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.
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.