at mid summer. It will also re seed some so you’ll have more of them the next year. It’s fragrance is light and pleasantly of sage. Salvia greggiis are native to Texas in the Kerrville area. It is my favorite, but not the absolutely perfect plant. The stems are quite brittle and very easily break or snap off, even when you’re carefully weeding around it.
Desert globemallow is one of those native plants that keeps on giving, asking so little in return and is a worthy addition to any native or xeric garden. Typically, desert globemallow sports pretty pink flowers. though some plants will bloom white, coral or lavender. Whatever color, they are worth the addition to your sunny and dry landscape for their pleasant cheery nature. Similar to appearane to S. coccinea, a coral blooming species.
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.
Rounded mounds of green leaves on multi-forked stems put forth multitudes of fragrant purple/magenta flowers from summer into autumn. Flowers open in late afternoon (perhaps around four o'clock) and close in early morning. Cold hardy and heat and drought tolerant, after freezing in the fall, the top growth breaks away. Desert four o'clock emerges in the spring from a large root. Will not transplant well once established. Southwest native perennial is usually found in somewhat shaded areas.
Alkali sacaton is a perennial warm season bunch grass native to the Southwest. In late summer to fall, airy triangular seed heads wave above the silver green grass blades. Grows in alkali soils, many say in locations where there is moisture nearby, prefering heavy clay soils. It is quite drought tolerant once established, and long lived. It will, of course, grow bigger or smaller depending on water resources.
Gambrel oak is a common native oak species throughout the Rocky Mountain foothills and here in the Texas Panhandle as well. Often times it grows more to a tall shrub, with sufficient moisture it can mature into a small tree. Beautiful somewhat glossy lobed green leaves to 3-5 inches long. Beautiful fall foliage. Will put out a profuse amount of acorns. Gambrel oak can form a thicket. Cold, heat and drought tolerant. Inconspicous tiny red flowers appear shortly after leafing and are normally hid by the leaves.
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.
Grown in the South for decades, most people think of crape myrtle as a native American plant; it is however native to China and Japan. Small tree or large shrub that is cold hardy to Zone 7. I’ve grown the same crape myrtles for over 20 years, but they’re planted close (too close!) to my bricked house on both the northeast and northwest corners. They’ve been stem hardy, not just root hardy, and have grown up to about 10-12’. In most cases, crape myrtle will not grow into tree form in the Panhandle, but there are mature, tree size crape myrtles in Amarillo.
Unlike, S. nemorosa ‘May Night’, I don’t mind deadheading this salvia, perhaps because of its plum color it does not require as persistent deadheading. Notice the gray-green leaves of ‘Plumosa’, versus the green leaves of ‘May Night’. The stems tend to flop, but the flower stalks continue to grow and flower upright -- very strange.
Native to a large part of North America, golden rod is a pleasant addition to your native garden, and contrary to popular myth, does not cause allergies; the pollen is too heavy to be wind born. But choose a variety of Solidago that does not have invasive rhizamatous roots for lower maintenance.
Attracts bees and butterflies.
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.
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.
Virginia creeper, one of our pernicious native creepers, is a worthy low care vine for brilliant fall foliage and deep blue berries (highly toxic to humans) loved by birds. Virginia creeper normally spread by seeds in bird droppings, which is the method it came to my landscape. When spotted early, Virginia creeper easily pulls out, but if not spotted, within no time, it will cover a fence, climb a pole or cover an area. Which can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on one's view.
Prairie dropseed is smaller than both alkali or giant sacaton, more fitting for the city garden. A warm season bunch grass, prairie dropseed is a most attractive low or medium water-use grass with graceful green foliage. The seed heads emerge in late summer into fall with light pink seeds, that is said to naturalize some, but not invasively. A slow grower. Foliage turns a pleasing golden orange in the fall. Native throughout the Great Plains, including Texas. Tolerates most soil conditions.
Shrub live oak, often a medium size shrub, is native to the Southwest and the Texas Panhandle typically found in canyons, rocky cliffs and hillsides. Sometimes called a holly oak, the leaves are 3-4 inches long, spine-tipped and holly shaped bluish green leaves. It is prolific in putting out acorns. Cold hardy, heat and drought tolerant.
Many Aquilegia’s are native to the U.S. Golden columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha is a Texas and southwest native, has yellow flowers and can take more sun than some varieties. McKana's Giant is the hybrid columbine most often sold. Large beautiful bi-colored flowers dazzle in woodland and shady area. Rocky Mountain columbine, Aquelegia caerulea; and wild columbine, A. canadensis, are other common columbines. Rocky Mountain columbine is the state flower of Colorado.
Linum lewisii, the southwestern and western native perennial wildflower variety of flax was named after Meriwether Lewis, who was first to describe it during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. On July 18th, 1805, near the Great Falls of the Missouri Lewis recorded: "I have observed for several days a species of the flax growing in the river bottoms the leaf stem and pericarp of which resembles the common flax cultivated in the U'States. The stem rises to the hight of about 2 1/2 or 3 feet high; as many as 8 or ten of which proceeds from the same root.