Creating a garden in hot, dry climate like that in Texas can be a challenge. Water is scarce and expensive. Desert plants are foreign to many beginning gardeners. Even rich soils may be uncooperative in the soaring summer heat. Dry-area gardeners need not lose heart. Many strikingly beautiful flowers are adapted to arid, hot conditions. They make outstanding dry landscape additions.
Summer-long, brilliant orange or yellow blooms make butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) a must for dry-area gardens. An 18- to 24-inch, bushy milkweed family perennial, butterfly weed thrives in Texas’ dry prairies and canyons. It has upright stems with deep green, lance-like leaves. The drought-resistant plant’s May-to-September flowers occur in flat, stem-topping clusters up to 5 inches across, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Their sweet nectar has butterflies flocking to the garden. Butterfly weed likes dry or moist, sandy well-drained soil in a sunny to partly shady location. Note that consuming large quantities of its sap or roots is toxic.
Entireleaf Indian Paintbrush
Entireleaf Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) brings dramatic expanses of red and orange March-to-May blooms to Texas’ dry prairies and plains. Half of its multiple stems’ 6- to 16-inch height consists of 3- to 8-inch, bright red or orange flower heads. The color comes not from the actual flowers, but from their protective bracts. Hummingbirds and butterflies are regular visitors to the blooms. This clumping annual or biennial's spreading roots feed off root systems of nearby plants. In home gardens, it should be isolated, advises the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Entireleaf Indian paintbrush likes a sunny location with dry, acidic (pH below 6.8) soil. It handles sand, loam and clay.
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant
Native to Texas’ prairies and dry washes, annual Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata) reaches up to 5 feet high. Its densely leaved stem has upper branches with loose clusters of showy pink or white blooms from July to September. The clusters get longer as they age, with seed capsules replacing lower blossoms as new flowers open at the clusters' tops. Abundant nectar brings bees to the yellow-stamened blooms, according to the lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This plant tolerates full sun to partial shade and thrives in dry, sandy well-drained soil.
An aster family annual, firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) has a hairy, 1- to 2-foot branching stem with green basal leaves. This easy-care plant brightens Texas’ dry plains and roadsides with its profuse, red and yellow daisy-like blooms from May until August. The brown-centered flowers have yellow-tipped petals with red bases. Some varieties, however, are entirely red or yellow, notes the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Firewheel prefers dry, neutral (pH from 6.8 to 7.2), sandy or limestone-rich soil and sun to partial shade.