Northern Nevada's gardeners have some major challenges. Soil throughout much of the region is a loam of sand and clay, lacking the organic material that retains water. It's also alkaline, with pH readings often exceeding 8. Temperatures can drop as low as minus 25 degrees F. While soil can be amended, there's a high fire risk and little rainfall, says the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Desirable northern Nevada perennials include low growing, winter hardy, drought-resistant plants.
Sea pinks (Armeria maritima), members of the leadwort family, are evergreen perennials. They grow in grass-like clumps up to 1 foot tall and wide. Flower stems rising above their narrow, deep green leaves produce small globes of white, pink or red flowers from June to August, says the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. They like full sun, well-drained soil, twice-a-week watering and a single yearly feeding with slow-release fertilizer. Sea pinks make appealing additions to rock and container gardens. Unpalatable to rabbits, deer and squirrels, they also work as edging plants.
Another short, spreading perennial, basket-of-gold (Aurinia saxatilis) grows 6 to 12 inches high and up to 18 inches wide. Desirable for the bright yellow flowers that blanket it in early spring, basket-of-gold is a charming plant for rock gardens. It also works well trailing over stone walls. Its small grayish-green leaves add garden interest when the blooms are finished.
Basket-of-gold likes a sunny spot with shade during the heat of the afternoon. Plant it in dry, well-drained sandy soil. It may develop root rot in heavy clay or consistently wet soil. In the right conditions, says the Missouri Botanical Garden, its woody stems spread to form an attractive ground cover.
In the same family as broccoli and cabbage, candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) is a mounding perennial up to 1 foot high and 18 inches wide. A spring bloomer like basket-of-gold, it's covered with April and May clusters of white flowers that change to pink as they mature. The flowers may completely obscure its deep green leaves. Use candytuft in rock gardens, as an evergreen edging along walkways or as a divider between different sections of your landscape.
Plant in full sun--it flowers less in part shade--and dry, well-drained soil. Wet soil can lead to crown rot. Plants root where their branches touch the soil. Let them spread, or dig up and transplant the new growth. Cut candytuft back by one-third after it blooms to maintain its compact mounding habit.
- University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: Choosing the Right Plants for Northern Nevada's High Fire Hazard Areas
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Sea Pinks
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Basket-of-Gold
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Candytuft
- Tahoe Ridge Winery: The Research, Science and Theory of Growing Wine Grapes in Nevada