drought tolerant plant

xe-ri-scape/ˈzi(ə)rəˌskāp/

Noun: A garden or landscape that needs little supplemental water.
Verb: Landscape an area using water conservation principles.
Xeriscapes do not have to be cactus or rock gardens. Often they include other native and drought tolerant plants. When you think of dry gardening, you may picture a wild, natural looking landscape. But the xeriscape water conservation principles can be applied to different styles of landscaping. You can create a more formal English, Southwestern, or Japanese garden using the same basic principles.

Tired of mowing your lawn and paying for all the water to keep it green? Explore xeriscaping and see if it is right for you.

In arid and semiarid climates, where water conservation is important, xeriscaping is a wise choice. The concept of xeriscaping was developed in the 1980s in Colorado, as a result of water shortages. Xeriscaping can also be used to reduce the amount of maintenance required for a beautiful yard or garden.

Xeriscaping incorporates seven basic principles of landscaping to achieve water conservation. The Xeriscape Principles page provides additional information on each of these topics.
  • Planning & Design
  • Soil Preparation
  • Turf Considerations
  • Plant Selection
  • Efficient Irrigation
  • Mulching
  • Maintenance

xeriscape principles

Benefits of a Xeriscape

Saves Water. Throughout North America, more than 50% of residential water use is for lawns and landscaping. Xeriscapes can reduce the water needed for landscapes by 50%-75%. This results in a costs savings as well.

Reduces Maintenance. Xeriscapes eliminate the time required to mow and fertilize a large lawn. Drip irrigation systems save time spent watering.

Improves Property Value. A good xeriscape improves property value, by creating curb appeal and reducing water costs.

Provides Wildlife Habitat. Native trees, shrubs and groundcovers in a xeriscape provide seed, fruit and nectar for local wildlife. Insects attracted by the plants in turn attract birds and reptiles.

Reduces Pollution. With smaller turf areas, pollution from gas-powered lawn mowers is reduced or eliminated. A reel mower may be sufficient for the small areas of grass included in a xeriscape.

No Fertilizers of Pesticides. Xeriscapes usually need fewer pest control measures and less fertilizer than traditional landscapes. This too saves money.

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Xeriscapes in Hawaii

You may think of Hawaii as a tropical paradise, where it rains every afternoon. But water conservation is a concern for Hawaii too. In 1989, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply created the Halawa Xeriscape Garden to demonstrate and promote awareness of xeriscaping. Each August, the garden hosts a very popular “Un-thirsty Plant Sale.” The garden showcases both native and international plants from dry, tropical regions. To read more, visit the Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden (FOHXG) site. This non-profit community organization supports the water conservation program of the garden.

Favorite xeriscape plants that grow well in Hawaii include: sedum, echeveria, and kalanchoe.

Hawaii xeriscape plants

Drought Tolerant Plants For Xeriscapes

Christina Elliott from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory describes some of the drought tolerant plants growing in the the Alameda County Master Gardener’s Demonstration Garden. She features the following plants for California gardens: California fuchsia, Penstemon, Mexican sage, Lavender, Bog salvia, Parker salvia, Crape myrtle and Mexican feather grass. These plants would work well in xeriscapes.

Creating Xeriscapes With Plants You Can Eat

Xeriscapes can be useful as well as beautiful. In addition to color, texture and shade, they can provide fresh, organic food. Here are a couple of edible, drought-tolerant plants for your consideration. Check to make sure the type you choose is appropriate for your local climate.

xeriscapes mission figFig Trees

Adriatic, Mission and Kadota figs are Common Fig types that do well in Mediterranean climates with hot dry summers and cool wet winters. Fig trees need well-drained soil, plenty of sun (8 hours or more) and heat to ripen the fruit.

In addition to the fruit, the large fig leaves are also edible. They have a coconut smell and flavor. You can use them to wrap fish, chicken or pork to give them a coconut flavor.

The trees can grow to 15-30 feet in height. With a wide canopy, fig trees provide welcome shade during the summer. They require minimal water and are drought tolerant, once established.

xeriscapes serviceberryServiceberry Bush

The serviceberry produces a blueberry-like fruit. It can grow to between 6 and 18 feet tall and can be pruned to look more like a tree. It can also be used as a windbreak or a nice alternative to a fence. Beautiful white blooms appear in the spring before the fruit is produced.

The bush grows well in full sun to partial shade. It needs six hours of sunlight, but also needs shade to prevent the berry skins from becoming tough.

Serviceberries appeal to birds too. If you plan to eat the fruit, be sure to cover the berries with netting before they ripen.

These are just two of a wide variety of edible, drought-tolerant plants that are appropriate for xeriscapes. Check with your local nursery or ask around to find those that will thrive where you live.