Native Texas Panhandle soils amended with between 2-4 inches compost or other organic and/or amendments.
Low growing, drought tolerant evergreen groundcover that becomes covered in tiny sky blue flowers in early spring for about 6 weeks, then sporadically throughout the year. I’ve seen a few twinkling blue blooms in every month of the year. The tiny leaves of V. pectinata are gray-green and tomentose. Allow plenty of room for the spread of this fabulous groundcover; it’ll just keep going and going and going. And you won’t want it to stop.
Texas red yucca is technically not a yucca, but has many of the same qualities as yuccas. Thick, succulent dark olive green leaves grow out of the base, as it is stemless. The coral red flowers appear at the top of a long raceme, often 4-6 feet tall. 'Yellow' and 'Red' blooming yuccas are also available. Although it's natural range is north eastern Mexico and West Texas, it is cold hardy throughout much of the Southwest. Allow for sharp drainage in moister climates to prevent root rot.
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.
Lindheimers muhly grass is native to the Edwards Plateau of Texas. It is cold hardy and heat tolerant, a tall, warm season bunch grass. It forms a good size ornamental specimen with upright blue green or blue gray blades and tall showy, almost spike like inflorescences in late summer. Not as large as pampas grass, it is a better native alternative. There are two muhly grasses native to the Southwest, Muhlenbergia asperifolia, scratchgrass, and M.
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.
Although usually sold as Clemantis paniculata, it could be C. terniflora. Sweetly fragrant, low water-use vigorous growing vine for great late summer display. Creamy white flowers form silvery seed heads. Cut back in spring as it blooms on new growth.
Heucheras are native to the North American continent and make wonderful foliage and flower plants for your woodland border. Grown mostly for its interesting, evergreen foliage, coral bells will continue to flower on mature plants if kept deadheaded into the summer. Although the native heucheras are great in themselves, there are hundreds of hybrid cultivars to choose from.
Oenothera macrocarpa, and O. missouriensis have been used interchangeably. Native over a wide range including the plains and wooded areas, carries the common name, Missouri evening primrose, bigfruit sundrops and Ozark Sundrops.
There are several varieties of Salvia guaranitica that range in shades of blue from light to dark. As with most of the tube-shaped salvia flowers, S. guaranitica is a hummingbird magnet.
Native to South America, S. guaranitica is not zoned cold hardy for the Texas Panhandle, but it has wintered over in protected Amarillo gardens in many locations for many years. It has wintered over for me at least 5 years, unprotected. Deadheading is not required.
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’.
Santa Fe phlox is rarely available even at native plant nurseries, but when it is, don't pass it up. Sun loving and drought tolerant, the Santa Fe phlox blooms late spring throughout the summer with once a month watering. Five petaled, small pink flowers about an inch across with a small white eye can cover the plant. Native to canyons, mesas, and rocky desert slopes from West Texas to southeastern Arizona and into northern Mexico. Seeds of the phlox pop out when they are mature, making seed collection and propagation difficult.
Cypress vine is a native annual tropical vine of the Americas, but has naturalized in Florida and the Gulf Coast areas; said to be cold hardy to Zone 6. Fine lacy or thread-like leaves twine as it grows, putting on scarlet red flowers in summer. In addition to being a climber, it can be used as a groundcover.
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.
Snowberry is a woody plant that spreads from the roots, sending up arching branches every couple of inches to about 3-4 feet high. The small green leaves are pleasant as are the white spring flowers, followed by the remarkable pearly white berries. During the summer, I inspect the snowberry bush weekly for signs of the berries. They never remain long on the bush, as the birds quickly devour them (they're said to be toxic to humans). Snowberries thrive in part shade and medium to low/medium watering. they easily propagate by digging out and transplanting the roots.
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.
Elephand ears are plants grown from corms (called bulbs, but not true bulbs), with large leaves on upright stems. Colocasia leaves point downward (Alocasia leaves point upward). Colocasia gigantum and C. esculenta are two species most often used. These plants are grown primarily for their foliage and prominant veining, rather than flowers. The flowers are typical aroid type with a white to yellow or light green spathe, and may not even flower in shorter growing seasons.
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.
Gorgeous! Luscious goblet shaped lemon yellow flowers on this native wildflower that also develops elongated seed capsules. The lighter, silvery sheen of the leaves distinguishes the O. macrocarpa var. incana subspecies, and is also an evening to morning bloomer.
1997 Perennial Plant of the Year was chosen for it versatility in growing in many different regions of the US. And it will grow in our Panhandle gardens as well. Although reported to be drought tolerant once established, it does much better in a medium water-use environment with afternoon shade. When it is excessively hot and dry, it suffers from stress, but usually survive. Just give it a little more water when this happens.
Attractive to bees and butterflies. Seedlings may happily appear in springtime. Native to Europe and Central Asia.
Yuccas for Texas High Plains Landscapes
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.
Lantana urticoides (horrida) is a native perennial, and cold hardy for most of the state, except for areas in the Texas Panhandle. In the Panhandle, several species of Lantana are sold as summer bedding plants. Blooms prolifically summer and fall. Colors normally available are red, red and yellow, yellow, white and purple or mauve. In rare cases they may winter over. In areas south, lantana will grow into a shrub. The blue/black fruit clusters are poisonous.
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.
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.