A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
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.
Low water-use non-native hybrid shrub (Artemisia arborescens x Artemisia absinthium) from Europe and Asia. Vigorous grower, do not overwater. Coldy hardy to Zone 6. Ever-silver with elegant finely cut leaves. 'Powis Castle' is named for Powis Castle in Wales. Rarely flowers.
For more information and a list a gray and silver leaved plants, read Fifty Shades of Gray, my most viewed page.
Littleleaf mockorange is native throughout the foothills, dry rocky slopes and open woodlands from 4000 to 8000' in the Southwest usually growing to only 4 feet. This native mockorange is similar in form to the European import, they are fragrant, but not of orange. Attractive white, 4 petaled flowers bloom in early summer, small slightly glossy green leaves. Coldy hardy, heat and drought tolerant.
Native evergreen shrub that makes an excellent hedge plant and wind break. Its blue-green prickly leaves keep the unwanted out (to a point). Please allow room for its spread.
A habitat plant for shelter and as a food source of food for birds and other wildlife that is an attractive addition to the home landscape, where an evergreen shrub is called for in a sunny spot. Sun yellow flowers in March. Cold hardy to -20°, algerita can be found growing from 4000 to 7000 ft. in elevation in Texas, the southwest and Mexico.
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.
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).
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.