The word xeriscape seems to make gardener's heads spin thinking it may be a specific group of plants. Actually when you think about it is a specific group of plants that will grow in an arid climate or need little or no watering. However the term refers to some gardening principles that save water while the creation of a thick and beautiful garden or landscape is the result. The term apparently orginated in Colorado back in the early seventies as a way to have a garden without squandering huge amounts of water in area of the country where water can be precious. This also applies to other areas of the country in the west and southwest as well as some states in the east and matter of fact applies to the entire GLOBE.

I have concluded after researching this subject that it could apply anywhere water conservation during dry spells is a necessity. In todays world this practice could be at least used for some of the gardening with plants you already use. It will be quite a surprise to find the number of plants that can be grown in many zones that are suitable for the arid zones of the world. This will result in producing your own xeriscape. I am not saying turn your entire garden into a arid garden but maybe turn a segment of it into a place for water conservation plants. Who knows you should impress your friends with not only the terminology but the actual garden in action. Well enough of this gardeners philosophy let's get to the principals of xeriscaping.

An Example Of A Xeriscape Garden

This beautiful garden is a beautiful example of the seven fundamental rules for


  • PLAN AND DESIGN This will provide you with water conservation and a lovely garden from the beginning. The misunderstanding about all of this results from the idea that only plants like cactus and other desert perennials will be suitable in this type of garden mix. There are quite a few plants that will perform well in dry climates and some of these plants will perform well anywhere you decide to develop a xeriscape. The thing to remember when building such a garden is not to place plants that require regular watering with your plants requiring little or no water.The other thing that always gets to me is the placement of plants near your home foundation that need a lot of water. This is certainly a place to practice water conservation.

    The placement of your dry climate garden will be enchanced if at first you observe the site and figure out how the water moves through the site. It may assist you in taking the opportunity to use the natural flow of the water and the existing contours to avoid placing your xeriscape garden in the wrong area or assist those of you in a dry climate to position your garden where it will at least acquire the benefit of any rainfall you may receive.

  • CREATE PRACTICAL TURF AREAS This fundamental rule really applies more to gardeners in arid areas then those in areas where building a dry climate garden is just a part of the landscape. However you may want to skim over this for a little information.

    It has been the popular opinion that converting your entire yard to xeriscape entails removing all of your grass. This is simply not true. It does give you pause and study where grass placement makes reasonable sense rather than putting turf lets say "willy nilly" throughout your garden.

    Your lawn in arid areas should be planted only where it maybe required such as recreational or play areas. I would use groundcovers where it seems the right choice and utilize those that are water conserving such as lavendar thyme or pink chintz because of their beautiful flowering. Here gardeners as far north as zone 5 can avail themselves of this groundcover.

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An Excellent Plant Is Lavendar Thyme For Xeriscape

Generally speaking groundcovers need less water while offering different shaped flowers and textures. The groundcover should be tall enough to inhibit weeds and dense enough to shade the soil from evaporation and most importantly attractive throughout most of the year. I have a spread of thyme in my back yard although I live no where near an arid segement of the country and I find it quite attractive. I know in many parts of the country it is important to maintain a lush and beautiful green lawn. Living in an arid part of the country where xeriscape is being extensively practice could require you to think out of the box. Plants such as clover were once thought of as weedy but is actually beneficial to the soil adding nitrogen making fertilizer less important and also attracts bees as pollinators for your fruit and vegetable gardens. It maybe time for all of us gardeners to give this some thought not that you need to plant a field of clover.

  • SELECT LOW WATER PLANTS The most significant decision you will make is choosing the correct plants for your xeriscape. A great many plants will not be suitable for the environment outside of a dry climate one example being a Joshua tree which grows quite naturally in zones 7-10 or higher slopes of warm deserts. It provides for a marvelous sculptural form in any warm desert garden. However there are many plants all the way to zone 3 that are low water plants to place in your xeriscape.

    The list is actually quite extensive and includes such familiar plants as purple coneflowers,blanket flower,daylily and fountain grass all of which are discussed in detail on the garden advice page just click and you will be returned to here when you are finished.

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Fountain Grass An Excellent Choice For The Xeriscape Garden

Blanket Flower Will Thrive In A Xeriscape Garden

A word of caution here when choosing an ornamental grass for your xeriscape make sure to select a grass that will not become invasive to your local green environment. These grasses are often classified into warm or cool season grasses. THe warmer grasses are slower to emerge in the spring and enjoy hot and dry conditions. The cool season grasses start their growth in early spring and flower in the summer and grow slowly in the summer heat. The warm grasses are the best bet for your dry climate garden.

  • SOIL AMENDMENTS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED Xeriscape soil is made up of three elements or particles including sand,clay and silt. Fortunately there are ways to improve both sandy and clay soils. The detalied discussion of the amendments required can be found at our soil page just click here after you are finished it will bring you back to here. An established landscape is more difficult to improve the soil. However if you are only constructing a dry climate garden in one portion of your garden you can apply organic material in a depth of three to five inches over your existing soil. If you are a gardener in dry a climate area it may require more effort.

  • IT IS MULCH TIME Mulching as we have discussed before lowers evaporation. Mulch plays a very important role in your xeriscape. Mulch is available in different types and each has its own characteristics. Organic mulch comes in many forms such as wood and bark chips,sawdust,shavings,peanut shells,straw grass clippings,leaf mold.leaf litter and compost. This type of mulch will decompose over time and become a part of the soil. It will decompose and add organic matter to the soil. This requires replacing the organic mulch after decomposition. The difficulty here is how to determine the speed of this decomposition because it depends on the weather and the size of the material.

    I didn't include pine needles although I know some people use it. I feel it is too acidic for use under many plants. There are many other types that can be used as mentioned above. Decorative mulch from tree bark,try not to use pine bark if possible,is good either in shredded,chips or in chunks. These type of mulches resist the compacting of your soil,don't blow away and are very attractive and decompose slowly.

  • WATER EFFECTIVELY In xeriscaping you must be aware of your soil and its ability to retain moisture. You must study your plants,its needs and its ability to hold to the water necessary to create a dry climate garden anywhere in the world. A plant that can survive in a dry climate or with less watering in a wetter climate is not as effective in using water but is more conditioned to conserving water and less sensitive to drought.

    Roots and root hairs usually grow in the top six to eight inches of soil because of oxygen and moisture requirements. Roots will not grow where the soil is constantly dry. Roots close to the surface are more susceptible to drought conditions and so even in xeriscape you must water to get all of the root system moist. The more extensive and deeper the roots will aid your plants to tolerate drought. This means that your new plants,while getting establish, may need just as much water as your plants requiring a constant watering pattern. After you have them established then you cut back on your watering.

    Rules of watering include keeping your water close to the ground. I would recommend not employing oscillating sprinklers that send water high into the air and provide excellent watering conditions to your sidewalk or driveway. Sprinklers that have stationary heads or heads that move horizonally from side to side are less inclined to evaporation.


It is important to know how much water your sprinkler system is delivering so you can determine how much water to be delivered to your xeriscape garden. Place at least three flat rimmed cans like tuna cans at different distances from the sprinkler. Then turn on your sprinkler let it operate for fifteen minutes and turn it off. Pour the collected water into one can and measure the depth with a ruler and divide by three if that is number of cans that are used such as three in this example. Your sprinkler delivers that much water in fifteen minutes. Your situation may require more cans depending on the number of sprinklers you maybe using in your garden.

It is imperative that you place your watering system in such a way that a given zone delivers to the plants a similar watering requirement for those plants. It is not a good practice to water plants with different watering requirements at the same time. I guarantee you will end up either underwatering some plants or overwatering others. An automatic watering system should have the watering times per zone changed at least once a month to better reflect the watering requirements. The heat of the summer requires plants to need more irrgation than lets say in the spring or fall.

  • LANDSCAPING MUST BE ATTENDED TO FOR PROPER XERISCAPE Now that you have or are considering a xeriscape garden remember that no garden is maintenance free. Just as traditional gardens require some maintenance so do dry climate gardens to maintain the best foot forward. This includes all the familiar chores such as deadheading,aerating,fertilizing,insect control,mowing and pruning shrubs. Wow I thought this was going to be easy. It all depends on the look and eye catching garden you desire to create like this picture below.

A Beautiful Example Of A Finished Xeriscape Garden

The act of regular pruning improves the looks of your plants and promotes their health and growth. Many shrubs bloom on new wood so it becomes a necessity if you expect to have any flowers. The most opportunistic time to prune is in the winter or spring. Deadheading is the act of removing flowers that are dead prior to them turning into seed heads. It really adds to the attractiveness of your garden to rid it of all the dead matter. It also helps to cut down on diseases which can form under a load of dropping flower heads. It will also promote some plants to bloom again in flowers such as blanket flowers,salvia,and cosmos. The aeration of your lawn,if you have one is important and a great deal of information is available at AERATION AND DETHATCHING IN YOUR LAWN CARE Just click here and you will be returned to here after you are finished reviewing the information.

Mowing and fertilizing should take place as often as is necessary. The lawn should be kept at a height of two to three inches. Fertilizing both your garden and your lawn is the healthy thing to do and is best checked by reviewing your containers of fertilizer to see when the ideal times are required for this application. Gardens Alive can help click here:

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The control of insects is another phase that you need to pay attention to through the monitoring of your plants on a scheduled basis. I can help with a good list of insects and how to identify by going to gardener's web page about insects which will provide lots of information about many common insects.

I think that some xeriscape in any garden will be good for the environment and help with the water conservation.

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