Soil that contains a high percentage of fine particles smaller than .002mm in diameter and colloidal substance and becomes sticky when wet. Clay soils can be mixtures of clay, sand and silt, with clay having the greatest percentage.
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.
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.
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®.
Winterfat, formerly Ceratoides lanata, is a drought and heat tolerant that normally is found in poor, alkaline soils throughout the Southwest in grasslands and scrublands. Winterfat is a low rounded woody shrub with pale blue green to gray leaves. The distinctive characteristic is the long wooly seed stalk it puts up in the summer. Towards winter, the stalk appears to be covered with wool.
A great plant for those people who must have their foliage fix. Despite their large foliage, cannas will do quite well in a medium water-use area with well amended soil.There are dwarf varieties and others that will reach 7 feet. Leaves shred easily by hail, but will recover after several weeks. Cannas sprout from thick rhizomes. Although subtropical, cannas easily winter over in the Texas Panhandle and spread to form a thick root mass.
Echinacea angustifolia is the herbal echinacea. Native throughout most of the Midwest, and the Texas Panhandle. Very drought tolerant. It can be seen growing along roadsides and in nature generally. A good cut flower. The common name Black Samson refers to its roots. Not as showy as E. purpurea and newer introductions.
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.
Not our old fashioned garden zinnia. Zinnia grandiflora is the native zinnia for most of the Midwest, West and Southwestern parts of the United States. So widespread a wildflower, each region has named it theirs: plains zinnia, prairie zinnia, desert zinnia and Rocky Mountain zinnia. A terrific low growing and spreading groundcover for poor soils needing no supplement irrigation. Rugged! A survivor without being a pest!
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.
Two southern native hibiscus suitable for the medium to high water-use garden. Large green leaves are superseeded by very large and showy flowers. H. moscheutos is cold hardy and has some of the largest flowers, up to a foot across in red, rose and white, usually with a red eye. H. coccineus blooms scarlet 3 inch flowers -- not cold hardy but worth trying as a specimen container plant.
Sand lovegrass is a warm season bunch grass typically found in sandy soils east of the Rockies over a wide range of the U.S. The grass clumps themselves are usually 12-18" tall with the plumes rising to 3-4 feet. Will grow in clay and poorer soils. Very pleasing wispy, arching habit with a soft sway and rustle in the wind. Can grow in partial shade. Seed heads are somewhat purple, fine textured. Will reseed. Low or no water-use.
Mahonia repans is one of my favorite plants with four seasons of interest. Low growing and spreading evergreen shrub is native throughout the Rocky Mountains. Bright yellow berries in spring are followed by black berries in summer and reddish winter foliage. The leaves are thick, glossy and holly shaped. Creeping Oregon grape holly prefers amended, humusy soil that replicates its native habitat as an understory plant in woodlands, but is low water-use once established. It will spread to cover an area, but not invasive. Very attractive!
Centranthus ruber is a versatile plant, able to be used almost anywhere in the landscape except full shade. Long blooming except during the heat of the summer. Deadhead after the spring bloom for better appearances. Reseeds some, but not a problem. Quite drought tolerant, it will still do nicely in medium and high water use areas, except for wet, soggy clay. It appreciates good drainage and moderate amending but will do well in poor soil. Centranthus ruber 'Alba' is a pleasant white blooming variety. Readily available at local nurseries.
Linum lewisii, the southwestern and western native perennial wildflower variety of flax was named after Meriwether Lewis, who was first to describe it during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. On July 18th, 1805, near the Great Falls of the Missouri Lewis recorded: "I have observed for several days a species of the flax growing in the river bottoms the leaf stem and pericarp of which resembles the common flax cultivated in the U'States. The stem rises to the hight of about 2 1/2 or 3 feet high; as many as 8 or ten of which proceeds from the same root.
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.
This variety purchased from Sunshine Nursery in Clinton, Oklahoma is drought tolerant, I've planted it in a low water-use bed. The flowers are so dense and golden, it looks like a golden torch. Sometimes seen as Solidago speciosa rigidiuscula, 'Wichita Mountains'
Previously known as Cowenia mexicana, it is known today as Purshia stansburyana, also, P. stansburyiana. It is still commonly called a cliffrose. The cliffrose blooms prolifically in May with creamy white to pale yellow fragrant flowers that continue blooming for several weeks. Semi evergreen, it loses it's leaves in colder winters. Upright stems and branches can appear unruly in its growth pattern; small dark green resinous leaves.
The Arizona rosewood is classified either as a quite tall shrub or short to mid height tree. One of it's best features is that it is evergreen, with slender glossy green leaves approximately 3 inches long. It puts on small white flowers in summer. One of the few drought tolerant, native, evergreen trees available in the trade. Slow growing.
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.
Lindheimers muhly grass is native to the Edwards Plateau of Texas. It is cold hardy and heat tolerant, a tall, warm season bunch grass. It forms a good size ornamental specimen with upright blue green or blue gray blades and tall showy, almost spike like inflorescences in late summer. Not as large as pampas grass, it is a better native alternative. There are two muhly grasses native to the Southwest, Muhlenbergia asperifolia, scratchgrass, and M.
Oregon grape holly is an evergreen holly-like shrub native to the Pacific Northwest Rockies down into California. Upright, it is slow growing but can reach a height of 8 feet. Best when grown in shade, especially out of afternoon sun. Prefers a more humusy soil but will only required once a month watering when established, however, can also be placed in medium and high water-use areas. Bright yellow flowers in spring, followed by dark blue berries in summer. The thick, glossy, holly-like leaves have spines at the points. Leaves turn from green to red in winter.
A good drought tolerant ground cover for use in a border, in a xeristrip or a rock garden. Evergreen grayish green leaves with fine hairs (tomentose). Will grow too tall and gangling in too rich and moist a soil. Some areas of the country have noted Cerastium tomentosum to be invasive, but I have not seen those tendencies here. A good substitute for the annual alyssium. Cerastium tomentosum var. columnae is a commonly available variety.
This pink (old common name referring to the pinked edges) is pink. Heat tolerant fragrant perennial forms a spreading mound. The buds provide interest for several weeks before they open. Other perennial dianthus thrive in our area, biennial and annual dianthus as well. Look for heat tolerant varieties. D. gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch’ is another dianthus to try. Carnations, maiden pinks, Sweet Williams are members of this genus. There are many hybrid cultivars, and more every year.
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.