Plants that are native to the American Southwest that exist without supplemental irrigation once established.
Texas red yucca is technically not a yucca, but has many of the same qualities as yuccas. Thick, succulent dark olive green leaves grow out of the base, as it is stemless. The coral red flowers appear at the top of a long raceme, often 4-6 feet tall. 'Yellow' and 'Red' blooming yuccas are also available. Although it's natural range is north eastern Mexico and West Texas, it is cold hardy throughout much of the Southwest. Allow for sharp drainage in moister climates to prevent root rot.
Fame flower, flame flower, or rock pink, is a Midwestern native succulent. Ideally suited to western rock gardens, short fleshy narrow leaves emerge in late spring, followed by wiry stems where tiny rose/pink flowers open up each afternoon. In fall, the top foliage dies off and the plant heads underground for the winter. Because of it's unusual nature, it can be tucked in anywhere at the front of a border, just don't forget where you've planted it when doing spring cleanup. Reseeds slightly.
Phemeranthus calycinum was formerly known as Talinum calycinum.
Utah serviceberry is a quite beautiful shrub extending from the Southwestern states northward throughout the Rocky Mountains and through various ecosystems between 4000 and 8000 ft in elevation. Deep green leaves, large oval shaped and toothed at the margins, many intricately branched, smooth gray to maroon bark. Large white flowers with five widely spaced petals open in May and June. Berries appear in the summer, ripening to pink, then red, then finally dark blue. Leaves turn red and orange in the fall.
Three leaf sumac is medium height woody shrub native to the Texas Panhandle and throughout the Southwest. Three distinctive cleft and lobed leaves (trifoliate) are medium to dark green. Small greenish yellow flowers in spring are followed by tart red berries in summer, which are used to make a lemonade-like drink. The shrub's flowers have a pleasant fragrance, even though it is called skunkbush by some. Beautiful golden and reddish fall foliage. Cold hardy to Zone 4, yet extremely heat and drought tolerant. Prefers sandy and well drained soils.
First class native wildflower for your low water-use location whether you live in the city or country. No soil amending is even needed for Engelman's daisy, but you might want to improve the drainage if you soil is compact, or amend with some organic matter for caliche soil. Toowell amended soil will cause E. pinnatifida to grow too tall and gangly. If this happens, cut down nearly to the ground at the end of June, or mid July. It will grow back and begin flowering within 3 - 4 weeks. Will reseed some.
Most gardeners’ acquaintance with veronicas is with the Veronica spicatas, ‘Red Fox’, ‘Icicle’, and ‘Sunny Border Blue’; the tall, spiky red, white and blue medium and high water-use veronicas. But consider the low water-use option, V. incana. Deadhead to prolong the blooms and water deeply once a month, once established in well-drained soil. The gray-green leaves should be a give-away by now as to its water requirements.
Chamisa or rabbitbrush is a medium tall shrub with blue-green stems that produce clusters of golden yellow flowers from September throughout fall, very showy in the landscape. Matted hairs on thin leaves cast a silvery appearance. Native throughout the southwest, in warmer climates it is evergreen. The official name has been changed to Ericamera nauseosa, but is still referred to as Chrysothamnus (meaning golden bush). Seeds prolifically -- is a good pass-along plant to friends, neighbors, relatives and passersby.
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.
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.
Littleleaf mountain mahogany is the shortest of the mountain mahoganies usually sold. Small, narrow, leathery looking evergreen leaves on many intricate branches. Small yellow flowers in springtime and feathery seed plumes in the fall. The shrub is densely branched and slow growing.
Bush morning glory is a non-vining herbaceous perennial with a deep taproot, allowing it to be drought tolerant, but difficult to transplant. Arching branches with narrow upright green leaves emerge from the taproot. Summer blooming with 3 inch pink to purple funnel shaped flowers that open in the morning and close in the afternoon. Bush morning glory typically inhabits sandy and sandy loan plains, meadows, prairies and roadsides.
Our showiest native wildflower; an annual. Little care required. Grows along roadsides and in natural areas throughout our region. Gaillardias are popular these days, with many new introductions all the time. G. pulchella is a good choice for seeding in prairie areas with other native grasses and wildflowers.
Yuccas for Texas High Plains Landscapes
Most notable in the meadows and fields of California, the California poppy grows throughout the southwest. Considered to be both annual and perennial, it either comes back the next year or it reseeds. Once you have a stand established, it should continue in your landscape, but not invasively so. This past summer of 2012, my California poppies bloomed in both the spring and our unusual fall. Blooms in April and May. Finely cut blue-green foliage make an attract plant outside the bloom period. The foliage should die back in summer.
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.
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.
Curl leaf mountain mahogany is a medium height evergreen shrub native to elevations between 5000-10,000 feet throughout the Southwest. Small oval shaped dark green leaves lightly curl under at the margins are evergreen and aromatic. Small yellow flowers in spring time that develop into grain size fruits with a feathery tail attached to one end (similar to other mountain mahoganies). Slow growing and long lived, it can reach a height of 20 feet or more, but is more typically 6-12 feet. Densely branched. Cold hardy, drought and heat tolerant.
Gayfeather is one of the High Plains jewels of autumn, sending up grasslike leaves or stalks that bloom gloriously in September and October to fuzzy purple spikes. At maturity, one plant can grow a dozen or more, size and number depending on rainfall amounts. Drier years, the stalks are few and short, but with monthly or twice a month watering, the plant displays much more vitality. The purple flowers contrast nicely with the many yellow flowers that bloom on the plains. Liatris punctata is the most drought tolerant of the genus.
The only draw back to this pretty, silver-edged groundcover is its flowers! If only it didn’t, it would be a perfect no maintenance, no water groundcover for hot, sunny locations. You can see the tiny ball shaped flower heads in the picture, which look rather indistinct. However, after flowering, they turn an ugly shade of brown that mar the beautiful leaves unless you shear them off. Though a creeping groundcover, silver-edged horehound is not invasive like the common horehound, M. vulgare.
Native perennial wildflower that will bloom periodically from spring into fall (presumably when there is adequate moisture). I have seen it many times in nature in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas. After the flowers have peaked, they do not fall off, but turn light and papery. They make a good dried flower. Reseeds!
This wildflower is toxic to sheep and possibly cattle. Humans should not eat any part of this plant. The flowers are fragrant and are attractive to bees, birds and butterflies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Showy evening primrose is a plains states native, including the Texas Panhandle. Showy evening primrose blooms whitish pink in late spring, with each flower lasting a single day, opening in the morning and closing later in the day. The leaves are green narrow and lance-like and emerge from spreading rhizomes. The plant spreads prolifically by rhizomes and seeds, especially in amended and well watered soil. It is not well mannered in a mixed bed or border, I consider it invasive for the garden.