Xeriscaping is an excellent alternative to growing a lawn that requires no irrigation in dry climates. While a bright green lawn is a classic aesthetic, environmental awareness in arid regions continues to inspire xeriscaping. Designing a xeriscape helps conserve water because it uses naturally drought-resistant plants that don’t need much water besides seasonal rainfall. Whether you want to conserve water, or your schedule is too busy to regularly water your lawn, xeriscaping is an excellent choice!
Once you decide that a xeriscape is a perfect lawn alternative for your home, the next step is to choose the right plants. Discover the best plants for the project and get ready to cultivate a thriving, eco-friendly landscape!
Hens and Chicks
‘Hens and Chicks’ or Sempervivum go by several names including Stonecrop, House Leek, and Live-Forever. ‘Hens and Chicks’ are drought-tolerant and thrive in zones 3 to 8 in areas that get full to partial sun. They prefer soils that have excellent drainage and are up to 50 percent sand. If you are planning out a rock garden with sandy soil, cultivate ‘Hens and Chicks’ in between the pebbles or stones to add a splash of greenery.
Fun Fact: If ‘Hens and Chicks’ doesn’t thrive where you live, but you still adore their unique aesthetic add them to a DIY terrarium instead!
Ocotillo plants or Fouquieria splendens enjoy dry rocky areas with great drainage, making them a superb choice for a xeriscape. You can find them growing naturally in deserts, as well as in Texas, Arizona, and California. They have long stems that can grow as tall as 20 feet and produce bright red flowers from March til June.
Ocotillos are drought-tolerant plants and excellent at conserving water. In fact, they only produce foliage after it rains. When the soil dries out their leaves fall off. Then at the next rainfall, the cycle repeats and they grow back again. This can happen as many as five times a year! So don’t stress if you see their leaves fall off during a drought, the plant will continue to produce enough chlorophyll in its stem to survive.
Fun Fact: Ocotillo can live a very long time, up to 100 years! So, when planting Ocotillo choose a permanent location where you will enjoy watching it flourish for years to come.
For an enchantingly fragrant xeriscape plant, consider growing lavender or Lavandula angustifolia. Lavender grows best in zones 5 to 10, in areas with at least 6 hours of daily sunlight, and well-draining soil. To improve soil drainage for your lavender plants mix in small pebbles like pea gravel or oyster shells.
When you first plant lavender in your xeriscape, it will need frequent watering. Water the plants approximately every three days for the first couple of months to help the plant adjust. After a few months, you can reduce watering to every two weeks. If it rains weekly, there’s no need to take out the watering can.
Note: If the foliage on your lavender plant is yellow, reduce watering. Yellowing leaves are a sign of overwatering and continuing to overwater it can cause the roots to rot and eventually kill the plant.
If you love attracting butterflies to your garden, plant Russian sage or Salvia yangii. With a pleasant aroma and delicate purple blossoms, Russian sage will add contrast to your landscape. It flourishes in dry, arid regions and grows outdoors from zones 4 to 9. During the first summer growing season, it will need regular watering when the soil is dry. After the first year, it will tolerate droughts well with seasonal rain.
Note: As a general rule of thumb, put your finger 1 to 2 inches into the soil to check if it is dry. When the soil is dry you can water it. If the soil is still moist, wait until it dries out before watering to help prevent root rot.
Succeed With Succulents
Starting out with a few trendy drought-tolerant plants like ‘Hens and Chicks’ and lavender is a good way to familiarize yourself with xeriscaping. If you are ready to expand your xeriscape though, there are endless options to choose from.
To find even more plants that will thrive in your xeriscape look for succulents. Succulents generally grow well in zones 8 or higher, need at least 6 hours of daily sun, and appreciate well-draining soil. They also store water in their leaves to help them better survive droughts. This makes them a perfect choice for a xeriscape. Some additional succulents to cultivate include jade plants, agave, aloe plants, and yucca.
Remember, not every succulent will thrive in your particular xeriscape. Always look for plants that grow in your zone, then research specific care requirements for the best success.
Fun Fact: Cacti are actually a type of succulent. They belong to the Cactaceae family and are excellent at storing water and surviving droughts. So, they are another perfect choice for a xeriscape project!
A Thriving Eco-Friendly Xeriscape
In dry arid regions xeriscapes are an amazing alternative to lawns. They help to conserve water by cultivating plants that naturally thrive in droughts. For best success look for plants that are drought-tolerant, prefer dry soils, and don’t need a lot of water. Hens and chicks, Ocotillo, lavender, and Russian sage, are all excellent options. Then, when you’re ready to expand your garden, look for succulents like jade plants, aloe, or yucca.
Do you have a xeriscape? What are your tips for cultivating a drought-tolerant landscape? Share your experiences in the comments below to help fellow gardeners create a thriving eco-friendly lawn alternative.