Understanding Xeriscaping

Written by April Reinhardt (last updated March 15, 2023)

At first glance, the word xeriscape might look intimidating, but it simply means to landscape or grow plants with very little water. Derived from the Greek word xeros, which means dry, employees at the Denver, Colorado, Water Department tacked on the word scape to refer to the landscape, and coined the term xeriscape.

If you already conserve by using gutter water to water your lawn or garden, you are using the principals of xeriscaping, whether you know it or not. True xeriscaping involves all types of plants—not just plants that will grow with little water—with the goal of using a low-maintenance system and conserving water. Working with your climate, the annual rainfall, and choosing zone-appropriate plants are all part of xeriscaping.

So, how do you grow plants without using sprinklers and hoses to water them? You find creative ways to use the water already available. Here are some guidelines and tips for incorporating xeriscaping into your landscape:

  • Plants. Choose plants that will grow in your climate and growing zone with little water. That doesn't mean that you should only grow cacti. Certainly if you live in a dry area, such as Texas or Arizona, the choices will be less than if you live in a rainy area, such as Oregon. Visit your local nursery and speak with the professionals concerning native plants. Or, better yet, take a hike and see what types of plants grow naturally without benefit of upkeep, and choose those types of plants for your landscape.
  • Ground cover. Instead of having a grassy lawn from each edge of your property, choose to use other ground covers that won't use water. Such ground covers can include, rocks, mulch, or gravel.
  • Irrigation. Have you heard stories of your Grandma washing her hair using rain barrel water? My Grandma swore that it made her hair softer. You can recycle water and use it for your plants by placing receptacles under your downspouts to catch rainwater. You can also dig slanting trenches around your plants to encourage rainwater to funnel to the root system.

If you absolutely must water your landscape, choose a more water-efficient method such as soaker hoses or drip irrigation, where the water won't evaporate or run off. Ensure that your growing soil is mulched and composted often to keep it in the best growing condition possible. Try to plant similar-needs plants together. If you have a water-sucking hosta, plant it with other water-sucking plants. That way, if you need to water, you will only need to water that one area.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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