What is Xeriscape?

It's not a specific look or specific group of plants. Rather, xeriscape is a combination of seven common-sense gardening principles that save water, time and resources while creating a gorgeous landscape.

These Seven Principles of Xeriscape are:

  1. Plan and Design... for water conservation and beauty from the start. A design makes it easy to complete your project in phases.

  2. Create Practical Turf Areas... of manageable size, shape and grade. 

  3. Select Low-Water Plants... and group them according to their water needs. This is also known as hydrozoning. Then experiment to determine how much and how often to water. 

  4. Use Soil Amendments... as you plant. Compost is the best choice.

  5. Use Mulches... like wood chips or cobble rock to reduce evaporation and to keep the soil cool. 

  6. Irrigate Efficiently... with properly designed systems (including hose-end equipment) and by applying the right amount of water at the right time. 

  7. Maintain the Landscape Properly... by mowing, weeding, pruning and fertilizing properly. 

Expanded information about each of the Xeriscape fundamentals may be obtained by contacting the local Xeriscape program in your area, reading one or more of the many books published about Xeriscape, or by logging onto any of the web sites listed under Resources & Reference.

What Xeriscape is NOT

Landscape architect Jim Knopf of Boulder, Colorado confronts the following misconceptions: 

  • Xeriscape is NOT anti-lawn.
    Even though xeriscape landscaping can be spectacularly colorful, even lush, limited areas of more highly-watered landscape like grass lawns are consistent with wise water use. Sometimes a lawn is the best option. For example, turf grass is the best option for an athletic field since it stands up to heavy use. Xeriscape is "less lawn landscaping" rather than "lawn less landscaping."

  • Xeriscape is NOT just rocks and gravel.
    And it's not a Zeroscape; plants are a vital part of a beautiful xeriscape.  And although rock gardens can be truly marvelous, there are many wonderful choices other than rock for Xeriscape designs. There are dozens of kinds of organic mulch to choose from. Xeric implies no added water. By definition, Xeriscape means some water applied in well-controlled amounts and locations in the landscape.

  • Xeriscape is NOT native plants only.
    Although there are vast arrays of wonderful plants indigenous to all regions, non-invasive introduced plants, that are well-adapted to the local regional climate, are wonderful additions to landscaping that uses water frugally. For example, many iris, tulips, and even roses are examples of introduced plants that are well adapted to nonirrigated landscaping in the Rocky Mountain region.

  • Xeriscape is NOT a boring monoculture of spiny plants.
    On the contrary, well planned Xeriscapes are splendid examples of the beauty and diversity that make neighbors envious. For more information on Xeriscape and other horticultural topics, please visit www.planttalk.org.
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