4 hard-to-kill plants perfect for Oklahoma

Gibraltar shrub flowers

Are gardeners also gamblers? Yes, of course! We love the risk of planting a tiny seed or narrow stem and hoping for a beautiful result.

Sometimes we achieve the desired result. But, sometimes we don’t. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone had already done the research on which plants do best in our neck of the woods given our sometimes rather erratic weather conditions? And, also tell us where to plant them so they have the highest chance of success? They have.

It’s called the Oklahoma Proven Program. Oklahoma Proven is an annual plant evaluation and marketing program coordinated by the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Oklahoma State University. Designed to help consumers select the best plants for Oklahoma gardens, these plants are tolerant of the varied and difficult environmental conditions found throughout Oklahoma.

Every year, an annual, a perennial, a shrub and a tree are selected. Here are the selections for 2018.


Annual: Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum®

(Petunia ‘Ustuni6001’)

4 hard-to-kill plants perfect for Oklahoma

Supertunia Vista Bubblegum is a vigorous, self-deadheading petunia that requires very little care once established. Its spectacular color can spill over the edge of a container or retaining wall or spread out in a flower bed.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Soil: Moist, well-drained soil



Perennial: Indian Pink

(Spigelia marilandica)

4 hard-to-kill plants perfect for Oklahoma

Versatile Indian Pink, also called Woodland Pinkroot, is a native species to the southeastern U.S. It grows in shady gardens or sunny locations. It prefers moist soils and is drought tolerant once established. Use Indian Pink in a woodland garden, perennial border, rain garden or native garden.

Exposure: Sun to part shade   

Soil: Moist or dry soils


Shrub: ‘Little Volcano’ and ‘Gibraltar’

(Lespedeza thunbergii subsp. Thunbergii)

4 hard-to-kill plants perfect for Oklahoma

These Bush Clover varieties are a hardy, semi-woody, deciduous shrub that can reach 4-6 feet high and at least as wide with arching stems. Rosy-purple flowers develop on new wood in late summer to early fall.

Exposure: Sun to part shade

Soil: Tolerates poor, infertile soil, but excellent drainage is essential


Tree: Japanese Zelkova

(Zelkova species)

4 hard-to-kill plants perfect for Oklahoma

Zelkova serrata is a deciduous tree with a vase-shaped habit that typically grows 50-80 feet tall, most often in rich, moist woods and hillsides. It is noted for its graceful shape, clean foliage, attractive bark and resistance to Dutch Elm disease.

Exposure: Full sun or light shade  

Soil: Tolerates wide variety of soils


Helpful reminders

  • The greater Tulsa metropolitan area is in USDA Hardiness Zone 7A, which equates to an average extreme low of 0-5 degrees.
  • Remember that all plants need special attention during the establishment phase or during periods of environmental extremes, which Tulsa has experienced more of in recent years.
  • Nothing is guaranteed, but you can significantly improve your odds of successful gardening by choosing Oklahoma Proven varieties.
  • For more information, visit oklahomaproven.org.


Thank you to Tulsa County Master Gardeners for their expertise in this subject matter. Allen Robinson has been a Master Gardener since 2010. 


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.