Xeriscaping has infiltrated almost every gardening sphere in recent times, and for good reason!
This method allows you to create a sustainable landscape that saves water by using drought-tolerant plants and mulching. It also moves towards creating a space that doesn’t need many chemicals and fertilizers to flourish.
But preserving water isn’t the only reason why gardeners turn to this style; xeriscaping also creates a low-maintenance garden and makes your life a lot easier.
Let’s learn more!
What Is Xeriscaping?
The term xeriscape was first coined by the Colorado Water Department to encourage people to use less water during drought periods.
It fuses the terms landscape and the Greek word xeros (“dry”). (1)
Due to its similar pronunciation, xeriscaping is often confused with zero-scaping, but they’re not the same thing. The first method uses drought-tolerant plants, while the latter utilizes no plants at all.
Therefore, a xeriscape contains plants with low watering requirements that are either native or adapted to those conditions with organic or inorganic mulch to reduce evaporation.
That’s why these landscapes use less water and actually need less maintenance in terms of weeding as mulch suppresses their emergence. The plants you choose to grow usually require less care, so that’s another convenience.
Advantages Of Xeriscaping
There are many advantages to using this landscaping method, such as reduced maintenance and water consumption.
You just have to find drought-resistant plants, such as cactuses and succulents, and build an appropriate watering system, such as drip irrigation.
Additionally, picking plants native to your region and mulching them will lead to even less maintenance because those species already have everything they need.
And if you choose carefully, you might not have to spend much time pruning your green buddies.
Mulching will lower the needs for watering and weeding even more, making your yard less demanding than a traditional one.
Therefore, the xeriscaping method is sustainable and good for the environment as well as your pocket because you won’t have to spend a lot of money on your water bill.
Suitable Locations For This Method
This method is perfect for arid and semi-arid regions with limited water resources. An ideal location for your plants would be one without much water, well-draining soil, and plenty of sunshine.
We usually associate it with the southwestern US, which gets limited rainfall and where water conservation is a priority. Many regions also have water reductions and restrictions, which limits the landscape irrigation frequency even more.
In fact, any area with high temperatures and frequent dry spells is suitable for xeriscaping.
Even sloping gardens make a good option because moisture drains faster downhill, making the area perfect for drought-tolerant thyme, lavender, etc.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind when trying to implement affordable desert landscaping ideas.
Your first stop is soil and its amendments. Start off with any type you have and improve it by using organic or inorganic mulch. If your substrate is particularly dry, mix it with compost to increase water retention.
Top it with wood chips or bark, gravel, pebbles, stones, etc. to lock in that moisture and reduce evaporation. Inorganic mulch will stay there for a long time, while organic will decompose over time and enrich your soil with even more nutrients.
However, don’t make your garden substrate too rich because many drought-tolerant plants are used to poor nutrient levels, especially succulents, cactuses, and many herbs.
The next thing to bear in mind is irrigation. Even though xeriscaping reduces the need for it, it doesn’t eliminate it entirely. In fact, young plants need a good amount of moisture before they get established and become drought-resistant.
Installing systems that slowly deliver moisture directly to the plants’ root systems can be of great help here. Use the soaker hose or drip irrigation methods for optimal water conservation.
Furthermore, one of the most common garden watering mistakes is not using rainwater, even if you live in a region with limited rainfall. Every drop counts, so incorporating rain chains and barrels will come in handy and elevate the look of your design.
Setting Up A Xeriscape Garden
Now we come to the fun part – picking plants!
Choose ones that are naturally drought-resistant or native to your region as they’ll be self-sufficient once they mature. And they won’t need as much water!
You can also add those that originate from the Mediterranean, such as lavender, rosemary, or sage as they’ll add more depth and texture to your garden.
Succulents and cactuses are obvious choices due to their low-water needs, especially the former, which store it in their fleshy foliage.
Many ornamental grasses, such as the pampas or fountain grass, add vertical interest to your xeriscape while being drought-tolerant at the same time.
You can also add low-water-use ground cover plants that prevent weeds, such as creeping thyme, to fill in the gaps between rocks and conserve moisture.
Finally, don’t forget about sun exposure before planting these species. Many drought-tolerant plants thrive in full sun conditions, but some benefit from light afternoon shade.
Desert-Style Front Yard
To up your curb appeal, all you need are some succulents, drought-resistant shrubs, ground cover plants, and gravel or pebble mulch.
Grow plants that bloom at different times in your front yard so you’ll always have something interesting to look at whenever you go outside. And the good news is that there are many colorful plants that thrive in drier climates, lavender being one of them.
Since front yards are usually the focus, you should go big. Add a desert tree as a statement piece to provide you with shade and texture, and place some boulders for more depth and interest.
The goal of xeriscaping is to create something that will attract gazes all year long with low-maintenance requirements.
You can also combine it with different gardening styles and turn it into a pollinator- or wildlife-friendly landscape. Scatter some pollen-rich species around, add large rocks to give them shade and shelter, and incorporate some trees and shrubs for the birds to rest.
California poppy and sage are excellent choices as they are magnets for pollinators, drought-tolerant, and will burst with color in spring and summer.
References: 1. Wilson, C., Feucht, J. R., & Carter, S. (2019). Xeriscaping: Creative Landscaping. Colorado State University Extension.