Native Texas Panhandle soils amended with between 2-4 inches compost or other organic and/or amendments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Exciting perennial ornamental oregano for your low water-use or Mediterranean style garden. Spreads slowly by rhizomes and is easily propagated by root cuttings in fall or early spring. The flowers elongate as the summer progresses, eventually drying to a papery brown by summers end. In a wet fall, some new flowers may still appear. O. libanoticum is best placed to drape over a rock to showcase it’s drooping nature.
Unlike, S. nemorosa ‘May Night’, I don’t mind deadheading this salvia, perhaps because of its plum color it does not require as persistent deadheading. Notice the gray-green leaves of ‘Plumosa’, versus the green leaves of ‘May Night’. The stems tend to flop, but the flower stalks continue to grow and flower upright -- very strange.
Grown extensively throughout the southwest, I don’t know why it has taken so long for this plant to become available in the Panhandle, especially since it is cold hardy to Zone 5.
It is a bit slow to become established, and late in coming out in the springtime – have patience and place a marker so it’s not forgotten and weeded up. Note: Early spring-emerging plant may look similar to bindweed. It is best to plant this wild fuchsia in spring, rather than the fall. I noticed better success with quart to gallon size plants.
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.
Yellow honeysuckle is a much better choice, along with Loncera sempervivens, than the traditional and invasive Japanese honeysuckle usually sold. Fragrant and yellow blooming, a good climber and groundcover. Average garden soils with low and medium water-use. Can be low water-use once established.
Prairie dropseed is smaller than both alkali or giant sacaton, more fitting for the city garden. A warm season bunch grass, prairie dropseed is a most attractive low or medium water-use grass with graceful green foliage. The seed heads emerge in late summer into fall with light pink seeds, that is said to naturalize some, but not invasively. A slow grower. Foliage turns a pleasing golden orange in the fall. Native throughout the Great Plains, including Texas. Tolerates most soil conditions.