Xeriscape Gardening

Creating beauty in low moisture conditions

A beautiful, sustainable garden requires some out-of-the-box thinking. Xeric landscapes aim to be mindful of water conservation with careful planning and utilization of every drop of water. While xeriscape gardening relies heavily on the gardener's personal style and artistry choices, they can still serve a more basic purpose if the gardener makes smart choices.

Xeriscape gardens are most commonly planted in arid areas, typically the southwest, in order to conserve water. However, that doesn't mean that's the only place one can find them.

The most important part of xeriscaping is being water conscious. Take care to grade soil so that water runoff is led towards plants, rather than a sidewalk, street, or home. Rain water should also be conserved in decorative barrels-- it's free water, so take advantage. While it's difficult to start a xeriscape garden without a drip irrigation system, it can be watered by hand with careful maintenance and attention.

Picking appropriate plants is also essential, but the selection isn't limited only to cacti and succulents. Many herbs, like lavender, oregano, thyme, and rosemany, can thrive in xeriscape gardens. Try to plant trees to shade other plants, especially if the garden is in an arid climate.

Replacing a lawn with gravel or other stone not only saves water, but it also opens up style and creative opportunities. Decor can become the focal point of a xeric garden due to cutting back on green space, offering the gardener to add more personality than a typical garden.

It's common to find xeriscape gardens in the southwestern area of the United States, but that's not the only place they can thrive! NGC encourages its members to send in photos or xeriscape gardens, no matter where it is located.


Xeriscaping, water-conserving landscape, drought-tolerant landscaping all define the reducing or elimination of plant watering. Water conservation has become a responsibility of every human. How can we as gardener help with this goal of conservation? The following may give some ideas that YOU can use.

  1. Have a plan. Graph your area with existing features, elevations, drainage and plants you want to save. Then consider adding special arras, sitting, play, shade trees, lawn, etc. This takes time, do not rush, check with neighbors to see what has worked for them or work with a professional.
  2. Condition the soil. Is your soil the right condition for the plants you have chosen or should you chose plants for your soil conditions? Most soil can use some type of conditioning. Compost is always a good additive.
  3. Limit the turf, especially if you need to add water to maintain the grass you want. Use local low moisture grass seed, or let it go dormant in summer heat.
  4. Plant the right plant in the right place. Group plants with similar soil, water requirements and sun exposures. Native plants work well but others are ok if similar. Remember their mature size.
  5. Mulch 2” to 4” to retain moisture, prevent weeds and keep the soil cooler, preferably organic as rock holds the heat.
  6. Irrigate? This is what we are trying to avoid or to use very little water. If you need to water, try not to let the water be exposed to evaporation. Water the soil not the air, large drops are better than fine sprinkler. Have a limited amount of grass. Once new plants are established they need a lot less water.
  7. Maintain the areas. There is usually less maintenance in a xeriscape area if set up correctly. To help retain turf moisture mow 4” or higher and let the clippings fall, this helps shade the plants and helps to hold moisture. Avoid much fertilizer.

Explore plantselect.org a nonprofit collaboration of Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and horticultures from around the world for more information about xeriscape.


For more information, contact:
Beverly Heidelberger, Chairman: Xeriscape Gardening