The Best Xeriscaping Plants - Backyard Boss
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The Best Xeriscaping Plants

A growing trend, many homeowners have fallen in love with the low maintenance requirements and beautiful aesthetic of xeriscape gardening. It’s a budget-friendly approach that keeps the bills down while choosing hardy plants that require a minimal amount of water, allowing them to thrive in a wide variety of situations. But what are the best xeriscaping plants for your new project?

If you’re a xeriscape beginner, the large assortment of options may feel a little overwhelming. How do you know which plants are best suited to your location or which will work to complement one another, both in appearance and in supporting each other’s growth?

In this guide, we’re going to take a close look at 37 of the best plants for a variety of different xeriscape gardens. To help you choose which options will fit your vision and allow you to create stunning gardens, taking your landscaping to the next level.

Jellybean Plant

jellybean plant growing outdoors
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Sedum rubrotinctum, better known as the ‘Jellybean Plant’ or ‘Pork and Beans’ is an incredibly hardy succulent that requires next to no care, making it the perfect choice for newer gardeners or those who tend to be a little on the neglectful side over time. The plant is covered in small, green-colored round beans that give the plant its signature name.

If the plant is exposed to full sunlight, the tips of each bean will start to turn red, giving the plant some beautiful color. Just make sure not to leave it out in too much sunlight and heat as it can be damaged. For care, plant your jellybean plant in well-draining soil and water it thoroughly only when you notice that the soil has dried out completely.

Mondo Grass

patch of mondo grass surrounded by rocks and fallen leaves
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A simple and slow-growing plant that isn’t a true grass, however, it earns its name from the long grass-like leaves. It can tolerate a surprising level of abuse, including local wildlife like deer. This combined with its ability to handle a great level of neglect makes it a popular choice as a grass alternative to cover one’s lawn.

If you plant your mondo grass in full sun, it will grow in light green. However, when planted in the shade, the color will reach a deeper green. Both situations will allow your plant to thrive. The ideal planting location will depend on your personal preferences.

Purple Poppy-Mallow

purple poppy-mallow plant in full bloom
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This drought-tolerant evergreen plant will provide a bed of greenery in your xeriscape garden that will continue to offer a pop of color even as the snow moves in and kills off many of the plants that you would otherwise enjoy. In addition to its ground covering leaves, the plant features beautiful bright purple and white flowers.

In the wild, the purple poppy-mallow thrives in dry, rocky soils like those found in drought-ridden prairies and along roadsides, demonstrating its hardiness. It does best in locations that offer full sun.

Lindheimer’s Beeblossom

white Linderheimer's beeblossom flowers close up
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Unlike the first few plants featured on this list, Lindheimer’s beeblossom is a shrub that will grow to approximately 2.5 to 3 feet wide and up to 5 feet tall. For this reason, they are the perfect option for framing out the back of a garden or planting along fences and exterior walls. Most commonly found in Texas, they thrive in full sunlight and sandy soils.

The beautiful flowers are available in more than one variety, blooming either in pink or white. While it is a drought-resistant plant, it may not flower when it has had to go without any moisture for a significant time. For best results, the soil should be kept damp but no wetter than that.

Narrow-Leaved Sundrops

yellow narrow-leaved sundrop flowers surrounded by grass
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If you’re looking for the opportunity to add a beautiful, bright pop of yellow to your xeriscape garden, narrow-leaved sundrops is a great choice. These day-flowering plants grow to a height of approximately 1 to 3 feet with brightly colored flowers that will continue to add color to your space for approximately two months of the year.

They are best suited for well-draining soils and stand up well in dry conditions. They are perennial plants, making them a great investment in your garden not only today but for the next few years.

Germander Sage

close view of a germander sage flower
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Native to the Mexican deserts, Germander Sage is a well-suited shrub for dry, low-moisture situations, making it a great choice for xeriscaping. This ornamental shrub features grey-green leaves and bold, blue flowers that will attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to your garden or outdoor space. It can grow effectively in either full sun or partial shade locations, making it a versatile plant when planning out your landscaping.

In addition to thriving in a wide variety of outdoor garden spaces, it can also thrive growing in pots allowing you to include it in your container garden if that’s the direction you choose to go. Just be sure to choose a larger pot to accommodate its root growth.

Ostrich Fern

close view of the leaves of an ostrich fern plant
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A bright green fern that grows in large clusters, ostrich fern is a popular choice to bring a boring corner or space to life or offer a beautiful backdrop for other plants in a larger garden bed. Ostrich fern grows in vase-like clusters, reaching heights of 36 to 48 inches.

Each leaf has a plume or feather-like appearance, inspiring its name. Smaller fronds are topped with fiddleheads which can be harvested and cooked to create a delicious and nutritious dish. It’s a shade-loving fern that grows best with damp (not wet) soil conditions and partial sun.

Spanish Dagger

close view of white spanish dagger flowers in front of a palm tree
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The Spanish dagger is a tall evergreen plant that can grow up to 12 feet or higher. For this reason, it should be planted with the same consideration as any other small tree or bush to avoid blocking sunlight from smaller, low-lying plants.

Its name is inspired by the 2-foot-long leaves, which are stiff and feature a sharp point much like a knife or dagger. When in full bloom, the plant will feature 3-inch-wide whitish flowers at the top of the plant, hanging from the central trunk. These flowers are edible, often used in salads, as is the fruit that follows.

Lace Aloe

patches of lace aloe growing surrounded by small stones
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This low-growing plant will only reach approximately 6 to 9 inches; however, it can cover a spread of 1 to 2 feet. Don’t let its small size fool you. Thriving in dry soils and full to partial sunlight, it’s one of the strongest and most hardy aloe plants available, making it a great option for first-time xeriscape gardeners or those looking for the lowest maintenance solution.

The plant has triangular-shaped, dark green leaves spotted with small white spikes and orange-red flowers. If you live in an area that experiences extremely cold winters, you will need to remove your lace aloe from the garden and bring it inside to survive.

Rugosa Rose

close view of a rugosa rose flower
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Not only is the rugosa rose known for its hardiness, thriving in dry, sandy soils, but it’s also incredibly popular due to its disease resistance. These beautiful flowers can stand up to just about anything! The rose bush can reach heights of 4 feet to 6 feet with a spread that can reach up to 10 feet. This large size makes it a popular choice for those looking to fill a space without the effort of combining too many plants.

The boldly colored flowers attract bees, butterflies, and pollen-loving birds to your outdoor space, while its strong root system is effective in controlling and preventing erosion. The rugosa rose does not respond well to pruning, so it should only be planted if you are prepared for its vast size.

Virgin’s Palm

view of the center of a virgin's palm plant
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A large palm-shaped plant, the Virgin’s palm will reach heights up to 6 feet and spread as wide as 12 feet when fully grown. Not only do they stand strong in dry, challenging conditions, thriving in clay and limestone soils, but it’s also very frost-hardy for those that are concerned about the impact of the colder months on their xeriscape gardens.

When you are first setting up your garden, however, it does have different needs than it will when it has had a chance to establish. Be prepared to provide it with the necessary supplemental water to grow and thrive in the beginning, and it will stand strong for years to come.

Equinox Flower

close view of the red equinox flower
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Also known as the red spider lily, the equinox flower is a beautiful red flower that will add a sea of color to your xeriscape garden. Unlike most plants, it will emerge first on this plant, blooming in groups of 4 to 6 flowers. The center of each flower is punctuated with a long stamen that can be described as the slender legs of a spider, giving the plant its name.

It is only after their appearance that the leaves will fully unfurl. The flower will slowly lose its color fading into a lighter pink before dying off for the winter months, but the green leaves will continue to add color to your garden during the cold temperatures.

Hens and Chicks

close view of the hens and chicks succulent
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Arguably one of the most popular xeriscape plants, this succulent can thrive both indoors and out in a wide range of different temperatures and soil conditions. These small, low-lying plants require full sunlight to grow. However, they are accustomed to alpine conditions with very little moisture.

The name refers to the fact that the initial plant, or the ‘mother plant’, will produce many dime-sized babies that will encircle it like a mother hen and her chicks. While the chicks are attached to the mother plant, they should be divided at least once every two years to prevent overcrowding.

Shore Juniper

close up of a patch of shore juniper
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Shore juniper is a dense, low-spreading evergreen shrub that will provide a beautiful sea of blue-green needles to your xeriscape landscaping while also producing an aroma that will elevate your landscaping to the next level. In addition to the needles, the shrub produces berry-like fruit that will help to attract your neighborhood birds to spend time in your yard. Shore juniper requires full sunlight and can survive in drier locations after the plants have had the opportunity to mature.

In the winter months, the needles will change color with the color determined by the individual variety. The ‘Silver Mist’ shore juniper will display a purplish color during the colder temperatures, while the ‘Sunsplash’ shore juniper showcases a bold gold-yellow.

California Tree Poppy

close view of a patch of California tree poppies
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A stunning white and yellow flower, the California Tree Poppy is a statement plant with a surprising ability to spread. It can become invasive and take over your entire garden if it is not controlled, with its creeping roots reaching up to 20 feet from the original plant underground. Therefore, it should only be considered if you’re prepared to do the work to cut it back and address the rhizome roots regularly.

The flowers may appear delicate at first glance, but they are incredibly hardy. Each flower will grow to measure approximately 4 to 9 inches across, accented with 8-inch grey-green leaves. It needs direct sunlight to obtain the energy necessary to support its growth.

Sweet Woodruff

patch of sweet woodruff flowers
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A beautiful low-lying herb, sweet woodruff is often grown to be used as a natural air freshener due to its fresh smell. However, it’s now gaining popularity in the world of xeriscape for its ability to thrive in dry soils. The plant features star-shaped leaves framing soft white flowers with a lace-like appearance. Growing just 8 inches off the ground in total, it’s a great choice for the front of your garden, allowing a clear view of the taller plants behind it.

Sweet woodruff can spread quickly. For this reason, it’s often used in areas where gardeners are looking to create a naturalized aesthetic, allowing it to take over the designated space and create a bed of flowers.

Pink Muhly Grass

pink feathered muhly grass outdoors
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If you are looking for an option to add a pop of color in a soft, delicate way, pink muhlygrass is a great option for your xeriscape landscape project. During the warmer summer months, the grass extends with tall, textured blue-green leaves, but this isn’t its crowning moment. As the temperatures drop and fall rolls in, the leaves will be lined with pink seed heads, creating a sea of soft pink that closely resembles a cloud of cotton candy. 

Water your freshly planted grass for the first year, keeping the soil damp (but not wet) to allow it to take hold in your garden. Once it is established, the soil should be allowed to fully dry out between watering sessions, allowing it to thrive with little maintenance.

Crocodile Aloe

crocodile aloe plants surrounded by rocks and spider webs
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Also known as ‘dwarf aloe’, this small but chunky succulent grows in a rosette-like shape with thick triangular leaves lined by soft spikes that give it its name. Crocodile aloe is a great choice for xeriscape gardens featuring rock beds growing in small rosettes that can easily be framed out by stone. However, pet owners may want to think twice before adding this plant to their garden as it is mildly toxic to pets.

Your new aloe plants will require plenty of sunlight to thrive, requiring full or partial sun conditions. If offered enough sunlight, the leaves will create a colorful display by turning beautiful shades of red, yellow, and orange.

Jackmanii Clematis Vine

close view of jackmanii clematis vine flowers
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If you are looking for a way to incorporate a wall of color by adding a flowering vine to your garden space while still enjoying the low-maintenance benefits of a xeriscape garden, the jackmanii clematis vine or the ‘late large-flowered clematis’ is a great option. It prefers to be grown in an area where the base of the vine can be planted in the shade while it climbs and extends into a full or partial sun location, making it a great backdrop in a garden where the other plants cast shade onto the surface. 

The vine will reach lengths of up to 12 feet and can be trained to climb a trellis, wall, or fence. In early to late summer, the vine will bloom with 3-to-4-inch dark purple flowers.

Whale’s Tongue Agave

whale's tongue agave plant surrounded by succulents
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When discussing succulents, most people picture small plants in terrariums and decorative pots often used to decorate shelves and other indoor spaces. Most succulents would indeed fit this description, but whale’s tongue agave is a beautiful exception. This plant features a recognizable rosette shape. However, it can reach an impressive height of 4 feet, extending 6 feet wide.

If you are looking for a plant that will flower each year, you may want to look elsewhere. The whale’s tongue agave will take approximately 10 years to reach maturity, flowering only once in its lifespan. The rest of the time, large blue and gray leaves will look great in any xeriscape garden or landscape project.

Santa Barbara Daisy

close up of a patch of Santa Barbara daisies
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One complaint new gardeners may have about the xeriscaping movement is that it doesn’t work with the more traditional flowers that many enjoy. A great compromise, the Santa Barbara Daisy offers the classic daisy appearance, displaying white petaled flowers with bold yellow centers, while also catering to the low maintenance focus of a xeriscape garden.

They prefer to be planted in locations offering full sun and sandy or well-draining soils. As the flowers age, the petals turn a beautiful magenta color creating a unique blend of colors.

Cushion Spurge

cushion surge plants surrounded by dry soil and grass
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Gardeners searching for an ideal border plant will love the dense dome shape of the cushion spurge. While it thrives in full sunlight and dry, well-drained soils, it can survive light shade. Across the surface of the dome, flattened yellow flowers offer an eye-catching pop of color.

As the colder temperatures of the fall move in, the green leaves will transform into a beautiful display of red, purple, or orange. A word of warning for those with pets or small children: all parts of this plant are highly toxic, making it a dangerous plant to keep around those that may be tempted to put things in their mouth.

Additionally, the milky-looking sap that comes out of the plant when broken or damaged can cause significant irritation to the skin and eyes. It may be best to choose a more kid-friendly option to eliminate the risk of illness or injury.

Silver Lace Vine

silver lace vine in full bloom
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A great way to add a beautiful touch to your fences and porch columns, silver lace vine is an incredibly hardy vine that thrives regardless of the soil conditions. When the plant is still new, it should be kept in a location where it receives partial or indirect light and is watered regularly to give it the best chances to establish itself.

Once it has had a chance to grow, the biggest requirement for maintenance will be cutting the vine back to ensure that it doesn’t take over your garden bed entirely. The vine can be trimmed every spring before the first signs of new growth to restrict its ability to grow beyond a desirable size.

False Shamrock

false shamrock flowers surrounded by leaves
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Arguably the most unique appearance of any of the plants on this list, the beautiful shamrock-shaped purple leaves of the false shamrock will attract the attention of any visitors or passersby. The plant’s leaves will fold in on the plant like an umbrella, and the flowers will close at night, but don’t worry. When the sun rises in the morning, they will reopen and greet the light once again.

The plant will grow to heights of approximately 15 to 18 inches, but the real growth comes from its ability to spread indefinitely underground by rhizome roots if it’s not kept contained.

Desert Spoon

desert spoon plants surrounded by small stones
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Dasylirion, also known as a desert spoon, is a slow-growing shrub that naturally grows on rocky hillsides and other dry soil locations. It features a single central trunk with long, narrow leaves extending out to create an impressive display that will remind most people of a desert location. Its ability to thrive with minimal moisture and maintenance makes it the perfect addition to your xeriscape garden.

Every few years, a pole-like flower stalk will extend from the plant, blooming with tiny flowers and revealing the gender of the plant. Females will display purplish-pink flowers, while the flowers on male plants will be a creamy yellow color.

Ribbon Grass

close view of a patch of ribbon grass
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One of the most popular and widely recognized plants on this list, ribbon grass is a fun ornamental grass that will complement any xeriscape garden while thriving with minimal maintenance. Once planted, it will continue to grow and spread to cover the surrounding area with a thick mat of grass. It means that it can be invasive if you don’t take steps to control the growth and restrict the reach of rhizome roots.

The grass itself only grows about a foot tall with each blade featuring a striped green and white appearance. While it isn’t guaranteed that you will experience flowering, it will occasionally reveal a small flower in the summer months.

Russian Stonecrop

patch of Russian stonecrop in full bloom
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Providing a beautiful ground cover of bold yellow flowers and deep green leaves, measuring only 4 to 6 inches tall, Russian stonecrop is a popular plant choice to grow between stone pathways or to highlight the front of xeriscape gardens. Some gardeners will even grow it in the crevices of older walls or fence lines to add an element of interest.

It is native to rocky, mountainous locations, meaning that it thrives in dry, rocky soils. Not only is it highly tolerant of dry soils, but it is also deer and rabbit resistant. For best results, plant your Russian stonecrop in areas where it will experience full or partial sunlight.

Lavender Cotton

lavender cotton plants with a few yellow flowers
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A silvery-gray shrub lavender cotton will add a unique yet subtle touch to any xeriscape garden bed. It will grow approximately 1 to 2 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide, making it a versatile plant suited to a wide variety of different landscaping uses. Yellow flowers will bloom in late spring, in May or June, welcoming the warmer weather with a beautiful pop of color.

When your lavender plant is young, it will need approximately an inch of water every week to provide strength to the root system and allow it to establish itself. Once established, this low-maintenance plant prefers dry soil and only needs to be watered twice a month.

Tickseed

close view of yellow tickseed flower
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A tall flowering plant with the ability to reach heights up to 6 feet, tickseed is native to sandy prairie locations, making it ideal for the xeriscape environment. Bold yellow flowers will add a pop of color to your garden while attracting bees, butterflies, and birds. These flowers stay in blue for extended periods, allowing you to enjoy their beauty even longer.

When the flower does fade away in the cooler fall weather, it reveals a collection of flat seeds that will catch on clothing or the fur of your animals. At first glance, these seeds will look like a tick in your pet’s coat, the inspiration for its name. For best results, plant it in direct sunlight.

Jerusalem Sage

close view of yellow flowers on Jerusalem sage plant
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Another yellow flowering plant, Jerusalem sage is an evergreen shrub that blooms with clusters of tubular flowers during the summer months. The plant will grow approximately 2 to 4 feet tall with grey-green leaves that closely resemble those found on the sage herb, giving it its name.

The flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies while being resistant to deer and rabbits, making them a great choice for inviting the most desirable visitors to your garden. Jerusalem sage requires direct sunlight to thrive and should not be planted in shaded or even partially shaded locations.

Myrtle Spurge

myrtle spruge plant growing surrounded by dry soil
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The spiral pattern of the bluish-green leaves on a myrtle spurge plant set it apart from other plants, giving it a unique appearance. It thrives in full sunlight and sandy soils, growing to heights of approximately 6 to 12 inches. While many of the plants on this list have the potential to be invasive, this risk is so high with the myrtle spurge that it is banned in some US states.

Before planting, take the time to do your research and determine if you’re permitted to add it to your garden. When its growth is monitored, restricted, and controlled, it is a hardy succulent that will add a fun touch to any xeriscape garden.

Rabbitbrush

patch of rabbitbrush with hilly landscape in the background
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A perennial shrub that is commonly found in the wild in the western United States, rabbitbrush thrives in poor conditions and dry soils, growing along roadsides and in degraded rangelands. The small yellow flowers bloom later in the season than many of the other options, adding color to your garden from August to October and continuing to attract pollinators.

The average height of the shrub when fully grown is 2 to 5 feet, however, there have been cases where it has grown to an impressive 7 feet tall. The plant is easily spread thanks to its small, wind-carried seeds. To control its growth, make sure to cut back the flower heads before the seeds have the opportunity to fully ripen and spread.

Blue Mist Spirea

patch of blue mist spirea with houses in the background
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A fast-growing airy shrub, blue mist spirea is a great choice for adding color to your xeriscape garden and attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The shrub will grow to about 2 to 3 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. In late summer, it will bloom with beautiful blue to purple flowers that will remain until the first heavy winter frost. It will provide both color and pollen for insects in the area until late in the season when most other flowering plants have already faded away.

Cut back the woody stems of your shrub during the winter months to encourage it to come back in full form the following spring. Blue mist spirea is a low-maintenance plant if it has been planted in the appropriate location. It needs plenty of sunshine and dry, well-draining soils to thrive.

Mugo Pine

mugo pine growing on a large rock surface
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A descendent of the taller evergreen trees that we are used to seeing in the winter months, the mugo pine is a smaller and more compact shrub that can easily be used in your xeriscape landscaping plans. When fully grown, it will reach approximately 2 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.

If you are looking for a shrub that can easily be pruned to fit in a specific location, this is a great option. Mugo pine is very slow-growing, taking approximately 10 years to reach maturity. While it prefers to be planted in direct sun, it can also grow well in partial shade.

Anise-Scented Sage

close up of blue flowers on anise-scented sage
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Also known as black and blue salvia, anise-scented sage is a great choice for gardeners looking to attract hummingbirds to their garden space. The beautiful deep blue flowers bloom in June and will continue to add color to your garden through the first frost.

It thrives in full to partial sunlight and average to dry, well-draining soils. Anise-scented sage will grow to approximately 2 to 5 feet tall, reaching full maturity in approximately 1 to 2 years.

Ice Plant

pink and yellow ice plant flowers
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Don’t let the name ‘ice plant’ fool you. These flowers thrive in full sunlight and dry, sandy soils. They come in a wide variety of colors, including red, pink, purple, orange, and yellow, as well as two- or three-color combinations. The flowers closely resemble brightly colored daisies, while the foliage that surrounds them looks more like a succulent.

Varied ice plants are ranging from a low-lying ground cover to a more shrub-like structure. These low-maintenance plants only need to be watered once every two weeks.

Lavender

patch of lavender flowers
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You may be surprised to learn that lavender, a highly popular and common herb, is also a great choice for your xeriscape garden. Cold-hardy and resilient in a wide variety of different locations and soil types, but it does require plenty of direct sunlight to thrive.

As long as they receive approximately 8 hours of sunlight each day, they will continue to add color to your garden for several years. While the purple flowers are the commonly recognized variety, they are also available in pink, white, and yellow.

Enjoy a Low-Maintenance Garden with Xeriscaping

If you love spending time outdoors in your garden but struggle to maintain a traditional garden due to a busy, demanding schedule, xeriscape is the perfect solution. By choosing strategic plants to minimize the effort required, this technique allows every plant to love to enjoy the beauty of bold colored flowers and decorative succulents, improving curb appeal and creating the home of your dreams.

The first step to creating your xeriscape garden is to select the plants that would best fit your vision and location and start planning. What are you waiting for?

 

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