Drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes

These drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes can bring color to your landscape and reduce your water needs.

Many people are looking for ideas to minimize water usage and maintenance time in their landscapes in West Texas.  One of the best ways I have found is to incorporate perennial plants that are native to semi-arid and arid climates into my landscapes.  Many of these plants not only survive well in West Texas, even with our wild swings in temperature, they also provide beautiful color accents as well as providing habitat for many native beneficial insects.

My list of a few of the semi-arid and arid perennials that I like to use in low maintenance low water demand landscapes is by no means exhaustive.  There are hundreds of such varieties.  Do a little research on your own and find that plants that suit your needs, your tastes, and your landscape.

Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes - desert mallow

Also known as Desert Hollyhock, the mallow is a touch decorative perennial.  It puts on stalks that can grow as high as two -feet.  Each stalk is crowned with brilliant orange flowers.  Mallow thrives in full sun.  Mallow is drought tolerant and can survive and bloom nicely with limited watering.  Plant Mallow about 3 feet apart in healthy soil that drains well.  Mallow will attract all sorts of insect pollinators and birds.

Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentate)

Drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes - creosote bush in flower

In some areas, the Creosote Bush is known as Greasewood or chaparral.  Famous for its ability to inhibit the growth of nearby plants in order to secure more water for itself, the creosote bush makes a good planting in landscapes where weed and grass control are important as well as minimal maintenance and watering.  Creosote Bushes may require a bit more maintenance, especially the occasional pruning, as they can grow up to 13 feet tall.  This plant produces masses of yellow flowers.  Unfortunately, the creosote bush is not used much in landscape planting and may be hard to find in gardening centers.  The seeds are available online and are relatively easy to germinate.  We often use creosote bushes along fences or as fountain plants in a larger landscape setting.

Lantana (family Verbenaceae)

Drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes - Lantana Desert Sunset varietie

There are about 150 different species of lantana.  The variety of them is amazing.  These beautiful flowering plants come in a wide range of colors and as both bush and trailing varieties.  Lantana is readily available in most garden stores and home improvement garden centers in season.  Many varieties of lantana are perennial.  In West Texas most people cultivate lantana as an annual.  However, Lantana will survive in our climate as a perennial once it is established and the root system is well developed.  It does die back to the ground in winter and requires a bit of maintenance to remove the old canes.  We like to interplant Lantana with other flowering perennials and grasses.  Be aware that Lanata produces poisonous berries, which may limit the uses in your landscape.  On the other hand, a planting of different colors of lantana can bring a surprising splash of color to your landscape.  Lantana will survive in drought conditions.

Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata)

Drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes

You may see or hear Agarita called Algerita or wild currants.  Agarita is native to the southwest United States and some northern regions of Mexico.  Agarita features gray-green to blue-gray foliage, and, like holly, the leaf tips are spined.  Clumps of yellow flowers bloom in early spring and are followed by berries during the first part of summer.  These are edible fruits that are often used to make wine or in jellies.  Full sun to partial shade is the best option for Agarita.  Plant into well-drained soil.  In the wild, Agarita is often found along fence line and as an understory plant beneath Mesquite Trees.  Agarita does well on minimal water once established and with little care other than to prune to keep in line with your landscape.

Purple Sage ((Salvia dorrii)

Drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes - purple desert sage

I see purple sage all over town, blooming proliferous during the summer months.  We have one that is tucked underneath a large Elderica pine and gets only a few hours of sunlight a day.  I must admit that it struggles, but it keeps on flowering even if it doesn’t get thick and bushy like the others I see.  Purple Sage, sometimes called Texas Sage, is really not a sage and has no culinary value.  It is in the salvia family and wonderful landscape plant.  Under the right conditions, purple sage can reach a height of 3 feet and almost that much in diameter.  This variety prefers full sun and well-drained sandy soil but will grow almost anywhere with enough sun.  Purple sage produces soft purple flowers set against silvery leaves making it a great contrast plant in the landscape.

Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum)

Drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes - wolfberry aka Goji

The more well-known name for Wolfberry is Goji.  For the past several years, Goji berries and their juice have been front and center in the health food industry.  These plants are native to Asia but have made their way into our landscapes not just for their fruit production, but because of their adaptability into uses in landscapes in temperate and semi-arid climates.  Wolfberry can grow up to 10 feet tall, so they may need some attention to keep them in line with your landscape plans.  These plants are evergreen and can bloom up to 7 times per year in the right climate.  Well-drained soil and full sun are the keys to good fruit production.  A little known fact about wolfberries is that they are a nightshade and in the family with tomatoes and peppers.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia)

Drought Tolerant Perennial Bushes - prickly pear

Prickly pear is familiar to anyone who has spent any time in the southwestern parts of the US.  These desert plants can spread to a width of 20 feet easily and can stand up to 6 feet tall.   As with most cacti, they are covered in thorns, some of which can be several inches long.  One has to be wary when working with or around prickly pear.  At the base of each of the long spines is a cluster of short hair-like spines that inflict much more misery if you tangle with them.  On the other hand, once established, these hardy desert plants will grow with almost no maintenance or attention.  They make great barrier plants and can create a marvelous security fence along a property.  Also, each spring, prickly pear produces beautiful flowers followed by purple fruit called pears.   Both the fruit and the flat leaves of the prickly pear are edible and are enjoyed in many localities as delicacies. 

These represent only a few of the plants that can be included in a semi-arid or arid landscape designed for low maintenance and water use.  These are proven performers in the West Texas area and ones that we enjoy.

Links and Resources

For more information about organic gardening, lifestyles, and living, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.

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