Xeriscaping Can Be Beautiful!

Introduction to Xeriscaping

Climate types; Depending on where you live in the world, xeriscaping may already be a part of your life.

Mediterranean climates exist in a good part of the world enveloping parts of Europe like Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Australia & Southern California have a typical dry climate where rainfall is rare in months other than the winter months.

The plants that are native to these areas are typical in a xeriscaping garden. They have adapted to the brief rainy periods and the long, hot summer months.

Generally they are easy care plants that demand very little except good drainage, little water and varying amounts of sunshine.

Areas of the world that experience water shortages would benefit greatly from considering planting drought tolerant plant material.

If the current climate conditions continue the way they have, water shortages will become more prevalent and the price for water will keep increasing.

What Makes A Dry Garden?

Choosing plants that have adapted to low water usage are the first step towards having a successful xeriscape. These plants usually have long roots that are capable of reaching for water that is down deep.

Leaves that are able to absorb water from the atmosphere is another feature common to most xeriscape plants.

Using plants that have similar water requirements is a must when deciding which plants to use.

All the plants especially on the same irrigation valve need to have the same water needs in order to be successful.

This way you can adjust your irrigation to the same water requirements and avoid over or under watering your landscape in order to cater to different plant needs.

Check out this site, Theodore Payne Foundation, they are on the west coast and all about using natives to conserve water in the garden. Even if you are not on the west coast, you may still benefit from reading the material on their site.

You will need to choose what type of xeriscaping you will want. There are differing levels of water usage, from a Mediterranean garden with plants that you may already be familiar with to cactus and succulent gardens using virtually no supplemental water.

The Xeriscaping Front Yard Plan we present here is for a conservative front yard I designed using some succulents, plus other plant material that keeps it from looking like it belongs in the desert.

Take a look, if you like it as is, feel free to download it and install as it is. If you want to modify it, feel free to do that too, make it your own and make it fit not only your yard, but also your taste.

You can also use the same plant locations but substitute other plants you may prefer.

Designing A Xeriscaping Garden

Assess what your situation, look at the plants you currently have and determine what their water needs are and whether they will exist within the style and water requirements of the plants you have chosen for your new garden.

Will they add to or spoil the look you are after in the garden? Can they be transplanted to another location that is better for your overall design?

You also need to assess your site, does it have full sun? Or morning sun and afternoon shade or vice versa. Is it shady all day? What relationship does the site have to the house?

If it is in the front yard, you will need to design it from the perspective of the street with the house as the background keeping in mind not to hide the home but instead to enhance the architectural features of the home.

You need to ask yourself if there is heat reflecting off of a wall, home, or other structure? The heat from some structures can have a significant impact on the temperature in the planter and some plants will not be able to stand up to it. Is is a windy site? What is the soil type?

All these factors will be clues that will point to the plants that will be able to thrive in your conditions.

Please resist the temptation to include plants that are not suited to the site because you really want them. You will only be disappointed and out the money you spent on the plants.

Several things to consider...

Other factors to consider when designing your xeriscaping garden are;

  • Where are the traffic patterns?
  • What type of paving material will you use? Concrete, Decomposed Granite, or Gravel?
  • Is there a slope?
  • Do you want a lawn? Or will you consider a lawn substitute?
  • Will there be structures for storing tools or perhaps a potting shed?
  • What will be the style of your new garden? You have several styles to choose from, Formal, Cottage, Desert, Rock Garden, etc.

The more you consider all the factors that will come into play, the more you will be able to enjoy your finished garden.

If you take everything into consideration that will add or detract to your enjoyment of the garden and deal with them on the drawing board instead of regretting after constructing your garden that there was something you forgot to include.

This phase of your project is critical, you will be rewarded later if you don't take any shortcuts now and really think it out.

I know, I sound like your Mother, but really, a little time taken at this stage will make all the difference later on.

I have a hard time with this too because I want sometimes to just rush through it so I can have the garden now, but be patient..."Yes Mother!"

Planting The Xeriscaping Garden


You will need to assess your soil type and take steps to correct it accordingly. Is it clay, loam or sand? Or a combination of any two types? Drainage is a big factor when considering amending your soil.

Consider the plants you plan on using when determining what amendments to use to bring it to a condition that is favorable for growing your plants.

Common amendments include manure, compost, fertilizers organic and inorganic, mulches organic and inorganic.

The PH of your soil is something you will want to have tested to find out whether you have acidic, alkaline or neutral soil.


High or low maintenance is a big factor to consider when planning your xeriscaping garden. The key to low maintenance is always placing the right plant in the right place.

What that means is if you have a planter that is 3' wide, don't put a plant that gets 6'-8' wide in it, or else you will be in a constant battle trimming the plant back to keep it contained in the small bed.

Also using plants that are suited to the site as we discussed above. If you try to place a plant that needs sun in a shady site, you will not be happy with the results.

Follow some simple rules and you will have a xeriscaping that you can enjoy without a lot of effort to keep it going.


Depending on where you live in the world, an automatic watering system may be a necessity, in other areas it is a luxury. Whichever is your case, an automatic watering system is definitely necessary in the Mediterranean climate areas of the world.

It makes life so much easier and good plant growth and health are easier to attain. Here again, there are many choices available to you when designing your watering system.

The first decision is whether to use a drip system or sprays. Both have advantages and drawbacks. The drip is well suited to xeriscaping as the water goes directly to the plants and not the surrounding un-planted areas.

Most xeriscaping plants benefit from the deep watering drip
offers as well.

The disadvantages are, for one, if something goes wrong with the system, you won't know it until you start to lose your plants since everything is underground or under mulch.

Spray systems have been used for a long time, the advantages are you can see if the heads are working properly as they are in sight and problems are easy to spot before you start to lose plants.

With today's adjustable sprays, you can adjust the spray pattern to fit almost any shape planter. Disadvantages
include water wasted due to evaporation, runoff and overspray.

A good reliable controller is a must as the entire system relies on it to turn the valves on and run the program.

Xeriscaping Plants

Xeriscaping plants cope with drought conditions by sending out long tap roots that are capable of finding supplies of water deep under the surface of the soil.

Many also have leaves that have the capability of absorbing the water from the atmosphere such as in the morning when the dew sits on the leaves.

Another feature of some plants is they have small leaves so the water that evaporates into the atmosphere is lessened.

Create a framework with your trees and shrubs when designing your garden. This framework will serve to unite the garden when the perennials or color plants are installed.

Structures will also become part of the structure of the garden.

Color in the xeriscaping garden can be achieved in several ways. Using a combination of ways to add color to your garden will result in a very interesting presentation that will keep the eye entertained as it looks at all the textures and colors.

Flowers, foliage, and trunk/stem color will all add to the variation in color in your garden.

Try to stay with a family of color, like blues, purples, & reds or oranges, yellows & reds instead of using every color in the rainbow as this results most of the time in a garden that looks disjointed instead of unifying it.

Grasses are becoming very popular and can be very dramatic in the right situation, like where the afternoon sun can be seen through the foliage.

Grasses can be nice since they can be mowed down periodically to keep them fresh and new looking.

Make sure you look for the ones that are
drought tolerant so they fit into the xeriscaping requirements with the rest of the plants.

Favorite xeriscape plants include trees Arbutus, Cercis and Palo Verde. Shrubs include Aloe, Agave, Lavender, Rosemary, Bottlebrush and Lantana.

In Conclusion...

So by now hopefully you can see that Xeriscaping can give you a beautiful garden that uses a fraction of the water that a traditional garden does.

Try to get over the mindset that comes with the idea of drought resistant landscaping and really explore the possibilities that are available with these plants.

I also hope I have shown you enough ideas that you will try and use the plan I have here or plan your own xeriscaping garden using the principles presented here.

It is really satisfying to have a garden that uses so little water and gives you so much pleasure and self satisfaction in return.
So, give it a try, you won't regret it!

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