Plants, whether native or non-native once established, that thrive with supplemental irrigation of one inch per month during the growing season under average climate conditions in clay soil if that amount of moisture has not been received.
Cranesbill belongs to the same Geraniaceae family as do the Pelargoniums, those red, hot house geraniums we all love. Both are perennials, however many cranesbill (referred to as the true geraniums) are cold hardy for us. Alpenglow is semi-evergreen, and evergreen in warm winters. Notice the intricate cut leaf patterns, which are much admired by myself and others. A good understory plant for the edge of a shady border.
Salvia argentea is a first class drought tolerant biennial to add texture to your xeristrip. Light gray green tomentose (hairy) foliage adds contrast against accent rocks. This biennial will flower the second year, but I could do without the sticky, and somewhat unsightly stalk whose white flowers open in succession and quickly turn brown. Cutting off the stalks only encourages the plant to send up more sticky stalks. The leaves of the plant may appear to mimic Lamb’s Ears, however, they are not tough and resilient, tears easily, and are shredded by hail.
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.
Scarlet globemallow is a welcome addition to any xeric or High Desert garden. Small coral flowers bloom from May (sometimes April) through into the fall. Although scarlet globemallow will survive with no additional moisture in our climate, once a month watering insures steady blooms. The plant is similar in appearance to S. ambigua, which can bloom coral, white, lavender and pink.
Big Bend silverleaf is the most cold hardy of the Leucophyllums and has wintered over in Amarillo, Zone 7, for 5 years so far. Possibly cold hardy to Zone 6. It is hard to beat a more attractive summer blooming shrub for small xeric spaces. After summer rainfalls, Big Bend silverleaf, native to the Big Bend National Park area, becomes covered in silver blue flowers that twinkle like jewels among its silvery gray leaves. Hard to find, it's worth searching for.
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.
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.
Western sand cherry is a shrub native to the northern plains favoring sandy soils. Cold and heat tolerant, and low water-use once established. Beautiful, fragrant white flowers in spring time, producing edible black cherries (however, some references advice not to eat the fruit if it is bitter).
Golden sulfur buckwheat is one of those plants you'll come across while hiking in the West and wonder why it isn't in your garden, its so adorable!
The leaves are gray-green, spatula shaped and woolly underneath, to about 2-3 inches. They form a rosette at the base. In early spring, tall, stout stems extend upward up to 2-3 feet. The bright golden flowers are nearly luminescent, appearing first as ball-like umbels (clusters), then each ball opening up to a circle of golden flowers. As the flowers age, then turn orange.
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.
The flowers of Salvia darcyi are similar in appearance to Salvia greggii, however the shrub itself is more herbaceous than shrubby. I know of no common name for S. dacryi. Some sources say it is cold hardy to Zone 7, however it thrives in Denver Botanical Garden’s Zone 5. S. darcyi is native to the mountains of Northern Mexico and will do well in amended soil. Hummingbirds love it.
I have it planted in my xeristrip for a number of years. It will flower more vigorously with irrigation everyother week, when needed during hot drought years.
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 globemallow is one of those native plants that keeps on giving, asking so little in return and is a worthy addition to any native or xeric garden. Typically, desert globemallow sports pretty pink flowers. though some plants will bloom white, coral or lavender. Whatever color, they are worth the addition to your sunny and dry landscape for their pleasant cheery nature. Similar to appearane to S. coccinea, a coral blooming species.
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.
Rounded mounds of green leaves on multi-forked stems put forth multitudes of fragrant purple/magenta flowers from summer into autumn. Flowers open in late afternoon (perhaps around four o'clock) and close in early morning. Cold hardy and heat and drought tolerant, after freezing in the fall, the top growth breaks away. Desert four o'clock emerges in the spring from a large root. Will not transplant well once established. Southwest native perennial is usually found in somewhat shaded areas.
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.
Texas beargrass is a grass-like perennial evergreen plant native in rocky and limestone soils from central Texas to the upper Rio Grande Plains and west to the Trans-Pecos and into S.E. Arizona. Not a true grass, Texas sacahuista is a member of the lily (Liliaceae ) family. It flowers in Amarillo in early April. A short flowering stem barely rises above the many thin leaves. The flowers appear rose or reddish on the outside before opening, are numerous, white to cream colored forming dense vertical clusters.