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.
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.
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.
Broom snakeweed is a small mounded subshrub with yellow greenish thread-like leaves, native throughout the Southwest and western half of the North American continent. In the fall, it becomes covered in small golden yellow flowers. Bees and nectar butterflies are attracted to it in numbers. Usually grows to only a foot tall.
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.
Gambrel oak is a common native oak species throughout the Rocky Mountain foothills and here in the Texas Panhandle as well. Often times it grows more to a tall shrub, with sufficient moisture it can mature into a small tree. Beautiful somewhat glossy lobed green leaves to 3-5 inches long. Beautiful fall foliage. Will put out a profuse amount of acorns. Gambrel oak can form a thicket. Cold, heat and drought tolerant. Inconspicous tiny red flowers appear shortly after leafing and are normally hid by the leaves.
First class native wildflower for your low water-use location whether you live in the city or country. No soil amending is even needed for Engelman's daisy, but you might want to improve the drainage if you soil is compact, or amend with some organic matter for caliche soil. Toowell amended soil will cause E. pinnatifida to grow too tall and gangly. If this happens, cut down nearly to the ground at the end of June, or mid July. It will grow back and begin flowering within 3 - 4 weeks. Will reseed some.
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.
Desert marigolds are one of the prettiest desert flowers. The plant forms a neat compact rosette of finely cut silvery green leaves from which stems emerge topped with a bright golden daisy like flower. It is considered either an annual or short lived perennial. Scatter seeds from the spent plant to insure its return the next season. Over watering will doom this beautiful plant. Desert marigold can be seen blooming in the desert in winter and spring. In my garden, it's blooms begin in May and will continue sporadically into fall. Not awfully reliable in cold hardiness here.
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.
Giant sacaton is one of the largest bunch grasses native to the Southwest, like alkali sacaton on steroids. Seems to thrive in poor soils with no supplemental irrigation. It will grow even bigger with added moisture. Thick textured grass blades, it will rival pampas grass for size and beauty, although it plumes are near as showy, giant sacaton has a flowing fountain appearance. A warm season grass, it is cold hardy and thrives in sun and heat.
Shrub live oak, often a medium size shrub, is native to the Southwest and the Texas Panhandle typically found in canyons, rocky cliffs and hillsides. Sometimes called a holly oak, the leaves are 3-4 inches long, spine-tipped and holly shaped bluish green leaves. It is prolific in putting out acorns. Cold hardy, heat and drought tolerant.
Sometimes referred to as Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘Burgundy’. A cross between G. aristata and G. puchella. I’ve not been able to determine whether these are 2 different varieties, or just name confusion. They must be quite similar, nonetheless. It reseeded once for me, so I'm not sure at all. Medium water for this plant through the heat of summer will prolong blooms, as will afternoon shade. A stunning plant and prolific bloomer for your border.
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.
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.
Tansy aster is an annual native to the Southwest and throughout the Plains even into Canada. Fernlike, or tansy-like (tannacetifolia) light green foliage with beautiful aster-like lavender flowers with yellow disks about 1 1/2 to 2 inches across. Blooms from late spring through fall. A once a month watering will keep the blooms coming throughout the summer. It will keep its compact shape in lean, poor soil but will become much larger in well amended soil. Minimal amending is recommended. Tansy aster is another example of our natives plants giving so much, asking so little in return.
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.
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.
Our showiest native wildflower; an annual. Little care required. Grows along roadsides and in natural areas throughout our region. Gaillardias are popular these days, with many new introductions all the time. G. pulchella is a good choice for seeding in prairie areas with other native grasses and wildflowers.
Not our old fashioned garden zinnia. Zinnia grandiflora is the native zinnia for most of the Midwest, West and Southwestern parts of the United States. So widespread a wildflower, each region has named it theirs: plains zinnia, prairie zinnia, desert zinnia and Rocky Mountain zinnia. A terrific low growing and spreading groundcover for poor soils needing no supplement irrigation. Rugged! A survivor without being a pest!
Summer flowering low water-use native tree, several varieties to choose from. Willow like green leaves. Cold hardy reliably in Zone 7, will winter over most years in Zone 6. The variety pictured in the close-up flower photo is "Lucrecia Hamilton", the variety in the third photo is 'Art's Seedless'. During early autumn snows, be quick to shake snow off the branches to avoid breakage.
Bigelow's tansyaster is easy to confuse with Tahoka daisy but is not as showy. Bigelow's aster is a fall blooming biennial, with far fewer purple rays and a smaller, yellow brown center disk. It populates plains in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. In the fall, whole fields will wear a purple haze due to this tansyaster.
Utah serviceberry is a quite beautiful shrub extending from the Southwestern states northward throughout the Rocky Mountains and through various ecosystems between 4000 and 8000 ft in elevation. Deep green leaves, large oval shaped and toothed at the margins, many intricately branched, smooth gray to maroon bark. Large white flowers with five widely spaced petals open in May and June. Berries appear in the summer, ripening to pink, then red, then finally dark blue. Leaves turn red and orange in the fall.
Gayfeather is one of the High Plains jewels of autumn, sending up grasslike leaves or stalks that bloom gloriously in September and October to fuzzy purple spikes. At maturity, one plant can grow a dozen or more, size and number depending on rainfall amounts. Drier years, the stalks are few and short, but with monthly or twice a month watering, the plant displays much more vitality. The purple flowers contrast nicely with the many yellow flowers that bloom on the plains. Liatris punctata is the most drought tolerant of the genus.
Native wildflower that likes it lean and mean. Over watering and well amended soil will usually cause Blackfoot daisy to die a premature death, even for a short lived perennial, such as it is. It would be an ideal border plant, similar to alyssum, if not for its tendency to move about where it will (that is, die where you plant it and seed somewhere else). Still, it’s worth a try. Our Panhandle xeric gardens should never be without Blackfoot Daisy. In fact, once you plant Blackfoot daisy and let it seed, you should never be without it (and that’s a good thing).
Verbascums make a presence in the wildflower or cottage garden and mixed border, whether it be this common mullein, or another species with showier flowers. Verbascums can be either biennial or perennial, but will make enough seeds you’ll never be without. Some are drought tolerant and thrive in poor, but well drained soil, others may need medium water use and a richer soil.