A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
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.
Previously known as Cowenia mexicana, it is known today as Purshia stansburyana, also, P. stansburyiana. It is still commonly called a cliffrose. The cliffrose blooms prolifically in May with creamy white to pale yellow fragrant flowers that continue blooming for several weeks. Semi evergreen, it loses it's leaves in colder winters. Upright stems and branches can appear unruly in its growth pattern; small dark green resinous leaves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sumacs are known for brillian fall foliage. Ground cover woody shrub 24-30" tall with dark shiny green leaves that turn a thrilling orange-red in the fall. Small yellow flowers at springtime.
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.
Although there is question in my mind whether pavonia is a native in Texas, it’s been naturalized for a long time and is found growing in the Edwards Plateau and south Texas. Pavonia has been cold hardy for me for at least 5 – 6 years. Readily reseeds to the point of being a nuisance, but this is a minor annoyance.
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.
Winterfat, formerly Ceratoides lanata, is a drought and heat tolerant that normally is found in poor, alkaline soils throughout the Southwest in grasslands and scrublands. Winterfat is a low rounded woody shrub with pale blue green to gray leaves. The distinctive characteristic is the long wooly seed stalk it puts up in the summer. Towards winter, the stalk appears to be covered with wool.
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.
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.
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!
This variety of cinquefoil has grown in my xeristrip for six years and flowers happily from late spring into fall, with moderate flowering during the heat of the summer. Will put on a new show of flowers after summer rain. It maintains a compact shape without pruning or any maintenance.
There are many other varieties of this wonderful North American native that grows throughout the Rocky Mountains. Other varieties require moderate watering. This variety was purchased from High Country Gardens; I have not seen this truly drought tolerant variety again.
Mexican blue sage is a native of Mexico and in many references labels it cold hardy to USDA Zone 8, however, it has wintered over in Amarillo many years now, even in full northern exposure. It has died back to the ground once or twice, but comes back up from the roots. If good to well drained soil is provided, it should do fine. And I hope you can provide that, as Mexican blue sage is one of my top plants to include in xeric gardens. True bright blue flowers bloom summer and fall with once a month watering. Butterflies are attracted to it. Indispensable.
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.
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.
Shadscale lives in alkaline caliche soil in most of its native range throughout the Southwest and has a high tolerance of saline or sodic soils. Given improved soil conditions, it will grow larger. Do not improve the soil to insure it keeps its neat, compact shape. Shadscale blooms yellow flowers in early summer which mature into seed heads. Its silver-gray leaves are semi-evergreen.
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.
Yuccas for Texas High Plains Landscapes
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.
Green santolina is an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean region. Its grass-green color makes it a welcome addition to any landscape. Medium and low water use, cold hardy, sun and heat tolerant, it prefers poorer soil. Aromatic green leaves that resemble those of the cypress. Yellow button flowers in summer.
Native woody shrub to Texas, New Mexico and west to California from 3000 to 8000 feet in elevation. It is best to plant in soil with only inorganic amendments. It becomes more floppy and flowers less when fed and watered well. This is a case of less yielding more.
Reseeds some. I've never seen this as a problem. Locate in a sunny area with full exposure to the sun for best growth and backlighting. If planted against a wall or fence it will lean towards the sun and looked tipped over.