What is Xeriscaping? The Complete Guide to Natural Landscaping in Arid Climates [2022]

The Complete Guide to Xeriscaping

Landscaping can be a key part of getting your backyard ready for the summer, since summer is when plants can undergo the most stress. You have many options when it comes to landscaping your home. If you're looking for a way to conserve water and reduce overall maintenance costs, xeriscaping may be the best choice. 

Xeriscaping is an increasingly popular landscaping trend that uses the art of landscape design while focusing on using plants that require little or no irrigation. However, xeriscaping can be a bit of a mystery to those who have never heard of it. In this guide, we'll provide everything you need to know about xeriscaping, from planning and planting to keeping your garden healthy and thriving. Read on to discover all there is to know about creating a stunning xeriscape garden of your own.

What Is Xeriscaping?

"Xeriscape" comes from the Greek prefix "Xero," meaning dry. As the name suggests, xeriscaping is a type of landscaping that requires little to no supplemental water. Xeriscaping can be practiced in any climate, but it is particularly well-suited for arid or semi-arid regions where water is scarce.

Xeriscaping is not just about using drought-tolerant plants; it is also a style of landscaping that uses native plants that naturally occur in one's region and adapt to the local climate, soils, and rainfall. Using native plants in a xeriscape garden can further reduce maintenance costs, as they require less water, fertilizer, and pesticide than non-native plants.

Xeriscaping Considerations

To create a successful xeriscape garden, homeowners must first consider their personal needs and the needs of their landscape. One size does not fit all in xeriscaping; the plants one chooses should be based on the region's climate and soil they intend to use. 

Additionally, homeowners should consider the amount of sun and shade in their yard and how much foot traffic their landscaping will receive. These factors will help determine what type of plants will thrive in the landscape and which will not.

Once these considerations are taken into account, homeowners can begin planning their xeriscape garden.

Creating a Xeriscape Garden Plan

The first step to creating a xeriscape garden is to develop a plan. This plan should consider the homeowner's specific needs, available space, and the climate and soil of their region.

Homeowners should begin by noting areas that might not be the best place to set up a xeriscape garden. These spaces include areas that are difficult to water or maintain, such as steep slopes or areas with full shade. Additionally, areas receiving a lot of foot traffic should be avoided, as xeriscape plants are not typically designed to withstand heavy impacts.

Once homeowners note these problematic areas, they can begin mapping out their gardens. This map should include the location of all existing structures, such as houses, garages, and sheds. It should also include underground utilities, such as water lines or electrical cables. Once homeowners map out these features, they can begin planning where they would like to put their plants.

When planning the layout of their xeriscape garden, homeowners should remember their plants' needs. Each plant has specific watering, sun, and soil requirements that must be met for it to thrive. Homeowners should group plants based on their needs so that they can more easily provide the care each one requires. Additionally, homeowners should consider each plant's mature size when planning their garden layout.

Once homeowners complete their gardening plan, they can begin to choose plants that will thrive in their landscape.

Xeriscape Plant Selection

Lantana is a Good Plant for Xeriscape

When choosing plants, it is vital to consider their water needs. Plants requiring little to no water are best suited for a xeriscape garden. Homeowners in arid climates may want to consider plants such as cacti and succulents, which can store water in their leaves or stems. Those in humid climates may want to consider drought-tolerant plants, such as certain types of grasses or sedges.

In addition to considering a plant's water needs, homeowners must consider its sun and shade requirements. Plants needing full sun will need to be in an area that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Plants requiring partial sun should be in an area that receives four to six hours of daylight. Finally, plants requiring shade should be in protected areas, such as beneath a tree or next to a building.

When selecting plants, it is also essential to consider their soil requirements. Plants needing well-drained soil should be in an area where water does not pool for extended periods. Those that require moist soil should be where the ground remains damp throughout the day. Plants that prefer dry soil should be in an area where the land is not constantly wet.

Knowing a plant's mature size is crucial when selecting it for a xeriscape garden. Homeowners should choose plants that will remain within the bounds of their planned garden space. Doing so will prevent the plants from overcrowding and make it easier to provide them with the care they need.

Finally, homeowners should consider their personal preferences by selecting plants they find aesthetically pleasing and will complement other features of their landscape.

Plants that thrive in a xeriscape garden include, but are not limited to:

  • Agave
  • Sedum
  • Desert Rose
  • Cacti
  • Succulents
  • Blanket flowers
  • Verbena
  • Lantana
  • Sage
  • Lavender
  • Crown of Thorns
  • Yarrow
  • Purple Fountain Grass

When creating a xeriscape garden, homeowners should only use grass in high-traffic areas. Grass uses a lot of water, so it is not well-suited for most xeriscape gardens.

Water Harvesting

Homeowners in arid climates may want to consider harvesting rainwater in their xeriscape garden. Rain barrels or cisterns can collect and store rainwater, which can then be used to water plants in the garden.

Homeowners should also consider using greywater to water their plants. Greywater is water that has been used in the home, such as water from the shower or laundry. However, greywater should only be used on plants that are tolerant of it. Certain chemicals in the water, such as bleach or detergent, can be harmful to plants. Therefore, people should never use greywater on edible plants.

Irrigation

Those in arid climates may need to irrigate their xeriscape garden. Drip irrigation is the best method for watering a xeriscape garden. This type of irrigation system delivers water directly to the roots of the plants. It is very efficient in watering plants because little water is lost to evaporation or runoff.

Homeowners should also consider using a timer for their irrigation system. Doing so will ensure the plants are only watered when needed and prevent overwatering and water waste.

Mulch

Mulch Helps Conserve Water

Mulch is a material, such as wood chips or straw, spread over the soil to protect it and improve its fertility. Mulch can also help to conserve water by preventing evaporation.

When using mulch in a xeriscape garden, it is important to choose the right type. Organic mulches, such as wood chips or straw, will need to be replaced every year or two. Inorganic mulches, such as gravel or stone, will last longer but can be more expensive.

It is also important to apply mulch correctly. Mulch should be spread in a layer that is two to four inches thick. It should also be kept a few inches away from the base of plants to prevent it from smothering them.

Maintenance

A xeriscape garden requires little maintenance. Once the plants are established, they will need very little water and can be left to grow independently.

Weeding is one of the only tasks homeowners must regularly perform in their xeriscape gardens. They should check their garden for weeds every week or two and pull them as soon as they appear. Additionally, homeowners may want to trim back their plants occasionally to keep them healthy and prevent them from crowding.

The Benefits & Drawbacks of Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping has many benefits, both for the environment and for saving money. However, some drawbacks accompany xeriscaping as well. Here is a breakdown of what to expect in terms of pros and cons regarding xeriscaping. 

Benefits

Xeriscaping can reduce water bills and the overall time homeowners spend maintaining their landscaping. By using drought-tolerant plants, homeowners can help conserve water resources.

Xeriscaping can also create a more natural landscape that is better for the environment. Xeriscape gardens often require less fertilizer and pesticides than traditional gardens. They can also provide habitats for local wildlife.

Finally, xeriscape gardens may increase the value of a home. Xeriscaping is trending among current homebuyers, so homes with xeriscape gardens may be more desirable.

Drawbacks

While xeriscaping has many benefits, there are some drawbacks to consider as well. Xeriscaping can require more initial work than traditional landscaping. For example, homeowners may need to remove existing grass and plants, which can be time-consuming.

In some cases, xeriscaping can also be more expensive than traditional landscaping. Drought-tolerant plants can be more costly than common species. Additionally, the cost of supplies can add up.

Xeriscaping may also require more maintenance than traditional landscaping in the long run. For example, drought-tolerant plants may need replacement more frequently, and weeds will still need to be removed regularly.

The final result of a xeriscape garden can look unfinished or unkempt if a homeowner doesn't properly plan for it. Therefore, homeowners must consider the design and choose the right plants for the space.

Additional Low- or Zero-Water Landscaping Ideas

Xeriscaping isn't the Only Low-Water Landscaping Option

While xeriscaping is a possible low-water landscaping option, others exist as well. Here are some additional ways to create low- or zero-water landscaping for your home.

Check Dams

One way to reduce water waste and runoff is to create check dams, which are small barriers in strategic locations. These barriers help slow water flow, allowing it to seep into the ground rather than run off.

Rain Gardens

Another option for reducing water waste is to install rain gardens. Rain gardens collect rainwater and allow it to seep into the ground. They are usually planted with drought-tolerant plants that can survive on little water.

Dry Streams

Dry streams are a type of landscaping feature that can help reduce water waste. They are shallow channels designed to look like natural streams and are usually filled with gravel or rocks to redirect water flow.

Low-Water Lawns

Some types of grasses require less water than others. Homeowners can create a low-water lawn by choosing a type of grass that doesn't need much water. Alternatively, some homeowners opt for artificial turf, which doesn't require water.

Gravel Gardens

Gravel gardens are a type of xeriscape garden that uses gravel instead of mulch or soil. They can be a low-maintenance option because they don't require much watering. Additionally, they can help to prevent weeds from growing.

Porous Paving

Porous paving is a type of pavement that allows water to seep through it, which can help reduce runoff and allow water to seep into the ground.

Is Xeriscaping Right for You?

Xeriscaping is a great way to reduce water consumption and save money on your monthly water bill. Before you get started, there are some essential things to consider. Hopefully, this guide helped you understand the benefits and drawbacks of xeriscaping so that you can make an informed decision about whether it's the right choice for your landscape. Ready to give xeriscaping a try? Discover the opportunities of xeriscaping today.

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