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.
You can't have just one. As soon as you plant one, you'll have a drift, then a sweep, then a field if you have the space. But I still don't consider the prairie coneflower to be invasive, merely pleasant. Next to the Indian Blanket, the Mexican Hat shouts Southwest prairies. And its a tough hombre. If your stand becomes too dense or too much, just weed some out. They're adaptable to most native soils and will thrive on available or once a month supplementation. Coneflowers bloom yellow, reddish or brown late spring into fall and make an attractive display when mixed.
Virginia creeper, one of our pernicious native creepers, is a worthy low care vine for brilliant fall foliage and deep blue berries (highly toxic to humans) loved by birds. Virginia creeper normally spread by seeds in bird droppings, which is the method it came to my landscape. When spotted early, Virginia creeper easily pulls out, but if not spotted, within no time, it will cover a fence, climb a pole or cover an area. Which can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on one's view.
Mountain mahogany is native to the Texas Panhandle and throughout the Southwest, found in elevations from 3000-9500 ft. Another common name is Alderleaf mountain mahogany, because its leaves resemble that of an alder. Mountain mahogany, whose wood is very hard (Palo Duro) is found in Palo Duro Canyon. Extremely drought tolerant, it will survive on 10 inches of rainfall. An aromatic shrub with shredding reddish bark, but can grow to tree size. Mountain mahogany's flowers are small, rayless and insignificant, as they are in the other species.
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.
Black dalea, an autumn blooming southwest native shrub, should be used more in the home xeric landscape. Growing only to about 3 feet, black dalea spreads out with thin, wiry branches and small, green, compound leaves. The shrub becomes completely covered with tiny purple flowers as to be enshrouded in a purple cloud.
Many references are unsure of its cold hardiness to zero, and it had thrived nicely in my city garden in Amarillo. However, it does not seem to be reliably cold hardy. It's a beautiful shrub that provides stunning late fall color that is worth replanting.
Mexican blue sage is a native of Mexico and in many references labels it cold hardy to USDA Zone 8, however, it has wintered over in Amarillo many years now, even in full northern exposure. It has died back to the ground once or twice, but comes back up from the roots. If good to well drained soil is provided, it should do fine. And I hope you can provide that, as Mexican blue sage is one of my top plants to include in xeric gardens. True bright blue flowers bloom summer and fall with once a month watering. Butterflies are attracted to it. Indispensable.
Texas, or scarlet sage is a perennial to the Southern U.S. and Texas. In the Texas Panhandle, it is sold as a bedding plant, since it is not cold hardy. Some varieties will come back due to re-seeding. Many varieties are available, some are more drought tolerant than others, such as 'Forest Fire', while 'Lady in Red' requires medium water-use beds. Summer long blooming, choose your color among scarlet, red, rose, pink, coral and white. As with most sages, hummingbirds, butterflies and bees are attracted to them.
Ephedra minimus is a dwarf version of E. viridis. Woody base with many thin, branched evergreen stems. Rare to find in nurseries, it is appreciated for is evergreen presence and rarity. No leaves or flowers
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.
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.
If you find yourself in Palo Duro Canyon at the end of April or beginning of May, the purple haze dotting the cliffsides is feather dalea. Sporadic blooms will open after showers throughout summer, though never as profuse as in springtime. With monthly irrigation in a xeric garden, feather dalea adds color and texture with it's twiggy, but sturdy, appearance. Small purple flowers combined with white plumes carries the haze impression from a distance.
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.
Purple or desert sage prefers leaner, quick draining soils. It is said to grow 2-3 feet tall and deeply branched with silver gray foliage and a profusion of violet bluish flowers atop spikes in late spring and summer. Low water-use, but does better with once a month irrigation. One of the finest flowers of the desert, it is the sage of Riders of the Purple Sage, by Zane Grey. Grows throughout the Great Basin Desert.
Turpentine shrub is an evergreen shrub native to the southern parts of the Southwest, and only marginally cold hardy on the Caprock. It will survive when in a sheltered location and soil with excellent drainage, along rocky cliffs, outcrops and arroyos. Avoid compact clay soil, or amend clay soil very well for drainage with inorganic amendments. Yellow autumn flowers.
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.
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.
Dark green, semi-evergreen aromatic leaves are the feature most prized, along with the tiny yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom spring to fall. Damianita prefers full sun and lean soil and does well in heat and temperatures to zero degrees. Daminaita will lose its leaves in cold winters.
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.
Raspberry hybrid bush sage is very similar in appearance to Salvia greggii, blooming April through November. It's two-lipped flowers with a pleasant deep raspberry color, and the mahogany calyces contrast nicely. 'Raspberry Delight' is a hybrid cross between Salvia greggii 'Furman's Red' and and a high altitude collection of Salvia microphylla from central Arizona. Woody and brittle branches with small oval shaped leaves that hang on to the plant sometimes through the winter, as they do on S. greggii.
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.
Gorgeous! Luscious goblet shaped lemon yellow flowers on this native wildflower that also develops elongated seed capsules. The lighter, silvery sheen of the leaves distinguishes the O. macrocarpa var. incana subspecies, and is also an evening to morning bloomer.
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.
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.