Sandy soil is soil where a majority of particles are large, from .05 mm to 2 mm in diameter, that drains quickly but holds nutrients poorly. Sandy soil can have differing combinations of clay, sand and silt, but the major percentage of particles is sand.
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.
I prefer dwarf chamisa to the full size species. Dwarf Chamisa fits better into home xeric areas and has green leaves, rather than gray or silvery. It's silvery stems combine well with its green foliage and yellow gold flowers. Although given the species and variety name "nauseosus" it has a pleasant fragrance. Dwarf chamisa blooms profusely in late summer and will readily re-seed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Plant Select Plant for 2004, Pink Texas Skullcap has often been listed as a Zone 7 plant, but it is reliably cold hardy in Zone 6 and in protected Zone 5b sights. I’ve grown it in my xeristrip since 2000. Long blooming with no maintenance ever performed. These low growing, mounding skullcaps are excellent for Panhandle xeristrips and rock gardens. Native varieties are S. drummondii, and S. resinosa. The hybrid cultivar, S. x ‘Violet Cloud’, introduced by High Country Gardens, is an excellent violet skullcap as well as the natives.
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.
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.
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.
Bear grass is similar in appearance to yucca and clumping grass, but is neither. Usually found growing in high desert areas, along cliffs and rocky slopes. Thin succulent grasslike yellow-green leaves emerge from a trunkless center, are pointed and sharp edged. A plume-like inflorescence with many tiny cream colored flowers emerges early summer. Cold hardy, drought and heat tolerant.
Reseeding biennial, native to Texas, and the southeastern US. The red tubular flowers make it attractive to hummingbirds. The upright stalks are brittle and break off easily.
Standing cypress will flower the first year, and may, or may not come back a second year, but you should see some seedlings. Transplant those. The glossy green foliage to the right in this picture belongs to Anisacanthus quadrifidus wrightii, flame acanthus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grown in the South for decades, most people think of crape myrtle as a native American plant; it is however native to China and Japan. Small tree or large shrub that is cold hardy to Zone 7. I’ve grown the same crape myrtles for over 20 years, but they’re planted close (too close!) to my bricked house on both the northeast and northwest corners. They’ve been stem hardy, not just root hardy, and have grown up to about 10-12’. In most cases, crape myrtle will not grow into tree form in the Panhandle, but there are mature, tree size crape myrtles in Amarillo.
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.
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.
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.