When you’re searching for the right garden to build, there are many options available to you. Among the most beautiful and environmentally friendly gardens that you can create is a xeriscape garden, which essentially refers to creating a garden of plants that require very little water. In dryer climates, xeriscape gardens have become increasingly popular. However, it’s important for gardeners to choose to create a xeriscape garden even in wetter climates. By building a garden with dry plants, you will be able to conserve water by reducing the water that you use when growing the plants. Since water has become relatively scarce, doing your part to conserve water can be great for the environment.

In Latin, xeriscape can be separated into the two words of xero and scape. The word xero means dry, while the word scape refers to a view or landscape. When used correctly, xeriscape gardening can reduce the use of landscape water by anywhere from 50-75 percent. The types of plants that are considered to be xeriscape friendly include various types of grasses, cacti, and succulent plants, the latter of which extend to echeveria, aloe, and sempervivum. These plants are great for this type of garden because they don’t require much water and can live without issue in dryer climates. This article provides you with seven of the guiding principles that you should adhere to as you attempt to build a xeriscape garden.

Key Takeaways:

  • Xeriscape gardening refers to a type of gardening that requires very little water and maintenance.
  • There are seven principles of xeriscaping that we discuss below which include the details concerning water conservation, soil improvement, turf usage, use of native plants, mulch, irrigation, and maintenance.

The Principles Behind Xeriscaping

Xeriscape gardens are simple to create as long as you follow the right principles of xeriscaping. When done correctly, your xeriscape garden will be wholly unique from any other in appearance. While there are a wide range of different plants that can be grown in a xeriscape garden, the seven following principles serve as guidelines that will help you build a xeriscape garden without making a mistake.

1. Water Conservation

The first and likely most important principle of xeriscape gardens is water conservation. When designing this type of garden, it’s important to look for methods that you can use to reduce water use and increase the amount of natural precipitation that your plants receive. You can visit some local nurseries to gain a better idea of the types of drought-resistant plants that can be purchased near your home. You should then draw a top-down view of your property with graph paper, which will serve as the plan for your xeriscape garden.

First, you’ll want to plot the entire land on your property, which you can do by marking east, west, north, and south on the graph paper. From here, make note of all limiting features that could obstruct your garden, which include everything from walkways to trees. All areas of shade and sun should be marked on the paper, which will allow you to determine water needs for the plants that you grow. Make sure that you also look at the drainage patterns and contours of the land while creating the plan for the garden. The contours can be turned into terraces that lessen soil erosion.

You should then focus on how you plan to use every area of the plot. Define all areas of dining, play, seating, and walkways. If you have areas that you are keeping as standard turf, these areas should be simple to mow. Try to avoid any narrow strips of turf.

2. Soil Improvement

Another important principle of xeriscape gardens is soil improvement. The soil that you use in your xeriscape garden should be able to store water and drain very quickly at the same time, which isn’t always an easy balance to strike. Both of these steps can be done at the same time by increasing the total amount of organic material that’s situated in the soil. This organic material should be kept well aerated. Likely the top organic additive is compost, which is ideal for nearly all xeriscape plants. While cacti and succulents require very little water, they do need to be placed in a lean soil.

If you’re finding it difficult to get the right balance, you might need to test your soil, which can be done with a home test kit or similar type of sensor. This kit will provide you with readings on the pH levels of your soil. If these levels are too high and provide you with alkaline readings of 7.5 or above, the plants could be low in phosphorus, which they require for energy. You can increase phosphorus levels by adding rock phosphate and bone meal.

3. Limited Turf Area

The next principle of a xeriscape garden is to have limited turf areas around your home. While the amount of turf should be reduced as much as possible, it’s still recommended that you keep some turf areas for visual appeal and open space. If you’re currently planting new turf, it’s a good idea to use a species of turf that requires less water. Turf is a great option for your landscaping because it prevents erosion and reduces water runoff.

4. Use Plants Native to Your Region

When creating a xeriscape garden, it’s very important that you use plants that are native to your specific region, which ensures that these plants are able to survive without issue once planted. You should use drought-resistant plants with small and thick leaves, which are two defining characteristics of plants that don’t require an ample amount of water. Some of the plants that are native to California include bush anemone, California bush sunflower, and woolly blue curls.

You should also obtain plants that only need a small amount of water for the hot and dry areas of your yard. When growing plants along walls or slopes that face to the east or north, you can select plants that require a decent amount of water. Keep in mind that trees are able to lessen evaporation by shading the soil of your garden and by blocking the wind. If you want to use less water with these plants, you might want to consider obtaining a water pressure regulator, which will keep pressure low when placed at the right setting.

5. Mulch

Yet another main principle of xeriscape gardens is mulch, which is meant to cover the soil in your garden. Mulch can consist of anything from pine needles and wood chips to compost and leaves. Keep in mind that mulch is able to retain the moisture levels and temperature of soil. It can also block out weeds and prevent soil erosion from occurring. If you use organic mulch, this mulch will eventually become integrated into the soil, which means that additional mulch will need to be added at a later time. Make sure that the mulch you lay down is at least several inches in thickness with no spots of bare soil.

6. Irrigate

Irrigation is essential for any garden and can be the difference between a xeriscape garden and a standard garden. Your main goal should be to conserve as much water as possible, which is why it’s important that you avoid overwatering issues. Likely the top two methods to use when irrigating your garden include drip-irrigation systems and soaker hoses, both of which are efficient and are designed with water conservation in mind.

These methods of irrigation send water to the base of all of the plants in your garden, which lessens the amount of moisture that you lose with evaporation. If you plant an ample amount of succulents in your garden, these plants only require watering every 2-3 weeks. When conserving water, make sure that you irrigate your plants less frequently than you normally would.

7. Maintenance

Another key principle and top benefit of xeriscape gardens is that these gardens require very little maintenance. However, it’s still highly important that you maintain your landscape if you want to keep the garden and the plants within in good condition. While keeping weeds at bay will be necessary for these gardens, placing a thicker layer of mulch over the soil should reduce the amount of weeds that grow.

It’s also essential that your turf areas aren’t cut to be too short. When this occurs, moisture isn’t properly retained. Make sure that you avoid over-fertilizing as well, which results from placing too much fertilizer in the soil. This can cause plants to die more rapidly than they otherwise would.

Overall Benefits of Xeriscape Gardening

Xeriscape gardening is a wonderful form of gardening that can help you conserve water and protect the environment. The main benefits of xeriscape gardening include:

  • Requires less maintenance – The only maintenance required for a xeriscape garden includes occasional watering, pruning, and weeding
  • Save an ample amount of water – You should be able to save around 50-75 percent of water when compared to traditional gardening techniques
  • Doesn’t require the use of pesticides and fertilizers – If you opt for using native plants, these plants will receive the nutrients they need from the soil, which means that pesticides and fertilizers won’t be necessary
  • Bolsters property value – A quality xeriscape garden can increase property values significantly
  • Provides a habitat for wildlife – By using native shrubs and plants in your garden, the local wildlife will be made to feel at home
  • Free of pollution – Since turf areas are kept to a minimum, gas mowers aren’t needed, which can reduce pollution
  • Saves you time and money in the long run – Reducing the amount of water that you use in your garden means that your water bills won’t be as high and you won’t need to spend as much time watering your plants
  • Is a simple home project – Planting and maintaining a xeriscape garden is very simple since little maintenance is required and the plants contained within don’t need a significant mount of water
  • Reduces water bills – It’s believed that using a xeriscape garden as opposed to a traditional one can reduce water bills by up to 50 percent

A good xeriscape garden comes with an array of benefits that can’t be found with other types of gardens. Whether you want to conserve water and protect the environment or live in a climate that doesn’t facilitate other garden types, creating a xeriscape garden gives you the ability to build a garden that matches your personality and is highly versatile.