Plants that are native to the American Southwest that exist without supplemental irrigation once established.
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.
Cliff fendlerbush is another Texas and Southwest native shrub too little used in the xeric landscape. Springtime lifts the cliff fendlerbush above the ordinary into prominence in the landscape. It is said the ravines and arroyos look dotted with snow from a distance, so profuse are the fragrant, creamy white, sometimes with a pink tinge, four petaled flowers in May and June. It's natural element is rocky arroyos (rupicola=rock dweller), cliff ledges and limestone soils with good drainage that average 12-18 inches of moisture with hot sunny days.
Beautiful xeric sage with aromatic soft gray green leaves, mostly evergreen. Summer to fall blooming with mauve/purple sticky but fragrant flowers. Takes a few years to reach mature height. Requires good drainage and dry soil in the winter. A Plant Select® Plant. Native to California and will grow in the High Desert regions. Cold hardy to Zone 5 and quite heat tolerant.
A mid height grass suitable for any low water-use garden, city or country. It does self-seed somewhat, but I hadn’t noticed it to be a problem in a xeric setting (simply remove or transplant them). It's greatest attribute is it's gently flowing nature int he wind. It is native to Texas and the southwest. I saw it growing along the slopes of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. It pairs well with yucca, agave, Calylophus and any native shrub.
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.
Similar in form to Callirhoe involucrata, Callirhoe alcaeoides 'Logan Calhoun' grows natively from the Midwest to southern plains. While Callirhoe alcaeoides can be pink, to pale pink and pale lilac, 'Logan Calhoun' is pure white. Spreads over an area similar to wine cups, the foliage and flowers are finer. I've found it to be drought tolerant; water monthly to insure continued blooms. Blooms will rest during the heat of the summer and continue following rains or cooler weather.
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.
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.
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.
This is not one of the invasive catmints, but it will reseed some and is not as attractive to cats as most catmints. A low growing, sprawling, drought tolerant perennial that projects a hazy blue appearance with its light lavender blue flowers and grayish green foliage. It is aromatic, not necessarily fragrant. A fast spreader and prolific bloomer even in it's first year, it will begin to bloom after six weeks.
Veronica x ‘Blue Reflection’ should be an indispensable evergreen groundcover for you, as it has become for me.
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.
People either love trumpet creeper or hate it. The first three years, I couldn't wait for it to mature, filling with red-orange trumpet shaped flowers. It seems I've spent the next 20 years trying to kill it. Trumpet vine will die, but only for those who want it to live. If a gardener gives it the death wish, it will be sure to flourish. Native to most of the eastern half of the U.S., it is low water-use, thrives in heat. Must be in a sunny location to bloom profusely. Considered to be invasive, especially when over watered. Not particular about its soil.
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.
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.
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.
Drought tolerant perennial with white cup shaped blooms usually found growing in poor soils. I planted it in heavily amended soil, and I think it was too rich for it. It was eaten up during the heat of the summer by flea beetles. I thought the too rich soil was the cause; however, Judith Phillips in Plants For Natural Gardens, wrote about this same occurrence in native soils. Phillips hypothesized this may be a way for tufted evening primrose to escape summer’s heat. However, my plant died, rather than just going to ground.
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.
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.
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.
Buffalograss is North America's only native turfgrass, grows well in clay soils. A warm season grass that spreads by stolons, it is our best selection for low water-use lawns. It will survive very nicely on 15-20 inches of annual precipitation. For green turf summer long, a once a month watering is all that is needed. The common species is short to 4-8 inches, light gray/green to blue/green and goes dormant in fall, greening up again in May. Many newer varieties are being developed for wider blades and deeper green colors, such as Legacy® and Turffalo®.
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.
Oenothera macrocarpa, and O. missouriensis have been used interchangeably. Native over a wide range including the plains and wooded areas, carries the common name, Missouri evening primrose, bigfruit sundrops and Ozark Sundrops.
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.