Oklahoma Proven: Plant Selections for Oklahoma

March 2019


Introduction

We are excited to celebrate 20 years of Oklahoma Proven! Started in 1999, Oklahoma Proven is a plant evaluation and marketing program designed to help consumers select the best plants for their Oklahoma gardens. The goal has been to select plants that are tolerant of the varied and challenging environmental conditions found throughout Oklahoma, since using well-adapted plants should lead to greater gardening success and more environmentally friendly gardens. Drought resistance has become an important selection criteria for landscape materials, and many of the selections highlighted in this guide are recognized for their low water usage. The following symbols are used to feature special attributes of the plants.

Native: Plant indigenous to the continental U.S. or a cultivar or hybrid derived from native plants.

 

Wildscape: Plant possesses one or more characteristics ideal for habitation by birds, butterflies or other animals.

 

Drought resistant: After initial establishment period (up to two years), plant can withstand short-term drought.

The coordinators of the Oklahoma Proven program would like to thank the following for their cooperation and/or financial support:

• Current and Past Executive and Advisory Committee Members
• Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
• Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State University
• Oklahoma Nursery and Landscape Association
• The Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University
• The City of Oklahoma City Utilities Department

Although the plants presented here are among the best for use in Oklahoma, this is just a place to start. There are many plants suited for use in Oklahoma and it is always imperative to match the environmental tolerance of the plant with the environmental conditions in a particular garden or even a particular spot in the garden.

Oklahoma Proven plants have been selected to withstand environmental stress but remember that all plants need special attention during the establishment phase or during periods of environmental extremes.

For more information, visit: www.oklahomaproven.org

Authors: Lou Anella, David Hillock and Mike Schnelle
Editors: Kevin Moore and Justin Quetone Moss

 

ANNUALS


Annual Vinca

Catharanthus roseus

Annual vinca, which also goes by Madagascar periwinkle and other common names. Annual vinca tolerates the heat and humidity of the southwest. It is tolerant of low fertility soils and is drought tolerant. Full sun and warm soil temperature is required for this species to thrive. Annual vinca is subject to chill injury, which predispose them to root diseases. Avoid planting too early in the spring. Flower colors come in shades of white, pink, red and purple. Plants grow 6 to 12 inches tall and 8 to 24 inches wide, depending on cultivar. Improved cultivars provide an abundance of flowers on stocky plants and disease resistance, which is very important with this species. Improved cultivars include plants in the Cora® series, Mediterranean series, Titan™ series and many others.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained, slightly dry
Hardiness: Use as an annual

  


Blanket Flower

Gaillardia

Gaillardia is a genus of native wildflower that has captivated gardeners with its bright red and yellow flowers and ability to bloom in hot, dry conditions. The native species, Gaillardia pulchella, is Oklahoma’s state wildflower and makes an excellent garden plant. Hybrids (Gaillardia x grandiflora) and new cultivars have been introduced that expand the color range and form of Gaillardia including: ‘Goblin’ (dwarf form), ‘Fanfare’ (interesting trumpet-shaped flowers around the central disc), ‘Arizona Sun’ (compact plants with a long period of bloom) and ‘Summer’s Kiss’ (yellow-apricot flowers), among others. Gaillardia is often a perennial but also reseeds readily, creating drifts of color in the garden or meadow. Allow the seed heads to dry on the plant for maximum reseeding and floral display the following summer.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Corkscrew Rush

Juncus effusus ‘Big Twister’

Corkscrew rush with its uniquely twisted stems, though relatively small (18 to 24 inches high and wide), still commands attention in any garden space. The stems curl and spiral, creating a tangled but showy mass. Corkscrew rush grows in full sun or part shade and prefers moist soils. Happy even submerged in water, it is perfect for a water garden. Corkscrew rush also is an excellent accent plant for containers. Though considered hardy to about zone 6, it tends to be more of a tender perennial in our area. Its annual nature may be due to the dry winters and the drastic temperature fluctuations often experienced in Oklahoma.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Very moist to wet, acidic
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Dakota Gold Sneezeweed

Helenium ‘Dakota Gold’

Common names for Helenium include sneezeweed and bitterweed. It is a native wildflower of Oklahoma. ‘Dakota Gold’ is a cultivar with excellent ornamental qualities that is also very tough and tolerates heat and dry conditions. ‘Dakota Gold’ grows as low, 6- to 8-inch mounded cushions of fine, dark green foliage covered with golden yellow flowers all summer long. ‘Dakota Gold’ looks great in beds, containers, rock gardens, borders and as an accent.

 

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Diamond Frost® Euphorbia

Euphorbia ‘Inneuphdia’

Diamond Frost® euphorbia is a fine-textured mounding plant used as an annual in Oklahoma. The simple white flowers bloom from spring until first frost and the plant forms a 2- to 3-foot sphere. Diamond Frost® can be used as a mass planting, alone in a container or mixed with almost any other plant. Its fine sprays of foliage and flowers will weave through other plants, making it a perfect complement for almost anything from poinsettias to petunias. It is an excellent background plant, filler or specimen, proving to be an extremely beautiful and versatile introduction.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual

 


Fan Flower

Scaevola aemula

Fan flower is an evergreen tropical used as an annual in temperate climates. This low-growing plant carpets the ground with flowers all season long when grown in full sun. Its primary flower colors are pink, yellow, lavender and white. It prefers a moist, well-drained soil but is quite drought tolerant once established. Dwarf and standard sizes are available.

 

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Firebush

Hamelia patens

This Central and South American native is a small tree when grown in the Deep South, but is best used as a heat-tolerant annual in Oklahoma. The lush green foliage can produce a dense mound over 3 feet high in full sun. Color is added by the interesting orange-red flowers and the reddish tinge on the leaf petioles. Firebush thrives in the summer heat and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Firecracker Flower

Crossandra infundibuliformis

Firecracker flower is native to India and Sri Lanka, where it is a tropical evergreen subshrub that grows 1 to 3 feet tall. Flowers are apricot to salmon pink in color and form in terminal racemes. Yellow- and red-flowered forms are also available. Plants bloom throughout the summer and attract pollinators. Leaves of firecracker flower are shiny dark green. ‘Orange Marmalade’ has long-lasting blooms on a plant that thrives with heat and humidity. Large clusters of frilly, bright orange flowers shine against the glossy green foliage. Firecracker flower prefers light, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun or part shade, but will tolerate a bright full shade area. Plants thrive in warm, humid weather and have no serious insect or disease problems. Firecracker flower is beautiful in beds, borders, containers or as a houseplant.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Magilla Perilla

Perilla frutescens

Known for its brightly colored leaves of dark purple to hot pink and green, Magilla perilla is a vigorous annual. Magilla perilla is a coleus look-alike, is in the same family as coleus, and has similar characteristics and growing needs. The species, Perilla frutescens, can be weedy, but Magilla is well behaved due to sterile seeds. It grows into a 24-inch tall mound and is heat tolerant. Magilla perilla looks great in beds, mixed borders and is spectacular in a container planting.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Margarita Sweet Potato

Ipomoea batatas ‘Margarita’

Margarita sweet potato is a spreading vine with chartreuse leaves. It is excellent as a ground cover or as a potted plant. This striking cultivar tolerates full sun to partial shade and can grow to 8 inches tall and 20 feet long. It is shown here with fan flower and purple fountain grass, other Oklahoma Proven selections.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Mexican Zinnia

Zinnia angustifolia

Several cultivars of Mexican zinnia are available with white, yellow, pink or orange flowers that bloom all summer. All thrive in the heat, are mildew resistant and make excellent 1-foot-tall compact plants for containers, bedding or edging.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual

 


Pink Crystals Ruby Grass

Melinis nerviglumis ‘Savannah’

Pink crystals ruby grass is a warm-season grass that likes it hot and performs best in those conditions. Growing only 18 to 22 inches tall, it is an attractive ornamental grass with blue-green foliage and ruby-pink blooms with glistening silky hairs in late spring. Flowers retain their color even when dried and may be used for cut flower arrangements. Pink crystals ruby grass is excellent in beds, borders and is spectacular in a container planting.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Purple Fountain Grass

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’

Growing 3 to 4 feet high, this heat- and drought-tolerant plant blooms all summer until frost. It provides a dramatic accent in sunny beds and borders. It has purple leaves and bristled flower spikes, providing color and texture throughout the season.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Silver Falls Dichondra

Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’

‘Silver Falls’ dichondra was selected for its very low-growing, creeping, trailing habit and beautiful silvery gray leaves that are shaped like miniature lily pads. ‘Silver Falls’ is actually a selection of a dichondra species native to southwest Texas and Mexico, so it is quite heat and drought tolerant. Growing only 2 inches tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, it is an attractive groundcover, but is also spectacular in a container planting or hanging basket, spilling over a retaining wall or when used in a rock garden.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Spider Flower

Cleome hybrids

Spider flower is a unique plant with palmately compound leaves, and interesting, fragrant flowers with an old-fashion look. Flowers have abnormally long stamens that give the flower a frilly look and is likely where the common name of spider flower comes from, since they resemble spider legs. Flower colors come in shades of white, pink and purple. Plants can grow 3 to 6 feet tall, depending on cultivar. Improved cultivars provide an abundance of flowers on stocky plants. Improved cultivars include plants in the Sparkler series; the Spirit series; Senorita Rosalita® (vivid pink blooms); and Senorita Blanca® (white blooms with pale lavender blush). Spider flowers attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and goes well with a cottage style, wildflower design or mixed border.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Spilanthes

Acmella oleracea ‘Peek-A-Boo’

‘Peek-A-Boo’ spilanthes was selected for its yellow flowers, each with a red eye poking up out of the foliage. The green foliage has a purple tinge in full sun, turning more purple as fall approaches. The foliage can be used in salads or cooked as a green. Spilanthes is also known as the toothache plant because it has been used to numb pain. In the garden, it is a great conversation piece when combined with other plants in a mixed container or it can be used as a flowering groundcover. It grows 12 to 15 inches tall and spreads 24 to 30 inches.

 

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Star Flower, Graffiti® Series

Pentas lanceolata

Considered to be the most uniform in habit as well as bloom time, Graffiti® comes in several colors including pink, purple, bright red, rose and white. It grows to 16 inches high and 12 inches wide, making it a great plant for containers or in a flower bed. Graffiti® plants are very heat- and drought-resistant and make great cut flowers. With its tightly clustered flowers that sit above the foliage in bright colors that have an abundance of nectar, Graffiti® pentas are a sure attractant for butterflies and hummingbirds throughout the summer months. Like all pentas, Graffiti® prefers soil that is not too rich; if it’s a bit on the dry side, all the better. Heat, sun and good drainage will have the plants blooming heartily all summer long.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moderately moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual

 


Summer Snapdragon

Angelonia angustifolia

Summer snapdragon is a tropical subshrub that can be used as an annual in Oklahoma and will bloom from summer until the first frost. Orchid-like flowers are produced on 2-foot-tall spikes. Depending on cultivar, flower color ranges from blue to purple, pink or white, with bicolor forms also available. Summer snapdragon may be used as a bedding plant, to add color to a mixed border or in a container. It is drought tolerant and loves full sun and summer heat.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum® Petunia

Petunia ‘Ustuni6001’

Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum® is a vigorous petunia that requires very little care once established. Unlike some other petunias, Vista Bubblegum® is a self-dead-heading variety that blooms continuously until the first killing frost. With its bright bubblegum pink flowers, Vista Bubblegum® is a mounding, trailing form that grows to 18 to 24 inches high and just as wide. It looks spectacular spilling over the edge of a container or retaining wall, or spreading out in a flower bed. For the most vigorous plants, fertilize them with a slow-release fertilizer at planting, then follow up throughout the summer with a water-soluble fertilizer applied when watering. Even though no dead-heading is needed, Vista Bubblegum® responds well to a light trimming in early July.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Wishbone Flower Summer Wave® Series

Torenia

The Summer Wave® series is a collection of hybrid Torenia, or wishbone flower, that thrive in the summer heat. The plants form a mound that is 6 inches high and 12 inches wide that is great for the border, in a pot or mixed with other plants in a larger container. The Summer Wave® series is comprised of the following cultivars: ‘Amethyst,’ ‘Blue,’ ‘Large Violet’ and ‘Lavender Blue.’ Each produces flowers from spring until fall, and each flower has a wishbone shape at its center, thus the name.

Exposure: Partial shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


Yellow Bells

Tecoma stans

Yellow bells is a tropical shrub used as an annual in Oklahoma. It can reach a height of 3 feet and produces striking yellow flowers above glossy green leaves from summer until frost. Give this plant a southern exposure; it loves the heat and sun.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: Use as an annual


PERENNIALS

Anise Hyssop

Agastache foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’

‘Golden Jubilee’ is a cultivar of the North American native commonly known as anise hyssop. It was selected for its chartreuse foliage, was named to commemorate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s golden jubilee and was the 2003 All-America Selections flower award winner. Reaching 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide, ‘Golden Jubilee’ produces light purple flower spikes from early summer to fall. Although a perennial, it will reseed in the garden and new plants also will be golden. As an added bonus, brushing against the foliage releases the plant’s licorice scent.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Arkansas Bluestar

Amsonia hubrichtii

Arkansas bluestar is native to eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas, but does well throughout the state. It is tolerant of moist soils and is quite drought tolerant once established. Flowers are sky blue, star-shaped and develop in clusters at the end of each branch in early spring. Leaves are needle-like on upright stems that sway in the breeze, providing a soft, wispy appearance. Foliage is bright green in summer and then seemingly overnight in fall, it explodes to a golden yellow. Amsonia grows to 3 feet high. Plant in masses for best effect. Can be used in mixed borders, meadows, native gardens and open woods.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Dry to moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9


Autumn Sage

Salvia greggii ‘Pink Preference’

‘Pink Preference’ is a cultivar of autumn sage that was selected for its bright pink flowers. Like the species, it is a heat- and drought-tolerant perennial that starts blooming in the spring, but blooms most in the autumn as other flowers in the garden start to fade. It forms a 2- to 3-foot mound and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden. Pruning to 6 inches high each spring will help keep autumn sage dense and full.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Catmint

Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’

‘Walker’s Low’ catmint was the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2007 and is an easy-to-grow, pest-free perennial. This hybrid Nepeta develops into a mound of aromatic, grayish-green foliage. Lavender-blue flowers appear in spring and continue to bloom if properly pruned by trimming after initial flowering. ‘Walker’s Low’ grows 1 to 2 feet high and 1 ½ to 3 feet wide and can be used as edging or in a border, herb or rock garden, naturalized area, as groundcover or is quite attractive spilling over the edge of a wall. Nepeta attracts bees and butterflies. It also tolerates some shade; dry, rocky soil; and is quite drought and deer resistant.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 8


Evening Primrose

Oenothera macrocarpa ‘Comanche Campfire’

This species of evening primrose is native to western Oklahoma and ‘Comanche Campfire’ was selected for its ability to produce beautiful yellow flowers above red petioles and silver foliage. It is touted as a xeriscape perennial since it thrives in well-drained soil and, once established, requires little moisture. As a low-growing, clumping perennial, ‘Comanche Campfire’ reaches a height of 15 to 18 inches and spreads to 2 feet. Use it in a rock garden or along the edge of a perennial bed.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Gaura

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’

Gaura is a drought-tolerant perennial that thrives in the heat and humidity of the South. Although the species produces white flowers, the cultivar ‘Siskiyou Pink’ has bright pink flowers that appear on airy, 3- to 4-foot-tall sprays early in the spring. Blooming will continue until fall if old flower spikes are removed.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 5


Giant Coneflower

Rudbeckia maxima

Giant coneflower is native to eastern Oklahoma, but does well throughout the state. It is tolerant of moist soils and is quite drought tolerant once established. Giant coneflower has waxy, silvery-blue foliage. Flowers have bright yellow ray flowers that dangle from a large, upright, dark brown cone on stems that reach 5 to 6 feet high. Giant coneflower blooms in early summer but dead-heading the spent blossoms will encourage another flush of blooms in late summer. Plant in masses for best effect. Can be used in mixed borders, meadows, native gardens and open woods. This species makes a strong vertical statement in the landscape.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 8


Hellebore

Helleborus

Hellebores, also known as lenten rose, belong to a genus of mostly evergreen herbaceous plants that are prized for their ability to flower in late winter. The flower stalks rise out of the leaf litter or through the snow to display nodding flowers that range in color from green to white, yellow or even purple with some cultivars producing spotted flowers. Recently, hybrids have been selected for outward-facing flowers and brighter colors, increasing their garden value. Hellebores are tough plants requiring little special care other than shade and pruning of old foliage. They are excellent for the woodland garden as understory plants, where they will be protected by shade.

Exposure: Shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Indian Pink

Spigelia marilandica

Indian pink, also called pinkroot and woodland pinkroot, is a native species to the southeastern U.S. It is an excellent plant for shady gardens. Indian pink is an upright, multi-stemmed clump-forming perennial that is 1 to 2 feet tall and 1 ½ feet wide with bright, glossy green leaves. Numerous flowers appear in late spring/early summer and are tubular, deep red with a contrasting yellow throat that flares at the tip to form five-pointed lobes (a yellow star). Indian pink grows in part shade to full shade in moist soils, but does really well in full sun and is quite drought tolerant once established. Use Indian pink in a woodland garden, perennial border, rain garden or native garden. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the beautiful, tubular flowers.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Dry to moist
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9


Japanese Painted Fern

Athyrium nipponicum

Japanese painted fern is a deciduous perennial growing to 12 inches tall. It can be used in shaded perennial gardens or massed as a ground cover. Cultivars are available, each with its own pattern of red and silver variegation.

Exposure: Part to full shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Mexican Feather Grass

Nassella tenuissima

Mexican feather grass is a fine-textured clumping perennial that waves it silvery flowers in the slightest breeze. It is drought tolerant and tough despite its refined appearance. It forms a clump almost 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide as the leaves arch to the sides. It tolerates a wide variety of conditions, but prefers well-drained soils. It does not like to be cut to the ground in spring like other grasses. Remove only the top third of the plant to rejuvenate. It is native to prairies in Texas, New Mexico and south to central Mexico. It may reseed in the garden.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 7

 


Milkweed

Asclepias species

Asclepias species are the milkweeds. Many are native to America and are well adapted to many soil types. Best known as the host plant for monarch butterflies, milkweeds have gained a lot of attention lately. Efforts across the country to reestablish lost habitat to help save the declining monarch population is taking the front stage for gardeners, butterfly enthusiasts and conservationists. Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, is the most popular with bright orange to yellow-orange flowers on upright stems growing 1 to 3 feet tall. Butterfly milkweed was named the 2017 Perennial of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. Milkweeds in general grow in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun, are very drought tolerant and have no serious pest problems. Grow in native plant gardens, wild gardens, meadows, naturalized areas, perennial borders and cottage style gardens.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 10


Mugwort

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

With dense mounds of lacy silver foliage, this perennial reaches a height of 3 feet tall and remains evergreen during mild winters. It is prized for its feathery foliage and drought tolerance.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 5


Perennial Plumbago

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Perennial plumbago, also known as leadwort, is a neat, well-behaved plant that grows 8 to 12 inches high and spreads to 18 inches, making it welcome at the front of a mixed border or massed as a ground cover. Its cold hardiness is much better than true plumbago. The terminal clusters of blue flowers appear from summer through fall when the foliage turns a bronze-red before going dormant for the winter. It is best to use perennial plumbago in a well drained soil and to cut old stems to the ground each spring for vigorous regrowth.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 5


Phlox, Volcano® series

Phlox paniculata

Phlox Volcano® is more compact, fragrant and powdery mildew tolerant than other garden phlox types. Plants develop sturdy stems 24 to 28 inches tall, with deep green leaves and an abundance of large flowers that appear from June to September if plants are cut back after initial bloom. Flower colors range from red, pink, ruby, white, lavender and purple; flowers may also have eyes of pink, red or white. They can be bicolored such as with ‘Lilac Splash.’ It does not mind most soils, but needs well-drained soil; irrigate with soaker or drip irrigation to keep foliage dry. Full sun is the best exposure for Volcano® phlox, but it will grow in part shade. Too much shade and poor air circulation increases chances of mildew developing, though it does not seem to inhibit flowering. Once established, phlox is very adaptable. It is grown as an accent, in groups or masses. It also works well in native plant gardens, wild gardens, meadows, naturalized areas, perennial borders and cottage style gardens. Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the colorful, fragrant flowers.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 10


Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’

‘Magnus’ purple coneflower is known for its rose-colored flowers that appear in early summer and sporadically until frost. ‘Magnus’ is a clump-forming perennial that grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Use this heat- and drought-tolerant perennial in a native plant garden, perennial border or as a cut flower.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 3


Rattlesnake Master

Eryngium yuccifolium

Rattlesnake master is a native species to the tallgrass prairies. Leaves of rattlesnake master are parallel-veined, bristly-edged, sword-shaped, medium green leaves (up to 3 feet long) and resemble those of yucca. Flowers are greenish-white and tightly packed into globular, 1-inch diameter heads resembling thistles. The flowering heads attract many kinds of insects. Seed heads persist and provide winter interest. Rattlesnake master prefers dryish, sandy soils, but tolerates clay and shallow-rocky soils. Plants tend to open up and flop in overly fertile soils or in anything less than full sun. This is a taprooted plant which transplants poorly and is best left undisturbed once established. Use rattlesnake master in a xeriscape garden, perennial border or native garden. Group plants in naturalized areas for best affect.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Dry to moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 8


Sedges

Carex species

Sedges belong to the genus Carex, which is a genus of many species, most from wet areas such as bogs. Sedges have triangular, grass-like stems and panicles of short flower spikes. Native and Asian selections are available, providing a wide range of characteristics. Foliage can be evergreen or deciduous and colors range from green, brown/rust, golden, blue to variegated. Sedges are grown in groups or masses, as a lawn substitute, in naturalized areas, perennial borders and habitat restoration. They are grown particularly in shady areas where the variegated varieties really shine. Some require damp or wet conditions, while others are relatively drought tolerant.

Exposure: Full sun to full shade
Soil: Dry to wet
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 10


Switchgrass

Panicum virgatum

Switchgrass is native throughout North America and is a dominant species of the tallgrass prairies. It does not mind most soils and actually grows well in wet and dry locations. Full sun is the best exposure for switchgrass, but it will grow in part shade; too much shade or rich soils may result in floppy plants. Switchgrass is a warm-season perennial, growing largely as a bunchgrass 3 to 6 feet tall, but may spread by rhizomes or self-seeding. Switchgrass has an upright, stiff form overall. Flower panicles are open, lacy sprays, with a purplish tint that persists into the winter. Leaf color is generally medium green, turning yellow, sometimes with orange tints in fall; however, several cultivars exist – ‘Heavy Metal’ has metallic-blue foliage, ‘Northwind’ is bluish-green, ‘Shenandoah’ has foliage with dark purple tips and ‘Cheyenne Sky’ turns wine red. Winter color is tan to beige. Once established, switchgrass is very drought tolerant. It is grown as an accent, in groups or masses and can be effective as a screen. It also works well in native plant gardens, wild gardens, meadows, naturalized areas, as well as rain, water and bog gardens.

Exposure: Sun, part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9


Toad Lily

Tricyrtis hirta

Toad lilies are known for their very unique flowers. Flowers are pale lilac with dark purple spots that appear on upright arching stems in late summer to early fall, when many other plants are beginning to wind down. The flowers are small, so place toad lily in a spot where they can be appreciated up close. The plant grows 2 to 3 feet high and about 2 feet wide, with bright green leaves. They are excellent for the woodland garden where they will be protected by shade. Toad lily is easy to grow, resistant to deer, somewhat drought tolerant, but grows best in moist soils, even tolerating wet conditions. Several cultivars with varying flower colors are available.

Exposure: Part to full shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 8


Verbena

Verbena canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’

‘Homestead Purple’s’ deep purple flowers and trailing habit make it perfect for hanging baskets, as a ground cover or as the foreground of a mixed border. This North American native will bloom from spring to frost, slowing down only slightly during the hottest months.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


SHRUBS

American Beautyberry

Callicarpa americana

American beautyberry is a native deciduous shrub that produces inconspicuous lavender flowers in mid summer. As fall approaches, the plant becomes laden with brightly colored clusters of purple fruit, producing a striking display. American beautyberry prefers light shade or protection from the afternoon sun in Oklahoma. It grows from 5 to 10 feet high and just as broad. Overgrown plants can be rejuvenated by cutting them to the ground in winter without sacrificing fruit, since the flowers are produced on new growth. This native shrub can be massed as an informal hedge, incorporated into a mixed border or used as an understory plant in a naturalistic garden setting. White-fruited cultivars are also available.

Exposure: Part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Barberry

Berberis thunbergii

Barberries are, in general, pretty tough and offer a wide variety of leaf color. The newest forms are the columnar types of shrubs offering a vertical element in the landscape. These forms of barberry include the Rocket and Pillar collections. Each offers upright, narrow plants in different foliage colors of golden to red and orange, growing 3 to 5 feet high and not more than 2 feet wide. Barberries prefer moist, well-drained soils, but are adaptable to a wide range of soils and, once established, can be quite drought tolerant. Barberries have no serious pest problems and require very little maintenance, making them excellent for the urban landscape. Grow columnar forms of barberry as a specimen, in groupings, in shrub borders and as a foundation planting.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 8


Blue Muffin® Viburnum

Viburnum dentatum ‘Christom’

Blue Muffin® viburnum is a small, compact version of the native arrowwood viburnum that grows about 3 to 5 feet high and just as wide. Blue Muffin® prefers moist, well-drained soils, but is adaptable to a wide range of other soils. Established plants are somewhat drought tolerant, have no serious pest problems and require very little maintenance, making them excellent for the urban landscape. As with many viburnums, Blue Muffin® offers season-long interest with white spring flowers, dark green summer foliage that turns red and orange in fall and blue fruits the birds love in late summer/fall. Prune right after flowering, but only if necessary. Grow Blue Muffin® as a specimen, in groupings, in shrub borders, as a foundation planting or as a hedge.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 8


Bush Clover

Lespedeza thunbergii subsp. thunbergii ‘Little Volcano’ and ‘Gibraltar’

Bush clovers are hardy, semi-woody deciduous shrubs reaching 4 to 6 feet high and at least as wide with arching stems. In harsh winters, it can die to the ground, but quickly comes back the following spring. Late winter or early spring pruning may be necessary to rejuvenate the plant. Flowers develop on new wood and are rosy-purple in late summer to early fall, completely covering the plant. Bush clovers perform well in sandy, infertile soil and are very drought tolerant once established; ideal drainage is essential. ‘Little Volcano,’ a selection from Japan, is more upright with dark green foliage and red-purple flowers. Foliage turns golden after bloom in the fall. ‘Gibraltar’ is a spectacular selection with long, arching stems also covered in rosy-purple flowers from late summer to early fall.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerates poor, infertile soil; excellent drainage is essential
Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 10


Chaste Tree

Vitex species

Vitex is a multi-stemmed large shrub, but can be trained into a small tree. Leaves are palmately compound and dark green. Flowers appear in early summer and continue to bloom sporadically through summer and fall. Flowers of Vitex can be blue, lavender, pink or white. Old strains had small spikes of flowers; improved varieties have large spikes (8 to 12 inches long) of colorful flowers that are fragrant and make excellent cut flowers. Vitex is not too picky of soils and is easy to grow, very heat, drought and pest tolerant and an excellent choice for a xeric garden. Vitex is often considered an excellent replacement for lilacs, which grow much better in colder climates, and it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9


Chokeberry

Aronia

There are two species in the genus Aronia, red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) and black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), both are excellent landscape plants. As their common names suggest, fruit color is the major difference between the two. They both produce clusters of white flowers in spring, have excellent red fall foliage, grow to about 10 feet high and thrive in almost any soil type. Black chokeberry is getting a lot of attention as a “super fruit” for its high levels of antioxidants and can be used to make juice, jelly or wine. Aronia work well massed in a naturalized setting or at the back of a border, since the stems are usually bare near the base, leaving room for garden perennials.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Crossvine

Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’

A true beauty, especially in the spring when ‘Tangerine Beauty’ is covered in orange, trumpet-shaped flowers. This semi-evergreen vine can climb by twining its branches around a structure or can use its adhesive tendrils to cling to a wall, easily reaching heights of 30 feet or more. As temperatures cool in the fall, the leaves have a purple cast and are evergreen during a mild winter or in a protected spot. Beauty is not the only reason for using crossvine; it is also a tough plant, tolerant of heat and drought once established.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Deciduous Holly

Ilex decidua

Deciduous holly is a native plant typically grown as a multi-stemmed shrub. It tolerates heat, drought and poorly drained soils and reaches a height of 8 to 12 feet. Female cultivars of deciduous holly have beautiful red to yellow berries that remain on the plant through the winter. Male and female cultivars should be planted to ensure fruit production.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Poorly to well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 5


Diabolo® Ninebark

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’

Diabolo® is a cultivar of ninebark prized for its deep maroon foliage, which contrasts nicely with the clusters of white flowers produced in the spring and is a great companion for gold or chartreuse-leaved plants. This deciduous shrub grows from 6 to 10 feet high and just as wide. It can be rejuvenated by pruning it to the ground in winter. Red fruit extends ninebark’s show into the fall and exfoliating bark adds winter interest. Diabolo® is a hardy and durable shrub that can be used as a screen, for massing or at the back of a border.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 2


Dwarf Palmetto

Sabal minor

Dwarf palmetto favors the wet alluvial soil in swamps and river bottoms in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and North Carolina and is the only member of the palm family native to Oklahoma. This very slow-growing, ground-hugging rugged fan palm produces pale green or bluish fan-like, evergreen leaves atop spineless stems arising from a crown of underground roots and reaches 4 to 6 feet high or more. Flowers are yellowish-white in late spring followed by edible black, BB-sized fruits that taste like dates. Dwarf palmetto provides interest and variety to a damp, shaded place. Although this plant grows native in areas of high to moderate moisture, once established it is fairly drought tolerant. It is the most cold-tolerant Sabal. In the landscape, it works well as a specimen plant, in mass plantings or in containers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Exposure: Full sun to part shade (best in part shade)
Soil: Organically rich, moderately fertile, moist
Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 to 10


Flowering Quince, Double Take Series

Chaenomeles speciosa

Flowering quince in the Double Take series are hardy, deciduous shrubs reaching 4 to 5 feet high and at least as wide. Plants in the Double Take series produce a profusion of early spring double flowers that resemble camellias. This is a dense, broad-rounded, thornless shrub. Bold double flowers (up to 2 inches diameter) bloom before the leaves fully unfold in an early spring bloom and come in colors of scarlet, orange, pink and peach. Plants do not produce fruit. Oval to oblong, glossy dark green leaves provide an attractive look through the summer. Prune lightly after blooms in spring when needed. Double Take™ flowering quince is very drought tolerant once established.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils, but prefers well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9


Glossy Abelia

Abelia x grandiflora

Several new, compact forms of glossy abelia are becoming very popular. ‘Kaleidoscope’ grows 2 to 3 feet high and slightly wider. In spring, leaves appear on bright red stems with lime green centers and bright yellow edges, but variegation does not scorch or burn in hot weather. In fall, color deepens to shades of orange and fiery red. Soft pink flower buds open to white in late spring. ‘Little Richard’ is a 3-foot by 3-foot evergreen, with vivid green leaves in summer, taking on a tangerine-pink color in fall. White flowers bloom from summer to first frost. ‘Rose Creek’ grows 2 to 3 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide; it is evergreen with crimson stems. New leaves have a pinkish cast, maturing to lustrous dark green and turn purple in cold weather. Use abelias in containers, as formal or informal hedges, accent plants, in mass plantings or in foundation plantings under windows. Abelias also attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden.

Exposure: Sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained, acidic
Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 9, evergreen in 7 and warmer


Japanese Kerria

Kerria japonica

Japanese kerria produces an abundance of yellow, rose-like flowers in the early spring and sporadically through the summer. The species has single yellow flowers while ‘Pleniflora’(shown here) has double flowers. In winter, Japanese kerria adds interest to the garden with its bright green stems and arching habit. Japanese kerria can be rejuvenated by cutting the shrub to the ground every few years.

Exposure: Part to full shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Juniper Collection

Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’
J. chinensis ‘Saybrook Gold’
J. horizontalis ‘Monber’

This collection represents the very diverse genus Juniperus, which has several species and many cultivars within each species. Junipers come in upright, spreading or low groundcover forms. ‘Taylor’ is a narrow, upright cultivar that grows about 4 to 5 feet wide reaching 15 to 20 feet tall and is excellent for tight spaces. ‘Saybrook Gold’ is the brightest gold, holding its color year round with a compact, spreading habit to about 30 inches tall and 6 feet wide. ‘Monber’ Icee Blue® is a low, mat-forming species with beautiful silver-blue foliage. In general, junipers are adapted to a wide range of soils and withstand hot, dry conditions once established.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9


Koreanspice Viburnum

Viburnum carlesii

Koreanspice viburnum is a small- to medium-sized shrub, offering year round interest. In summer, the leaves are dark green and fall color can be wine-red. Flower buds are pink to red, opening to white or pink in spring and emit a wonderful fragrance. In late summer, clusters of red fruit that fade to black invite birds to the garden. Once the shrub has become established, it is quite heat and drought tolerant. Though it prefers moist, slightly acidic soils, and sun to part shade, it is tolerant of high pH soils and wind-swept conditions. It grows from 4 to 5 feet high and just as broad. Several improved cultivars are available.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 7


Oakleaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea quercifolia

Oakleaf hydrangea produces beautiful, creamy-white, cone-shaped flowers in early summer. This native shrub grows from 6 to 8 feet high and just as broad and has year-round interest. In fall, the oak-shaped leaves can turn purple and red, and in winter, the exfoliating bark is exposed as are the cinnamon-colored buds, that in late spring and early summer open to form large, striking flowers. Various cultivars are available and offer different aesthetic attributes.

Exposure: Part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 5


Pink Velour® Crapemyrtle

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Whit III’

Pink Velour® was developed in Oklahoma for its burgundy spring foliage. Summer leaves have a dark purple cast and highlight the pink flowers that are formed from early July until frost. Pink Velour® forms a 10-foot high, multi-stemmed large shrub, is drought tolerant and highly resistant to powdery mildew.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Seven-son-flower

Heptacodium miconioides

Seven-son-flower is an upright, irregular, loose and open shrub growing 15 to 20 feet high. Leaves appear in early spring are soft green and mature to dark green. It is very attractive and pest free. Flower buds form in early summer, but do not open until late summer or early fall. Individual flowers are tiny but fragrant and attract butterflies to the garden. Sepals persist and change from green to rose-purple and are as attractive as the flowers. Bark is exfoliating, whitish, to rich brown and green. Seven-son-flower grows best in moist, well-drained, acidic soil, but seems adaptable.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 8


Southern Waxmyrtle

Myrica cerifera

Southern waxmyrtle is a broad-leaved evergreen native to the southeast corner of Oklahoma and along much of the eastern coastal plain. It has been described as the southern cousin of bayberry and has a similar scent when new leaves emerge in spring. It produces small but showy blue fruit. Southern waxmyrtle can be grown as a large shrub, making an excellent naturalistic screen, or can be pruned to tree form, exposing its light-gray bark. It fixes atmospheric nitrogen, making it suitable on poor soils; it withstands bog-like conditions. Narrow leaf, compact and dwarf cultivars are available, extending the possible uses for this native shrub.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 7


Specialty Fruit for Small Spaces

Miniature peaches, columnar apples, dwarf pomegranate and dwarf patio-type blueberries

Many of the fruits we enjoy so much do not fit well in today’s urban landscapes, especially the standard variety fruit trees. However, today’s breeding and production techniques bring us dwarf and miniature versions that fit in just about any space. Columnar apples, patio peaches, dwarf pomegranates and compact blueberries now make easy to enjoy fresh fruit right out our back door; and they are ornamental too!

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Prefers moist, well drained; blueberries require acidic soil (pH 5)
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 11 (varies by species)


Spirea

Spiraea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’

‘Magic Carpet’ spirea is a compact cultivar from England with dark pink flowers and reddish shoots bearing gold-tinged young foliage in spring. This shrub will remain compact, making it perfect for mixed borders, rock gardens or small-scale landscapes.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Sumac

Rhus typhina

Many sumacs are native to Oklahoma, and these selections have unique characteristics. Tiger Eyes® is bright lime green to yellow all summer, turning brilliant bronzy red in fall. Tiger Eyes® can grow 6 to 7 feet high. ‘Laciniata’ or laceleaf sumac has deeply divided leaflets that create a fine-textured, lacey appearance and turn shades of red, orange and yellow in fall. This cultivar can grow 10 to 15 feet tall. As with any other sumac, they spread by suckers forming thickets. Fruit form in pyramidal clusters and are hairy, red, berry-like drupes that persist into winter, providing interest and food for wildlife. Flowers that bloom in spring attract bees and butterflies. These selections of sumac are all great for naturalized areas and erosion control.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained; tolerant of high pH soils and pollution
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 7


Variegated Yucca

Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’

Yucca is virtually a stemless evergreen shrub native to the southeast. ‘Color Guard’ is a gold-centered, variegated form with upright sword-shaped leaves that provide striking architectural features to the garden. Flowering stalks arise in late spring from the center of the plant bearing long, terminal panicles of bell-shaped, nodding, fragrant, creamy white flowers. ‘Color Guard’ yucca is free of pests and is tolerant of dry areas. It is excellent in borders, xeriscape plantings, containers and as an accent plant.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Dry to moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 8


Winter Jasmine

Jasminum nudiflorum

Winter jasmine is often mistaken for Forsythia, but it flowers earlier and has a long-lasting floral display. It flowers as early as December before its glossy green leaves are formed. Winter jasmine is routinely semi-evergreen in Oklahoma. It can be pruned and used as a hedge, but left untrimmed, will arch gracefully forming a 4-foot-high mound spreading to 7 feet. Winter jasmine requires very little care and is easily rejuvenated by cutting it to the ground every three to five years.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


TREES

American Elm

Ulmus americana

With the release of improved, disease-resistant cultivars and hybrids, American elms are once again in demand. ‘Valley Forge,’ ‘New Harmony’ and ‘Princeton’ are a few of the cultivars available today. ‘Valley Forge’ is upright, arching, broadly vase-shaped with a full, dense canopy. ‘New Harmony’ develops into a broad vase-shaped crown with arching branches terminating in numerous slender, often drooping branchlets. ‘Princeton’ is also vase-shaped. American elms are adapted to a wide variety of soil conditions, tolerate de-icing salts, air pollution, drought and a range of soil pH. They have yellow or red fall color.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9

 


Arizona Cypress

Cupressus arizonica

Arizona cypress is a drought tolerant, evergreen tree native to southwestern U.S. In the landscape, it usually reaches a height of only 20 to 25 feet and 15 feet wide. The foliage can be a gray-green, but usually blueish. Recently, yellow-foliage forms are available. ‘Blue Ice’ and ‘Carolina Sapphire’ are common cultivars and ‘Cookes Peak’ is a selection from Cookes Peak, New Mexico with silvery-blue foliage and pyramidal form. Arizona cypress require well-drained soil and thrive in hot, dry environments. As the tree ages, the bark exfoliates beautifully, becoming mottled with patches of burnt orange and green.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 7

 


Bald Cypress

Taxodium distichum

This large Oklahoma native will lose its leaves in the fall after turning a russet or coppery-bronze and can easily grow to 70 feet high with a 30-foot spread, however, narrow growth habit and dwarf selections are also available. Tolerant of both wet and dry soils, bald cypress makes an outstanding specimen, street tree or pond-side grove.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained to flood tolerant
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Black Gum

Nyssa sylvatica

Black gum is an eastern native, growing slowly to 50 to 60 feet high or more. They are picturesque shade trees with beautiful summer foliage and gorgeous fall color. New selections have excellent form and are more resistant to leaf spot, which can occasionally be a problem. ‘Wildfire’ (N. sylvatica ) grows slowly to 60 feet high by 25 feet wide. New growth emerges red; leaves mature to a shiny dark green; and fall color is bright red. Fire Master™ (N. sylvatica ‘PRP1’) grows about 50 to 60 feet tall and 25 feet wide with a strong central leader; leaves turn crimson red in the fall. Red Rage™ (N. sylvatica ‘Hayman Red’) exhibits more leaf spot resistance than other cultivars and is slightly smaller, growing 30 to 50 feet tall. Flowers of black gum are insignificant, but an important nectar source for bees and pollinators. The small, black fruits that follow are loved by birds. Black gums are an excellent tree for urban and street plantings and their neat habit requires little to no pruning to maintain their excellent shape.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Average to wet
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9


Bosnian Pine

Pinus heldreichii

Bosnian pine is a slow-growing evergreen with a dense pyramidal form when young. It has the potential to grow to 70 feet tall in its native environment, but is more likely to reach only 25 to 30 feet in the landscape. In the Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria, there is a 70-foot tall Bosnian pine estimated to be over 1,300 years old! Young cones are purple and turn brown as they mature. The seeds they produce are edible. Bosnian pine prefers full sun and, once established, is quite tolerant of high pH soils and drought. It is also disease resistant and can be used in the landscape where an evergreen or pine is desired and space is limited.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Tolerates dry and high pH soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6

Caddo Sugar Maple

Acer saccharum Caddo

Caddo sugar maple is a native population of sugar maple found growing in Caddo County in southwestern Oklahoma. The leaves are dark green, deeply lobed and leathery, making it more resistant to leaf tatter and scorch. Caddo sugar maple is also quite tolerant of high pH soils, extreme heat and drought conditions commonly found in western Oklahoma. It can reach 30 to 50 feet tall and is a beautiful medium to large shade tree. Fall color is variable, but can range from yellow to golden yellow to orange and sometimes red; cultivars selected for brilliant fall colors as well as outstanding performance are available.


Bur Oak

Quercus macrocarpa

Bur oak is an Oklahoma native that can grow to 60 feet tall, with an even larger spread, and can tolerate drought, heavy soils and high pH soils. Bur oak can grow to be a long-lived, majestic specimen and is an important wildlife species since many animals feed on its large acorns.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 3


Caddo Sugar Maple

Acer saccharum Caddo

Caddo sugar maple is a native population of sugar maple found growing in Caddo County in southwestern Oklahoma. The leaves are dark green, deeply lobed and leathery, making it more resistant to leaf tatter and scorch. Caddo sugar maple is also quite tolerant of high pH soils, extreme heat and drought conditions commonly found in western Oklahoma. It can reach 30 to 50 feet tall and is a beautiful medium to large shade tree. Fall color is variable, but can range from yellow to golden yellow to orange and sometimes red; cultivars selected for brilliant fall colors as well as outstanding performance are available.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9

 


Cedar Elm

Ulmus crassifolia

Cedar elm can thrive in almost any soil type, including the alkaline and heavy soils common in Oklahoma. It is one of the more disease-resistant native elms, producing glossy green leaves in early spring that turn a muted yellow in the fall. Its form can vary from upright-oval to broadly-horizontal and it generally matures around 60 feet tall. It can be distinguished from other elms by its rough-textured leaves, corky projections on young stems and flowers and fruit produced in the fall.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Chinese Pistache

Pistacia chinensis

Chinese pistache reaches a height of 30 to 45 feet with only a slightly smaller spread. Brilliant yellow, orange or red leaves reliably grace the tree in autumn. Chinese pistache is a tough tree tolerant of drought, heat and heavy soils.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Chinkapin Oak

Quercus muehlenbergii

A native oak growing throughout most of Oklahoma and eastward, chinkapin oak is a rather attractive shade tree that grows 40 to 50 feet high and wide in the landscape. The tree has a nice medium texture in summer and a medium-coarse texture in winter. Bark on the stems and trunk develop into irregular blocky scales with age and is quite attractive. Leaves are a glossy, dark yellow-green in summer with varying fall color of yellow to orange-brown to brown. Chinkapin oak is adapted to various soils, even alkaline soils and is quite drought resistant and tolerant of windswept sites.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9


Crabapple

Malus ‘Prairifire’

Few trees have as much year-round interest as the crabapple, and few crabapples are as beautiful and disease resistant as ‘Prairifire.’ ‘Prairifire’ starts the spring with a profusion of rose-pink flowers just as the leaves emerge. As summer progresses, the leaves turn from purple-red to dark green and red fruit forms that persists well into the winter. It is resistant to diseases that affect many crabapples. It has a rounded crown and will not exceed 20 feet tall, which makes it a perfect choice for planting under utility lines or in masses.

 

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Deciduous Magnolia Cultivars

Magnolia

Deciduous forms of magnolia are spectacular additions to any spring landscape. Among the most popular of deciduous forms are star magnolia (M. stellata) and saucer magnolia (M. x soulangiana), but several others are available along with their many hybrids, which provide a wide variety of flower colors from red to white, yellow, pink or purple. The most common color available is pink, but others such as ‘Elizabeth,’ an older selection with creamy yellow flowers, or ‘Butterflies,’ a newer selection with deep yellow flowers. Flowers of deciduous magnolias appear just before or while the leaves are emerging in spring. Early flowering varieties can be damaged by late frosts; avoid placing plants in a southern exposure where flowers will open early. Deciduous magnolias can range in size from small to medium shrubs to large trees.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Prefers moist, well drained, acidic, but is adaptable
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9


Desert-willow

Chilopsis linearis

Desert-willow is not a willow at all. It prefers dry, well-drained soils, compared to true willows, which grow along streams and ponds; in fact, it will not tolerate heavy, wet soils. Because it likes the hotter, drier climates, it is an excellent choice for western Oklahoma. Desert-willow grows as a small tree 15 to 30 feet high and 10 to 25 feet wide. It is a loose, gangly tree favored for its colorful, funnel-shaped flowers that put on their biggest show in early summer, then bloom sporadically throughout the rest of summer. Flowers can be white, pink, rose or lavender with purple markings inside and are sweetly fragrant. Foliage is a rich green in summer with no fall color, falling early to reveal the interesting branching structure. Several cultivars exist. Desert-willow makes a great patio or small specimen tree and attracts hummingbirds and other birds.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Dry, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 to 9


Escarpment Live Oak

Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak is a smaller version of the coastal live oak (Q. virginiana). It grows slowly to 20 to 40 feet high and about as wide with picturesquely gnarled branches and evergreen leaves. Escarpment live oak is native to southern Oklahoma through central and western Texas to northern Mexico, which means it is also more drought and cold tolerant than coastal live oak. Because of its slower growth, it is a perfect long-lived shade tree for smaller, urban landscapes. Branches provide excellent nesting sites for birds and small mammals. Acorns are elongated and eaten by wildlife. It is also the larval host of the hairstreak and Horace’s duskywing butterflies.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Alkaline to slightly acidic, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 10


Fringetree

Chionanthus cultivars

Chionanthus virginicus is a deciduous, native shrub or small tree with a spreading, rounded habit that typically grows 12 to 20 feet tall. It occurs most often in rich, moist woods and hillsides and moist stream banks. The common name fringetree refers to the slightly fragrant, spring flowers which feature airy, terminal, drooping clusters of fringe-like, creamy white petals. Fringetrees are dioecious (separate male and female plants), but also may have perfect flowers on each plant. Male flowers are showier than female flowers. Plants with perfect or female flowers may give way to clusters of olive-like fruits which ripen to a dark, bluish black in late summer and are a food source for birds and wildlife. Cultivars from the Chinese cousin, C. retusus (shown here), also are available.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 8


Hedge Maple

Acer campestre

Hedge maple is a small to medium sized tree, slowly growing to 25 to 35 feet high and wide. Because of its small size, it is perfect for smaller urban landscapes and even under utility lines. Hedge maple has beautiful green summer foliage that is free of ailments. Fall color is yellow to yellow-green in color. Branches often develop very low to the ground, providing excellent cover for wildlife, though it can easily be trimmed up if desired. Hedge maple is really not too picky of soils; though it prefers rich, well-drained soil, it grows well in compacted and alkaline soils. It also tolerates severe pruning and has often been used as a hedge and even walls, especially in Europe. Hedge maple is one of the tougher maples, which is underutilized in the U.S. It has few problems and is very urban tolerant. Golden leaf and variegated leaf forms are available.

Exposure: Full sun or light shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 8


Indian Cherry

Frangula caroliniana

Indian cherry is a small tree (or large, multi-stemmed shrub) that grows to 20 feet tall with a rounded to spreading canopy. It is native to the eastern and southeastern U.S., making it more desirable over its European cousins. The foliage is dark, lustrous green all summer and turns yellow to orange yellow in the fall. Probably its greatest asset is the colorful fruits that develop late summer/fall that turn red, then black as they mature. These beautiful, sweet fruit also attract several species of birds and can be used to make jams and jellies.

Indian Cheery Tree for Oklahoma Proven

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 9


Japanese Zelkova

Zelkova serrata

Zelkova serrata is a deciduous tree with a vase-shaped habit that typically grows 50 to 80 feet tall and most often occurs in rich, moist woods and hillsides and moist stream banks. It is noted for its graceful shape, clean foliage, attractive bark and resistance to Dutch elm disease. Zelkova is often substituted for American elm (Ulmus americana) because of its resistance to Dutch elm disease. Cultivars from the Chinese cousin are also available. Some notable cultivars: ‘Schmidtlow’ Wireless® (25 feet high and 35 feetwide); ‘Ogon’ (‘Bright Park’) (golden yellow leaves, coral stems); ‘Musashino’ (narrow upright 45 feet high, but only 20 feet wide); and ‘JFS-KW1’ City Sprite™ (compact, dense, semi-dwarf 25 feet high and 20 feet wide).

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 8


Jujube or Chinese Date

Ziziphus jujuba

Jujube, also known as Chinese date, is an excellent small- to medium-sized tree with shiny green foliage in summer and yellow leaves in fall. The naturally drooping tree is graceful, ornamental and often thorny with branches growing in a zig-zag pattern. Jujube can grow to about 15 to 30 feet high. It makes a great landscape tree with the added benefit of edible fruits. Commonly grown cultivars include ‘Li’ and ‘Lang.’ Fruit are round to elongate and mature from green to red, when they have a sweet, crisp flesh somewhat similar to an apple. After maturing to red or reddish brown, the fruits wrinkle and take on the appearance of a date.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Prefers moist, well drained, acidic, but is adaptable
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9


Kentucky Coffee Tree

Gymnocladus dioica

Kentucky coffee tree is an Oklahoma native, growing to 60 feet tall. It is very heat and drought tolerant and does well on high pH soils. Although it has few branches when young, it matures to a majestic and beautiful tree with large seed pods, which add winter interest. Espresso, a male selection, also is available.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Limber Pine

Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’

‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’ limber pine is an evergreen tree with a pyramidal habit that typically grows 20 to 30 feet tall and about 10 to 15 feet wide. The specific epithet and common name is in reference to the flexible (limber) branchlets/twigs. ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’ is noted for its closely spaced, twisted, silvery blue green needles. Limber pine is generally considered to be an adaptable, low-maintenance tree with few problems. Limber pine is native to North America and is considered resistant to pine wilt disease.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 7


Persian Parrotia

Parrotia persica

Persian parrotia is a small tree reaching only 20 to 30 feet tall and can spread almost as wide. Interesting deep-maroon flowers appear in late winter. Leaves have a reddish color when appearing in spring and change to a lustrous green in summer and can be a brilliant yellow or orange in fall. The bark exfoliates into patches of green, cream and gray, adding to the year-round interest of this tree. It is very heat and drought tolerant once established, but appreciates some protection from the afternoon sun.

Exposure: Part shade
Soil: Moist, well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 5


Redbud

Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma’

A cultivar of Oklahoma’s state tree, ‘Oklahoma’ was discovered in the Arbuckle Mountains and was selected for the incredible magenta flowers that cover the tree in early spring. When the flowers fade, heart-shaped leaves emerge with a beautiful glossy sheen. ‘Oklahoma’ redbud can withstand full sun, and their small size (15 to 25 feet high) makes them perfect for use under utility lines. They tolerate a wide range of conditions, but do best in well-drained soils. ‘Oklahoma’ is one of the most beautiful native trees and is perfect for small yards needing a splash of color or grouped together where space allows.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 6


Shantung Maple

Acer truncatum

Shantung maple is a drought-tolerant, small- to medium-sized tree great for under power lines or in residential landscapes where there is not room for a large tree. It grows quickly, but typically only to 30 feet high. The leaves are star-shaped and typically emerge with an attractive purple tinge. This Asian native can have excellent fall color ranging from yellow to orange or red.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Shumard Oak

Quercus shumardii

Shumard oak is an Oklahoma native plant that can grow to be over 100 feet tall in the wild, but typically reaches 40 to 60 feet in the landscape. Shumard oak produces healthy green foliage even on alkaline soils, tolerates summer heat and drought and transplants easily.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4


Silver Linden

Tilia tomentosa

Silver linden is a beautiful large shade tree that can grow 50 to 70 feet tall. It is quite tolerant of high pH soils and urban conditions and is more heat tolerant than other lindens, making it a great street or shade tree for large yards in Oklahoma. Leaves of silver linden are dark green on the upper surface and silvery beneath, providing an interesting effect when the wind blows; leaves can have a nice yellow fall color. Tiny, fragrant white flowers attract bees in late June to July. Cultivars selected for brilliant fall color as well as outstanding performance are available.

Exposure: Full sun
Soil: Moist, well drained; tolerant of high pH soils and pollution
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 7


Winterberry Euonymus

Euonymus bungeanus

Winterberry euonymus is a large shrub to small tree with pendulous branches and light green foliage. Flowers are yellowish-green but not showy. Fruits are pinkish capsules, which split open at maturity revealing an orange aril (fleshy seed covering). Fall color can be yellow to orange and red. Bark is green with a rough texture and also is quite attractive. Winterberry grows 15 to 24 feet high and just about as wide. It is very adaptable and quite drought tolerant. It is mostly resistant to scale insects that are common on other euonymus species. Winterberry makes a great patio or specimen tree.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Tolerant of most soils
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 7


Lou Anella
Professor, Ornamentals and Director, Botanic Gardens at OSU

David Hillock
Assistant Extension Specialist, Consumer Horticulture

Mike Schnelle
Professor and Extension Ornamental Floriculture Specialist

DASNR Extension Research CASNR
OCES  Contact
OCES
139 Agricultural Hall
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY