Xeriscape: Water Conservation Landscape Design Tips

Butterfly resting on a leaf

A beautiful, water-saving landscape design that achieves water conservation as well as beauty is possible with a xeriscape.  Outdoor water use can add up to nearly half of your total water bill.  Applying Xeriscaping principles saves water as well as the time needed to mow and maintain the lawn. Xeriscaping is based around seven basic horticultural principles which will help to conserve water while creating an attractive, sustainable landscape.


These seven water-saving principles are as follows:

  1. Plan and design: Group together plants with the same water needs. Take into account the existing vegetation and topography of the site and its intended use. Eliminate the possibility of water runoff. Decide where plantings will be and when plants will be planted. Most landscape projects are best done in phases.
  2. Evaluate and improve soil: Soils can vary within a given site; an analysis based on random soil sampling can provide information for plant selection and soil amendments which help soil absorb and store water. When appropriate, soil amendments such as sphagnum peat moss or compost can improve root development, water penetration and retention. Improve soil before planting and installing irrigation systems.
  3. Create practical turf areas: The type and location of turf areas should be considered a design element rather than the whole landscape, which will mean decreasing the size of your lawn. Reducing or eliminating turf areas, and locating them separately so that they may be watered more efficiently can result in significant reductions in water use and a water saving landscaped design.
  4. Use appropriate plants: Most plants have a place in xeriscape but plant selection should be based on the intended use in the landscape and on how they will adapt to your area. Use of plants with low water needs will allow maximum water conservation. Remember that creative natural planting schemes attracts butterflies,  birds and other welcome creatures to the scene.
  5. Use efficient and properly designed irrigation systems: Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Irrigation needs change with the seasons and the weather. Irrigate according to the condition of the plants, rather than on a fixed schedule. Plants may require supplemental irrigation until they become established, which could take two to three years.
  6. Use organic mulches to reduce evaporation: Mulches minimize evaporation, reduce weed growth, slow erosion and help prevent soil temperature fluctuations. The use of mulches, applied and maintained to proper depth, is one of the keys to a successful xeriscape. Organic mulches such as wood chips or bark are best. Do not use any solid plastic under the mulch or elsewhere in the landscape.
  7. Do appropriate maintenance: Properly pruned, weeded and fertilized plants look nicer and produce better, and also need less water. A landscape adapted to the environment will require less maintenance, less fertilizer and reduce the use of pesticides and other chemicals.

Following the principles of xeriscaping is an easy way to achieve a  landscape design that delivers water conservation and beauty.

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