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Xeriscaping – Drought Tolerant Gardening and Landscaping

Xeriscaping - Drought Tolerant Gardening and Landscaping


In many parts of the world, xeriscaping continues to gain popularity as people discover the benefits of xeriscaping, especially in arid regions. However, xeriscaping doesn’t just have to be practiced in arid climates, this type of gardening and landscaping technique can be implemented in many ecologic regions with several beneficial outcomes such as water conservation, less yard maintenance, reduced weeds and minimized use of pesticides and fertilizers.

As much as 25% of our water supply is used in watering our yards and gardens. A typical sprinkler, the type that is attached to a hose and moved about the yard, delivers approximately 300 gallons of water an hour. By using xeriscaping techniques in our garden and landscape designs, we can reduce dramatically the amount of water it takes to maintain our gardens and landscapes.

The word, xeriscape, was coined in Denver, Colorado during the late 1970s. It is a combination of the Greek work Xeros, meaning “dry” and “scape” for landscape. It is a water-wise or water-efficient method of gardening and landscaping. With the growth in population, xeriscaping is becoming increasingly popular and necessary. While the population is expanding yearly, our water supply is not increasing.

Forms of Xeriscape Gardening and Landscaping

1. Grouping plants according to their water needs

When xeriscaping plants can be grouped according to their water requirements. Plants that need more water can be planted in one area and plants that need less water, or are more drought tolerant, can be planted in another area. This way, when watering the plants that do require more water, plants that do not need as much water will not be watered unnecessarily. This approach will help reduce the amount of wasted water.

2. Using drought resistant plants

Xeriscaping can mean using drought tolerant plants throughout your gardening and landscaping projects. By their nature, these types of plants require less water and help us conserve water resources.

3. Combining shade with other garden and landscape elements

When xeriscape gardening and landscaping, you can also incorporate shade with trees, shrubs and structures, along with drought tolerant plants and plant groupings.

Principles Of Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a simple process as long as you follow the right principles of xeriscaping. While there are a wide range of different plants you can grow in a xeriscape garden, the following commonly accepted principles of xeriscaping will serve you as guidelines to help you build a nice looking xeriscape garden.

1. Plan your design and the type of plants that you plan to use

Take into account the soil, sun exposure and topography of your site. Work with your site, not against it. Plan planting zones and group plants according to water and sun needs.

2. Select plants that will survive with natural temperatures and rainfall in your area

This selection may include native plants. However, native plants are not always the best choice. Do not incorporate too many different varieties of plants. Keeping to a select few varieties will give your design a harmonious feel and look. Incorporating a few plants that have heavier watering requirements is fine, especially when the addition of seasonal color is desired. Concentrate these plants in one or two large areas of the yard where they can be easily watered rather than scattering several smaller beds around the yard.

3. Prepare and amend your soil

Hard soils and soils with heavy clay content should be tilled to a depth of twelve inches or more. Amending your soil with organic material, such as compost, will improve water penetration and retention. In order to encourage healthy root systems that penetrate deep into the ground as to take advantage of deeper water sources, the soil must be loose and rich and capable of holding an adequate amount of water.

4. Use mulch in all your garden beds

Not only does mulch help retain moisture in the soil, it also discourages weeds which compete with your plants for water and nutrients. It also decomposes and breaks back down into the soil, adding organic material and nutrients.

5. Make use of turf areas efficiently

Consider exactly how you plan to use the grassy areas of your lawn, and plan accordingly. Many yards contain much larger areas of grass than is really uses. Instead of planting grass over the entire lawn, add areas with drought tolerant ground covers or even just areas that are covered completely in mulch. Mulch will hold the soil in place and never requires watering. It can also look quite attractive, depending on the type of mulch used.

6. Water efficiently

You may want to incorporate several watering methods in your landscape. Areas that need regular consistent watering will benefit from a permanent sprinkler system. Likewise, trees and shrubs will benefit from drip system. Rose gardens and annual gardens as well as perennial gardens will benefit from soaker hoses. Some areas will need additional water and some plants may benefit from additional hand watering.

7. Maintain your landscape appropriately

Keep grass trimmed at recommended levels for each season. Keep weeds eliminated to reduce competition for water and nutrients. Keep up with pruning and dead-heading plants to maintain your plants functioning at their most efficient level.

Popular Xeric Plants

Plants that are most suited to xeriscape gardening and landscaping are sometimes referred to as “xeric” plants. These plants have low water requirements and therefore tolerate drought quite well. However, when you are deciding on the types of plants you want to grow in your garden, keep in mind that that drought tolerance for a plant is a relative concept. A plant that is considered drought tolerant in the northeastern United States may not survive in a desert-like climate at all.


  • American Elms
  • Crape Myrtles
  • Ginkgo Biloba
  • Hawthorns
  • Leyland Cypresses
  • Mugo Pines
  • Red Maples
  • Redbuds
  • Shagbark Hickory
  • Sumacs
  • Thornless Honey Locusts


  • Achillea
  • Alyssum
  • Artemisia
  • Beebalm
  • Bellflower
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Butterfly Weed
  • California Poppy
  • Catmint
  • Coreopsis
  • Cosmos
  • Cranesbill Geranium
  • Daylily
  • Echinacea Coneflower
  • Euphorbia
  • Gaillardia
  • Goldenrod
  • Greek Oregano
  • Heliopsis
  • Hosta
  • Iris
  • Lamb’s Ears
  • Lavender
  • Liatris
  • Nasturtium
  • Penstemon
  • Portulaca
  • Red Hot Poker
  • Russian Sage
  • Salvia Nemerosa
  • Sedum
  • Spiderwort
  • Veronica
  • Zinnia


  • Feather Reed Grass
  • Fescue
  • Fountain Grass
  • Maiden Grass
  • Switch Grass


  • Shadbush
  • Aronia
  • Barberry
  • Bayberry
  • Blue Mist Shrub
  • Blue Star Juniper
  • Bougainvillea
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Burning Bush
  • Chokeberry
  • Cotoneaster
  • Scotch Broom
  • Heavenly Bamboo
  • St. Johnswort
  • Lantana
  • Potentilla
  • Privet
  • Red Bird of Paradise
  • Russian Sage
  • Viburnum
  • Virginia Sweetspire
  • Winter Jasmine

Perennial Ground Covers

  • Angelina Sedum
  • Bugleweed or Ajuga
  • Candytuft
  • Chinese Lantern Plants
  • Ice Plant
  • Vinca Minor
  • Yellow Alyssum

Final Words

When it comes down to the essentials, xeriscape gardening and landscaping are really the use of common sense in choosing plants and watering practices. By choosing drought resistant plants and grouping them according to their water needs as well as using mulch, you will be conserving a great deal of water. You will also have healthier gardens and landscapes that don’t use as much fertilizers and pesticides.

“Gardening Made Easy: Your Guide To A Beautiful Garden”

  1. Gardening Basics For Beginners
  2. 4 Steps To Successful Gardening: Planning, Preparation, Planting & Maintenance
  3. Organic Gardening For Natural Living
  4. Vegetable Gardening: How To Grow Healthy and Fresh Veggies At Home
  5. Flower Gardening – Annuals, Perennials and Bulbs
  6. Rose Gardening – Planting, Growing and Caring For Roses
  7. Tree Gardening – Choosing and Planting The Right Tree For Your Yard
  8. Xeriscaping – Drought Tolerant Gardening and Landscaping
  9. Hydroponic Gardening – Growing Herbs, Vegetables & Fruits Hydroponically
  10. Indoor Gardening – Grow Flowers, Vegetables and Herbs At Home
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