Beginner’s Guide to Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping comes from the Greek word “xeros,” meaning ‘dry.’ It’s a form of landscaping developed in Denver in 1981 during a massive drought. This type of dry landscaping is especially popular in areas where drought conditions are common or where water is expensive. However, it isn’t just for arid regions, but rather anywhere homeowners are looking to conserve water, save money, and create a unique and beautiful lawn. Having an eco-friendly yard doesn’t mean you have to cover it with rocks. Check out these options below!

The Benefits Of Xeriscaping

Water Conservation

The most important benefit to xeriscaping is water conservation. The idea was born out of the need to conserve water in areas where water is scarce. In many parts of the country, there isn’t enough rainfall to sustain a traditional yard. Above ground sprinklers and other forms of irrigation are necessary to keep grass lush and healthy. That’s where xeriscaping comes in.

By using drought-resistant plants and grouping them, you can create a landscape that requires little maintenance. You’ll be watering less and smarter. A xeriscaped property can reduce water usage by as much as 75%.

Easy To Maintain

A xeriscaped yard is easy to maintain. The use of local plants means you won’t be needing fertilizer to keep them healthy or help them get established. They will already be adapted to the area and the soil. Xeriscaping typically uses very little, if any, grass which means very little mowing is involved. The only maintenance that will be necessary is some watering, weeding, and pruning. Without the need to fertilize or mow you’ll be able to spend less time maintaining your yard and more time enjoying it.

Cost Effective

Maintaining a xeriscaped yard will save you money on water, weed and pest control. You won’t need to aerate your lawn nearly as often, and you’ll rarely have to buy fertilizer. It’s a great way to help the environment while helping yourself.

Xeriscaping Options

Native grass and Plants

You don’t have to tear up your lawn to make it environmentally friendly. Xeriscapers use grasses that are native to their area, and drought resistant. For example, buffalo grass and bermudagrass don’t require much water, and they tend to reseed themselves. The idea of xeriscaping is to create an environment that’s efficient when it comes to water use. Typically this means removing some grass and replacing it with drought-resistant plants.

Drought-resistant plants are a must for any xeriscaper. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a desert landscape full of different types of cacti. It means using plants native to your area that are lower maintenance and more water efficient. A native plant doesn’t have to adapt to a new environment so it will need less water and fertilization.

Mulch, Rocks, and Gravel

Mulch is not only aesthetically pleasing but will also help protect your soil from erosion. It also helps keep weeds to a minimum. A layer of mulch will help to control your soil temperatures, protecting the roots of your plants.

Rocks and gravel also help reduce weeds as well as the cost of upkeep. The gravel works as a great ground cover and provides excellent drainage, allowing water to reach the soil and the plant roots below. Rocks will create beautiful pathways and keep people off the gravel.

Creating and Caring for Your Xeriscape

Plan It Out

Take a look around your yard and identify the shady areas as well as those receiving plenty of sunlight. Then separate the yard into three zones: arid, transition, and oasis. Arid zones will be furthest from your home and will require the least amount of watering. Transition zones will combine a drier environment with the more lush vegetation used in the oasis zone. The oasis zone will have the vegetation that requires the most water. This zone will be closest to your home and can absorb water runoff from the roof and downspouts to aid in irrigation.

Choosing Your Plants

Succulents, small-leafed plants, shrubs, and prairie grasses are common choices when it comes to xeriscaping, but your choice in vegetation will depend on the environment in which you live. Planting within your different zones will make watering easier and more efficient while creating a beautiful and unique landscape. Then choose the groundcover that works best for you.


You’ll still need some water, so we recommend drip irrigation. A drip irrigation system uses low-pressure delivery systems to get water right where it’s needed, at the roots. This method pushes water deep into the soil, allowing for better water retention. Drip irrigation is also extremely efficient and will save you money in the long run.

Whether you live in an arid, drought-prone area or are just looking for a way to conserve water, xeriscaping may be the best option for you. By using drought-resistant plants in a water-wise way, you’ll also reduce the time and money you spend caring for your yard. Xeriscaping: A Beginner’s guide will allow you to enjoy your lawn instead of continually working on it.

Peter Goldberg is a gardening and landscaping writer, and outdoor extraordinaire. He likes to fire up the grill to cook for family and friends, as well as using his organically grown garden produce to create mouth-watering meals.