Plants that will live in areas that experience 90-120 heat days (AHS Heat Zone 8) each year where temperatures exceed 86 degrees F. Except for a few limited areas in the Texas Panhandle, our AHS Heat Zone is 8. Plants rated lower than AHS Heat Zone 8 may not survive the summer's heat.
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.
Most gardeners’ acquaintance with veronicas is with the Veronica spicatas, ‘Red Fox’, ‘Icicle’, and ‘Sunny Border Blue’; the tall, spiky red, white and blue medium and high water-use veronicas. But consider the low water-use option, V. incana. Deadhead to prolong the blooms and water deeply once a month, once established in well-drained soil. The gray-green leaves should be a give-away by now as to its water requirements.
Rudbeckia is advertised as heat and drought tolerant, but I have not found it so. I’ve found it to require at least weekly watering during the heat of the summer. A shortlived, southern native perennial, it likes the humidity and rain from southern climes. These very large and stunning composites may be worth your effort, just place within the correct hydrozone.
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.
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.
Broom snakeweed is a small mounded subshrub with yellow greenish thread-like leaves, native throughout the Southwest and western half of the North American continent. In the fall, it becomes covered in small golden yellow flowers. Bees and nectar butterflies are attracted to it in numbers. Usually grows to only a foot tall.
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.
Turpentine shrub is an evergreen shrub native to the southern parts of the Southwest, and only marginally cold hardy on the Caprock. It will survive when in a sheltered location and soil with excellent drainage, along rocky cliffs, outcrops and arroyos. Avoid compact clay soil, or amend clay soil very well for drainage with inorganic amendments. Yellow autumn flowers.
Three leaf sumac is medium height woody shrub native to the Texas Panhandle and throughout the Southwest. Three distinctive cleft and lobed leaves (trifoliate) are medium to dark green. Small greenish yellow flowers in spring are followed by tart red berries in summer, which are used to make a lemonade-like drink. The shrub's flowers have a pleasant fragrance, even though it is called skunkbush by some. Beautiful golden and reddish fall foliage. Cold hardy to Zone 4, yet extremely heat and drought tolerant. Prefers sandy and well drained soils.
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.
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.
Outstanding shrubby perennial fragrant herb for the garden! Very good soil drainage is the key to growing lavender, it does not like moist, compacted clay soil. Lavender appreciates supplemental irrigation every 2-4 weeks, if not provided naturally. Trim back in late winter or early spring by not more than a third, or just trim down last years flower stems. Triming too much off the plant will kill it.
‘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.
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’.
This variety purchased from Sunshine Nursery in Clinton, Oklahoma is drought tolerant, I've planted it in a low water-use bed. The flowers are so dense and golden, it looks like a golden torch. Sometimes seen as Solidago speciosa rigidiuscula, 'Wichita Mountains'
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.
Arizona rosewood is one of the few native evergreen trees or tall shrubs that are low water-use. Underused in the Texas Panhandle, mostly due to lack of availability. But with searching in Albuquerque or Santa Fe, one should be able to locate a specimen. Faster growing than the Chisos rosewood. Long slender, serrated, glossy green leaves with white flowers in summer.
Two southern native hibiscus suitable for the medium to high water-use garden. Large green leaves are superseeded by very large and showy flowers. H. moscheutos is cold hardy and has some of the largest flowers, up to a foot across in red, rose and white, usually with a red eye. H. coccineus blooms scarlet 3 inch flowers -- not cold hardy but worth trying as a specimen container plant.
It is so refreshing to see the rain lilies bloom after a long hot summer. Whenever they begin to bloom, I know the worst heat is over. Rain lilies are a delightful flower that sends up glossy green, grass-like leaves from its bulb in late spring. In mid to late summer, pure white flowers resembling a crocus open and continue through September, usually after a good summer rainfall. There are quite a few species and varieties (of various colors) of Zephrantes, however, Z. candida is the only rain lily cold hardy in Amarillo. I've grown it successfully since 2008.
Cliff fendlerbush is another Texas and Southwest native shrub too little used in the xeric landscape. Springtime lifts the cliff fendlerbush above the ordinary into prominence in the landscape. It is said the ravines and arroyos look dotted with snow from a distance, so profuse are the fragrant, creamy white, sometimes with a pink tinge, four petaled flowers in May and June. It's natural element is rocky arroyos (rupicola=rock dweller), cliff ledges and limestone soils with good drainage that average 12-18 inches of moisture with hot sunny days.
The vitex, or chaste tree is a small tree or a very large shrub, depending on water and climate, and is cold hardy to the Texas Panhandle. Low water-use once established, it can grow well in higher water zones. It is called the summer lilac because of the similarities of its flowers to the lilac shrub. Vitex varieties can be found in blue, lavender, and pink fragrant flowers. The leaves are similar to those of the marijuana plant. Vitex will sucker, especially when given ample water. It is native to southern Europe and Western Asia.
Small green gray evergreen leaves forms mounded, low growing xeric plant with small white flowers in late spring. Does not spread vigorously. Easily propagated by root cuttings. An alpine from the Balkans region.
Delicate fern like foliage for your shaded woodland areas. Will grow in a low water-use zone, however, the foliage will disappear in summer. Delicate tubular, yellow. White and blue varieties have been available locally. An excellent choice for underplanting trees, especially for a medium water-use zone. Will reseed.
The only draw back to this pretty, silver-edged groundcover is its flowers! If only it didn’t, it would be a perfect no maintenance, no water groundcover for hot, sunny locations. You can see the tiny ball shaped flower heads in the picture, which look rather indistinct. However, after flowering, they turn an ugly shade of brown that mar the beautiful leaves unless you shear them off. Though a creeping groundcover, silver-edged horehound is not invasive like the common horehound, M. vulgare.
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.