Plants, whether native or non-native once established, that thrive with supplemental irrigation of one inch every other week during the growing season under average climate conditions in clay soil if that amount of moisture has not been received.
This is an improved variety to our native gaura, it is known to be short lived for 4 – 5 years, but is worth replacing periodically for its spectacular fireworks display. Placed as a focal point, G. lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies” was the plant most commented on in my front garden. Native more to eastern Texas and Louisiana, a terrific plant for city or country in a medium water-use location. Any plant with long wispy stems that flows with the wind is an asset to your border. Other cultivars to use are ‘Siskiyou Pink’ and ‘Pink Cloud’, two pink varieties.
‘Red Rocks’ is another hybrid cultivar, named for the Denver, Colorado red sandstone area and amphitheater. P. 'Red Rocks' is highly suitable for the average garden, rather than a specialized penstemon bed. Again, do not deadhead unless reblooming has occurred and you desire a tidier appearance. Don’t over water or over amend the soil, but it will thrive companionably with other medium water-use plants.
Victoria blue salvia is usually not cold hardy in the Texas Panhandle, but every once in awhile, one will winter over. But that shouldn't stop you from replanting this lovely, summer long blooming native to regions further south, classified by some to be one of the top ten flowers for Texas gardens. Upright and dense flower stalks in blue, white (Alba) and deep blue or violet. Salvia farinacea continues to be hybridized to create new introductions. Often referred to as mealycup sage, its stately appearance deserves the nobler moniker, Victoria Blue.
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.
It's hard to pass up Johnson's blue geranium with the deep blue flower and interesting foliage. A hybrid cultivar, the most blue hardy geranium with delicate, finely cut leaves. Plant in your woodland border, medium water use. For a long time this was the most well know hardy geranium, or cranesbill, as this genus is commonly known.
When the name geranium is spoken most of the time, people are referring to the genus, Pelargonium, the red flowering perennial that is used extensively throughout the world. the common Pelargonium is only cold hardy to 28°.
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.
Rarely does a shrub feature as much versatility as the blue mist spirea. It will grow and flower in sun or shade, low water-use or high. This Caryopteris, a hybrid itself, normally blooms in a pleasant light blue, but other selections have deeper blues hues. Summer blooming into fall. And as unlikely at it seems for hybrid to set viable seed, blue mist spirea reproduces itself pleasantly, never invasively. Indeed, any little volunteers are welcome.
New Mexican privet can be viewed either as a tall shrub or smaller tree. New Mexican privet will flower (tiny yellow) before leafing out with small oval glossy green leaves to be followed with black berries in the fall. Heat and drought tolerant will live in most soils and water-use areas. Attractive taller plant for the home landscape, similar to the yaupon holly in form.
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.
Cranesbill belongs to the same Geraniaceae family as do the Pelargoniums, those red, hot house geraniums we all love. Both are perennials, however many cranesbill (referred to as the true geraniums) are cold hardy for us. Alpenglow is semi-evergreen, and evergreen in warm winters. Notice the intricate cut leaf patterns, which are much admired by myself and others. A good understory plant for the edge of a shady border.
‘Mersea Yellow’ is similar to the orange red pineleaf penstemon in culture, except for requiring a bit more water. Native perennial to the Southwest. Its leaves are lighter green, but still evergreen, without the tinge of mahogany in winter. ‘Mersea Yellow’ is an excellent selection for the medium water-use zones of your landscape. One of the few yellow flowering penstemons.
Warm season native clumping ornamental grass that is well suited to the transition zone between turf and flower bed. Medium to blueish green thin grass blades form a low to medium size clump, medium water-use zone. In late September, it sends plumes upward that give the appearance of a deep pink haze or mist. There are several new selections of Gulf Coast muhly, thankfully, to choose from. Be sure to pay attention to the cold hardiness for your area and you won't be disappointed.
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.
An old world Mediterranean plant best known for the acanthus leaf shape used as a basis in classical Greek and Roman designs. The plant itself takes 2 – 3 years growth before flowering. Attractive flowers with purple bracts on tall spikes to 4’. Frost sensitive, will die back in a late spring frost, but will come back. Adds architectural and textural interest.
Green sword-like foliage with striking bell or funnel shaped flowers that last only a day. Hundreds of different hybrids and cultivars in a wide range of colors, some early, mid and late summer blooming. Daylilies do better in medium, well-amended soil and a sunny location that enjoys afternoon shade, but they are versatile. Daylily leaves may exhibit alkalinity in clay soil. If this is the case, amend well with organic matter.
The most remarkable quality of Red Dragon Persicaria is its burgundy red patterned leaves and red stems, a plant grown much more for its foliage than flowers. (The flower stalk in the upper right is of Acanthus spinosus.) Not a native (native to China) it will come back if nipped by a late frost and will suffer sunburn in afternoon sun. Red Dragon may take 3 years before flowering, however, that is not a drawback.
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.
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.
Herbaceous perennial. Fragrant hummingbird plant belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae). Limited reseeding. Does better in afternoon shade. Locate in a transition area between medium and low water use. Leave plant and flower stalks standing in the fall, the plant does better trimmed back at the beginning of March.
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.
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.
Texas betony is a workhorse of the garden once established, putting on a plethora of scarlet blooms midsummer on. A member of the mint family with square stems, the foliage is fragrant, but the plant is not invasive as classic mints tend to be. Hummingbirds love Texas betony. Though native to the Southwest, it is found in moist crevices and steep, stony places in the mountains in moist, well-drained sand, loam, and clay. Texas betony is said to be cold hardy to -20°, however, I have not found it reliable in returning each winter. Yet, it is worth replanting.
Mahonia repans is one of my favorite plants with four seasons of interest. Low growing and spreading evergreen shrub is native throughout the Rocky Mountains. Bright yellow berries in spring are followed by black berries in summer and reddish winter foliage. The leaves are thick, glossy and holly shaped. Creeping Oregon grape holly prefers amended, humusy soil that replicates its native habitat as an understory plant in woodlands, but is low water-use once established. It will spread to cover an area, but not invasive. Very attractive!
Native herbaceous perennial to the central and eastern U.S.; will grow in a variety of soils, including poor soils. False blue indigo did not flower the first year. Flowering improves as the plant matures. The foliage may go dormant and disappear towards the end of summer. Baptisias belong to the pea family (Fabaceae), a legume. Flowers are similar to a lupine. Other species colors are white (B. alba) yellow (B. sphaerocarpa), and other variations and cultivars, including 'Chocolate Chip', which features a light reddish brown flower, similar to milk chocolate.
Typically a Zone 8 plant, the Christmas holiday bulb, Amaryllis, has been successfully wintered over in Amarillo, specifically, the Wolflin area in this case. If you have a warmer, protected micro-niche, try planting your seasonal Amaryllis outdoors, and leave it there well mulched over winter. I 've winter over Amaryllis in my backyard, but it hasn't reliably bloomed. It requires a full sun location and well amended soil to soak up nutrients to be stored in the bulb.