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txmeggie

Lush but Xeric in Dallas

txmeggie
14 years ago

Heres a report on my experience putting in a VERY low water use landscape just south of Dallas some 4 years ago. I have mostly sun, just a few trees, plenty of shrubs and extensive perennial flowers. I learned the hard way that no matter how drought tolerant a plant is, it really needs to stay moistened the first year or so. I used the native heavy clay soil, but had compost tilled in and I sprinkle dry molasses and often more compost when I plant. Where plants are established, I almost never water! Even my lawn is buffalo grass, which doesnÂt need much water. My garden looks great in the spring, gets crispy in late summer, then revives in the fall.

First, the trees:

We left the native mesquites and cedar junipers. I lined the driveway with Natchez crape myrtles which are beautiful here. Our chitalpa trees have pale pink and white flowers all summer long, and have grown quickly. Eastern redbud and forest pansy redbud are doing well. Yaupon holly is growing slowly. Dwarf sabal palm is making it but I lose several leaf fans every year. Rattlesnake tree is really a large shrub that is also called scarlet wisteria because of its similar leaves and red-orange flowers. Purple smoke tree, another shrub-lie tree, is growing quickly from a small "stick" bought online. Italian stone pine is the one evergreen reputed to grow well in our soil and climate. Find them at Christmas as tabletop decorations and plant it for future generations, as it grows quite slowly but will become an impressive tree. I have corkscrew willow that have grown fast, but they get runoff from my neighborÂs drainage problem.

Next, the shrubs and large perennials:

Chinese photinia, spirea, yaupon holly, variegated privet (careful; this gets huge), myospernum, wax myrtle, Texas bird of paradise, winter honeysuckle (blooms in January), Leatherleaf mahonia, have all done well. Old garden roses have grown wonderfully once theyÂre established. They can get sorry looking in the middle of summer without water, but will be fine once the rain comes again. I love Jerusalem sage with its bright yellow flowers in spring and soft gray green leaves all year round. Hypericum also has pretty yellow flowers and arching branches. Agave is great but it sends out underground shoots as much as 4Â away that produce baby plants. IÂve had great success cutting these off and planting elsewhere; they need very little water. Red yucca is a favorite but it needs plenty of room. Even the flower stalks can get 10Â high and droop over paths and driveway. Hummingbirds love it! Ornamental grasses do well; I have miscanthus and Mexican feather grass. Dwarf burford holly is growing slowly with little water, but it will get large. Hummingbird bush (flame ascanthus) is getting larger than I expected. Lantana is a favorite of mine and of the butterflies. Silver germander is a new addition that looks like it will be successful. Redwing vine can be pruned into a bush and gets small yellow flowers next to reddish leaves next to the green leaves. Cardoon is interesting because of its huge leaves and thistle-like blue flowers. Although it dies down after blooming, it keeps returning.

I like my rosemary bushes, but several have developed dead branches in the center. Some butterfly bushes have done great; others didnÂt make it. The beautyberry that survived is a very slow grower. Forsythia has looked in danger of dying from drought, but has grown fast (from a 12" stick bought on eBay) and look great in spring.

Smaller perennials:

Autumn joy sedum has a big presence with its fleshy leaves and large seed heads. I have divided it, but also broken off stems in fall that have flopped over with roots attached, and planted those. Achillea or yarrow grows and spreads well. Bearded iris are very tough and beautiful, but need to be divided every few years. Zexsmania blooms until frost and spreads like crazy from seeds. Day lilies do well, even if they brown up in the late summer heat. Salvia greggi, salvia nemerosa, salvia May night, mealy blue sage, Mexican bush sage, and Russian sage are doing great. LambÂs ear spreads easily, although its leaves rot during drought but still come back the next year. John Fanick phlox is gorgeous, but other varieties have not made it. I grow cannas because I love the colorful flowers. They need water to bloom, so only look good for me in the spring. Giant spider lily has awesome strap shaped leaves and interesting spider like blooms. Mexican mint marigold has pretty yellow blooms in autumn. Snakeherb has made a ground cover that I really like with its dark foliage and lavender flowers. Powis castle artemisia makes a large plant with silver leaves. My daffodils keep coming back. Fortnight lily is happy here. Pink skullcap is growing well but the purple skullcap did not make it.

I have tried many other plants said to tolerate drought, that didnÂt make it at all in my xeric landscape, or are not doing well enough to recommend.

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