Favorite colorful frost & drought hardy perennials?

kmickleson(z9 CA)March 23, 2014

Hard frost hit my microclimate (Fairfax, CA--SF Bay Area) this last winter with over 15 days below freezing weather. I lost a lot, and assume others did too. (for example, lost 2 citrus patio trees and a large abutillon which normally do fine here.) This, along with the drought, has me planning a re-do using some mix of what I think of as 'high desert'--cold winter plants that get cut back in the late fall, like salvias, agastache, lavenders, nepenthe, flowering ground covers, and such.

I love complementary colors and favor some mix of blues (real blue if possible)-purples, oranges (like poppy orange), non-pale yellows, and vivid raspberry-magenta.

I thought I'd ask people here about their favorite frost & drought tolerant perennials (with hybrid name if relevant) to consider--ranging from ground covers to short mounding types up to 5' types. Those which bloom for a long time and return faithfully would be favored. I may post this also in perennials forum, but thought I'd start here.

I frequent Annie's, so have some inspiration there. But input from those who went through this last bad frost and had flowering plants survive would be great.

Thanks, â¨Karen

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Rio Grande Abutilon might be root hardy at least its said to be root hardy in a mild Dallas winter. You might wait a while to dig that out. My Gregg Salvias have easily pulled through but I am still waiting on Salvia 'Lips'. Lavender & Agastache pulled through easy. I'm still waiting on some others. I have some cold hardy agaves looking pretty sad with cosmetic damage for the first time. Seems like the native Calif. sages like Salvia dorrii would give you some good blues. I'm tempted to try one this year but afraid we probably have the wrong rainy season.

Here's few suggestions that can withstand both freeze & serious drought. I know I will think of others after I post this.

Leucophyllum frucescens or L. candidum (called Barometer Bush or Cenizo)

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's Cap). Gardeners Eden carries it.
Pavonia (Rock Rose) Gardeners Eden carries this too.

Great Basin Plants online carries these and a few others you could check out, they are good to order from:

Fallugia paradoxa (Apache Plume)
Ephedra (Joint Fir)
Chrysothamnus nauseosus (Rabbit Bush)

Some perennials:

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame Acanthus)
Lantana, Gardeners Eden offers some nice hardy ones that get large.

Tecoma Stans (Yellow Bells)
Scutelleria wrightii (Shrubby Skullcap)
Ipomea leptophylla (Bush Morning Glory)
Calylophus (shrub type of primrose)
Dasylirion (Sotol, Desert Spoon)
Hesperaloe parviflora (Red yucca, its in the lily family)
Nolina texana (Sacahuista, Basket Grass)
Palmetto (Sabal minor)

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 10:27PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

Thanks, Tex. I''ll be looking these up in coming days. I appreciate the response.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:39PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

For color I love Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) has months of pink blooms, and can bloom in extended 100 plus weather and very little summer water.. white fall blooming Eupatorium havanense, Iris is amazingly xeric for me. Bamboo muhly, LOTS of your california salvias. Salvia romeriana ( texan), Salvia melissodora, Salvia officionale, Salvia madrensis (needs a bit more moisture),Salvia regla, Texas betony, Plox pilosa( spreads in the shade), artemisia valery finnis, American beautyberry, Ipomopsis rubra (annual that reseeds easily), callirhoroe involcrata, Callirhoe involcrata var linearloba, calyophus berlandiera, Chrysactinia mexicans (AKA damianita), Cordia bossieri, Dalea frutescens, dale aurea, melapodium leucanthum (Blackfoot daisy), Nolina lindheimeriana, Nolina texans, Pavonia lasiopetala, Penstemon barbatus, P. baccharifolius, P. cobaea, P. wrightii, senna wislizeni, Sophora tomentosa,Tecoma stans,⦠Many more. These are good for Texas Z8b. I bet there is many more that will do good for you.

This post was edited by wantonamara on Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 23:55

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:48PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

OH I forgot a great one in Desert Mallow, Schaeralcea ambigua is a beauty. All of that family is a good plant for color and xeric with freeze. They have some good hybrids of it floating around in the trade. Only draw back is Deer find it a good desert after they wipe out the blossoms on your Sedum palmerii, another good Xeric cold hardy plant with yellow blooms in Early spring.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 1:00PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

Thank you, wantonamara (clever name). I'm enjoying looking at your suggestions--love the color of that Schaeralcea ambigua! And I'm also looking at Ranger's. I appreciate your suggestions.

It will be a challenge to re-tool my drip system into manage a large, sunny bed of plants with a mix of watering needs. I've grown weary of individual emitters on plants as there are too many and maintenance is a PITA.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 4:55PM
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Gazinia, Mine never stopped blooming, even during the freeze.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 5:13PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Kmickelson, I do not know how dry you are but the plants that I listed do not get water. We do on accession get a stray thunderstorm in summer BUT we also get hot hot hot and our ground is extremely porous. The plants I listed are xeric but adaptable. We have also gotten damp years. Central Texas gan get 50" of rain once every 20 years or so and more often we are around15"- 24" mostly in downpours that slide away downhill quickly. I have no irrigation system other than a hose and I rarely ever use that . During the drought that gave us 5" I let things dry up and replaced what died. Most came back and others reseeded when the rains returned.

. Here is a photo of some of the penstemons and desert Mallows

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 6:49PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

Nice pic, wantonamara.

My microclimate has 10-20" rain, but we're in a drought right now. And with each year's global warming impact to cause crazy long frost cycles, one doesn't know what to expect. Summers range in the 70's-80's with occasional periods in the 90's and/or a few 100 days.

My problem in planning is probably more related to a combo of my aesthetics & drip system. I'd like to change the drip over to a system of sprinklers to avoid maintenance of emitters. But I want some plants that do need water--the station in question has 8 roses, and I want to use a mix of salvias, agastache, coneflowers, sedum, some grasses, low daisy mounders, asters, gazania's (thanks, enmarene) and some xeric plants, like the Schaeralcea ambigua. To adequately water the roses and salvia, I worry the dryer plants will get overwatered.

Truth be told, I should probably just remove all water needing plants and just redo the whole thing xeric, but the color ranges available in xeric, apart from a few, don't appeal to me as sources for mixing complementary colors. And I'd miss the roses. Ack. Moral-aesthetic conflict.

Can't have everything, I guess. In any case, I've gotten a lot of good ideas here I'll be looking into.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:35PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I do zonal gardening. I have a wet zone were my grey water empties into the garden. so they are typed to where they will do best. AAHH , so many decisions. Good luck. It sounds like you have a great Mediterranean garden area. I would check out the salvia forum.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 11:11PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

HA! I was just writing a post at the salvia forum on zone issues as this post of yours came in! Great minds and all that...

Thanks for the support.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 11:21PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I know of several Northern Californians that frequent that form and have gotten a lot of good info from it. Meanwhile I will dream of 70 and 80 degree summers. I love my Salvias. I have about 15 varieties.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 11:31PM
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Thats our night time temps so can we say we average that too? If I lived in California, I would think I'd gone to Salvia Heaven.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 12:42AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I think a good resource for you might be Las Pilitas, the native nursery in California in Santa Margarita. I think that is is a great educational resource even if it is too long a drive for you. Their Shipping and handling is a bit exorbitant. The site is a great site. It does a lot with talking about your native biological zones in California. I am amazed by the beauty of many of the californian natives.

This and Annie's Annuals makes me drool all over my shirt. I know they are expensive places but I am a whore for a good plant. I make it up by planting seeds and buying clothes at Salvation army. and being the typical bottom feeder of life.

Here is a link that might be useful: Las pilitas nursery

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 12:07PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

HA Again, wontonamera! I came upon that Las Pilitas site yesterday and bookmarked it for reference! Annies Annuals is local to me and I love the place! Usually what I want goes onto a wish list, and having all the plants you want available at the time you want to do the planting is a challenge.

I've been printing 2 sided copies of the plants there I love so I can play with their colors and heights and such.

Tex, I guess CA is relatively heavenly for salvias and other things, but, when you can't count on what you plant to survive the crazy winter frost, it's tricky. I shouldn't complain.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:15PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

A million salvias that will survive your frosts, even from bad years. We had a cold winter too. I am waiting patiently to see if my S. melisodora(Z9 or 8 ) got frozen back to the ground by some 16F(wet ground) and 19F weather will re-sprout. It has survived a 12F winter (mulched) before and burgeoned back to 5'. Some of my salvias are being slow to green up. The salvia regla has not broken dormancy yet. The twigs are green inside, it is just being slow. The trees around me are being retarded too, so, so far I am not worried.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:38PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

OOH, I have a wish list notification from Annie's right now and I finished my " financial enema" (my yearly taxes) so I could justify my splurge. LOL. I have a lot of empty pots left over from this cold and destructive winter. Unfortunately one of the plants is a "maybe" as far as hardiness. A new grass and they do not have a whole bunch of info on it. So I would grow it tenderly and then test the plants grown from the seeds.

This post was edited by wantonamara on Tue, Mar 25, 14 at 15:34

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:53PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

The native buckwheats really tempt me.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:39PM
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Just a correction. 'Almost Eden' was the company I meant to say. Not Gardener's Eden. Duh. Just in case anyone is interested in checking the site.

Wantanamara, I am sorely tempted to try that curly Nassella grass from Annie's two full zones outside the limit since they haven't done any trials, I'm ridiculously optimistic that way. I'm hoping you try it out so you can report. If its not hardy there, I can put it to rest. Why'd you have to bring that up? Now I'm in a severe state of lust. I'm liking the Uruguayan Firecracker too.

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Tue, Mar 25, 14 at 14:53

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:52PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Uruguayan firecracker, eh. I will have to take a gander at it while I paw my credit card. LOL⦠I just dug up another dead agave Xylonacantha. More empty spots.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 3:37PM
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Check out that blue foliage with the warm red flowers. Heat & ----HUMIDITY tolerant & blooms summer to fall. Its the humidity that gets some of mine that would otherwise make it, I do believe.

How can a little Nassella grass be all that tender about cold? Its just another stipa. The way I read it is, its so new no one has tested it.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.anniesannuals.com/plt_lst/lists/general/lst.gen.asp?prodid=3037&rs_start=120&prp_av=1

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 4:01PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Thanks, I can get this one in the nurseries around here for a lot cheaper. I ask not sure why, but I have killed it out here. I think I did not spend enough water getting it established. I will keep my eye out for it when I make my rounds. Maybe my alkalinity or my forgetfulness.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 4:13PM
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teckelhound(Z9 SF Bay)

K, I will share with you which of my plants took the weather in stride. We share the same neighborhood so that factor alone may be extremely helpful in some of your decision making. My yard is full sun, south facing. All plants are on drip system, and I will hand water new plants as needed. The area is rather small compared to most GW people, but we know what lots are like in our town.

These are my favorite and most successful. Easy to find at Annies or HD.

Abelia "Kaleidoscope". Gorgeous small shrub with green/yellow/red leaves.

Penstemon "BOP" Favorite shade of purple, blooms much of year.

Cuphea "mickey mouse". From Annies, this shrub is huge (4x5) and blooms all year. Cold knocked it out, I cut it way back, and now regenerating like crazy.

Lobelia laxiflora "Mexican Cardinal flower" Mine get huge, tons of flowers/hummers. Cut back in winter to control size.

Uruguyan Firecracker plant. Mentioned earlier, this one is a winner.

Fortnight lily. I know, a parking lot plant, but in the right setting, it is like an iris that blooms all summer.

Others that work so well: Yellow lantana, gaillardia, bidens, camomile, phormium, daylily, gaura, pineapple sage, variegated hebe, lavender, coreopsis.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:19PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

Wow! Great work, tecklehound--neighbor. Thanks for your suggestions. I'll be looking them up. What is that grass in the lower right corner?

Also, I want to thank TexasRanger for the great, inspiring photo of the firecracker plant, which I must add to my mix.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:46PM
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teckelhound(Z9 SF Bay)

The grass in the right lower corner is Uncinia uncinata, purchased at Annies. The plant pictured is 2 years old, and it has been a few years since I took this photo and the plant is the same size.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:09AM
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