Caliche is defined as a crust or a succession of crusts of calcium carbonate that form within or on top of stony soil in arid and semi-arid regions and is often combined with clay. Caliche is lacking in organic matter. Its crusting tendencies often prohibit drainage.
Agaves are striking and architectural Southwest native plants and are included in a group of plants I term Southwest evergreens. They are unusual in that at maturity, they only flower once, and then die. for this reason, some classify them as multiannual, rather than perennial. However, as they common name suggests, it takes many years before they flower. Leaves of the Agave are arranged in a spiral beginning from a near invisible stem, forming a rosette.Agaves vary in size from 4-6 inches to larger than man-size.
Gooseberryleaf globemallow is very close in appearance to scarlet globemallow, Sphaeralcea coccinea, but much taller, up over 2 feet. The leaves are silver green and hairy, resembling the leaves of the current shrubs in shape, so named from the family name of currents and gooseberries, Grossulariaceae. Flowers are orange in color and bloom from May and June, sometimes later in the summer. Native to hot, dry areas semi-arid regions throughout the Southwest and the Great Basin Desert. Prefers good to sharp drainage.
New Mexican privet can be viewed either as a tall shrub or smaller tree. New Mexican privet will flower (tiny yellow) before leafing out with small oval glossy green leaves to be followed with black berries in the fall. Heat and drought tolerant will live in most soils and water-use areas. Attractive taller plant for the home landscape, similar to the yaupon holly in form.
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.
Chamisa or rabbitbrush is a medium tall shrub with blue-green stems that produce clusters of golden yellow flowers from September throughout fall, very showy in the landscape. Matted hairs on thin leaves cast a silvery appearance. Native throughout the southwest, in warmer climates it is evergreen. The official name has been changed to Ericamera nauseosa, but is still referred to as Chrysothamnus (meaning golden bush). Seeds prolifically -- is a good pass-along plant to friends, neighbors, relatives and passersby.
Not all succulents are cacti, nearly all cacti are succulents (a few exceptions). Nearly all cactus species are native to the Americas, providing a prickly evergreen presence. There are many cactus that are cold hardy for the Texas Panhandle. There might be one for your garden.
Elegant and stately desert perennial. Soft light blue green leaves. Stalks can tower above desert shrubs to 5-6 feet, but usually 2-4 feet, with racemes of yellow flowers similar to cleome or spider plant flowers in springtime. Requires excellent drainage and lean soils. Thrives on selenium rich soils. Native to canyonlands in SW U.S.
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.
A new hybrid skullcap from High Country Gardens. A cross between two native skullcaps, Violet Cloud likes the soil lean and well drained. A sparkling addition for the rock garden, xeristrip and any low water-use area. Additional watering is required during establishment the first year, after that, it should be drought tolerant.
Most notable in the meadows and fields of California, the California poppy grows throughout the southwest. Considered to be both annual and perennial, it either comes back the next year or it reseeds. Once you have a stand established, it should continue in your landscape, but not invasively so. This past summer of 2012, my California poppies bloomed in both the spring and our unusual fall. Blooms in April and May. Finely cut blue-green foliage make an attract plant outside the bloom period. The foliage should die back in summer.
One of North America's favorite annuals. There is much variety in size and colors of flowers, ranging from yellow, golden, orange, red/orange, red and mahogany. The plants themselves can vary from 3-4 feet to 8 feet or more. Seeds sown in springtime will be insure blooms in late summer or fall. Great for cut flowers.
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.
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.
Our native skullcap is one that should be included in every drought tolerant landscape, short lived though it is. This is the kind of garden-worthy plant we all desire, neat, compact and all season blooming with no maintenance to speak of. You just can't go wrong as long as your soil has decent drainage. It reseeds some, but to me, this is just a bonus.
The Calylophus genus is one of the best Southwest native plants for Panhandle gardens. Heat and drought tolerant, long blooming with little to no care, what garden would be without it? Sunny yellow 4 petaled sundrop flowers bloom in an explosion in spring, and respectably during the remaining growing season, especially when given a once a month inch of water during drought conditions. Each individual flower lasts only a day, tight compact mounds sport the orange spent blooms as well as the new bright yellow flower.
Perennial vine native to the Southwest. Late summer to fall bloom with slender, thin whitish sepals, followed by attractive plumes that are feathery seed clusters. The vine is valued for it's delicate beauty of leaf, flower and plume and drought tolerance. Clematis drummondii is a larval host and/or nectar source for the fatal metalmark butterfly.
White flowering zinnia is native to the Southwest and Northern Mexico. A low mounding plant, it becomes completely covered with small white flowers with a central yellow disk, similar to our native prairie zinnia, Zinnia grandiflora. Blooms from June through fall. Desert zinnia is toxic if ingested by humans.
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.
Artemisia versicolor 'Sea Foam' is mostly grown for its gray foliage. To keep it's desired compact shape, cut off flower stalks after blooming, which is its only maintenance. Soft, rubber-like feel to its short, clustered, needle-like appearance on short 1 inch wide columns. It gives the impression of a coral bed in your rock garden. Not invasive. 2004 Plant Select Plant.
Yuccas for Texas High Plains Landscapes
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.
Illinois bundleflower should be grown for its unusual characteristics of seedpods and leaves, if nothing else. A member of the legume or bean family, the seed pods turn dark brown, leathery and twisted in appearance and rattle in the wind in late fall. The compound, alternate, pinnate leaves fold when touched or when exposed to strong sunlight. Small white flowers in summer. Attracts butterflies, birds love its seeds. The plant can grow to be quite large if in high water-use areas.
Blue grama grass is a short, clumping warm season grass with thin blue green blades that is native throughout the Great Plains and Southwest. Able to grow in poor, dry soils, blue grama grass needs only about 12 inches of annual precipitation to survive. If seeded thick enough and with moderate irrigation, blue grama will form turf. Once establish, reduce to monthly supplemental irrigation, and mow not more frequently than monthly to a height of 4 inches. One advantage of blue grama over buffalograss is the speed of germination; it will germinate in 5-7 days.
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.
Native to the Texas Panhandle, the south and into northern Mexico. Strong chocolate scent fills the morning air. Xeric herbaceous perennial with a deep taproot. Flower closes up during the heat of the day, staying open during more moderate days. Good choice for naturalizing. Best to keep soil on the lean side, will grow leggy in amended soil. Reseeding profusely. Cut back flower to base at end of June if it becomes too leggy. Within weeks, it'll grow back and begin flowering again.