What is Xeriscape?

This question confuses many people who expect Xeriscape to be a specific look or specific group of plants. Xeriscape is actually a combination of seven common-sense gardening principles that save water while creating a lush and colorful landscape.

These Seven Fundamental Principles of Xeriscape are:

  1. Plan and Design...
    for water conservation and beauty from the start.

  2. Create Practical Turf Areas...
    of manageable sizes, shapes, and appropriate grasses. 

  3. Select Low Water Plants...
    and group plants of similar water needs together. Then experiment to determine how much and how often to water the plants. 

  4. Use Soil Amendments...
    like compost or manure as needed by the site and the type of plants used. 

  5. Use Mulches...
    such as woodchips, to reduce evaporation & 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.

Xeriscape is NOT...    
("zero"scapes often mistaken for Xeriscape)

Is there a positive in the negative?
Jim Knopf, ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects), of Boulder, Colorado suggests the following considerations:

  • Xeriscape is NOT dry only.
    Even though dry-only landscaping can be quite spectacularly colorful, and even lush, limited areas of more highly-watered landscape are completely consistent with wise water use. For example, heavily-irrigated athletic field turf makes sense, since it recovers quickly from heavy use.

  • Xeriscape is NOT just rocks and gravel.
    Although dry (xeric) rock gardens can be truly marvelous, there are many wonderful choices other than rock for the xeric portions of Xeriscape designs. Xeric implies no added water. By definition, Xeriscape means some water applied in well-controlled amounts and locations in the landscape.

  • Xeriscape is NOT necessarily lawn-less landscaping.
    Some lawn, even of species that are more highly watered, can be consistent with wise water use. "Less-lawn landscaping", rather than "Lawn-less landscaping" is an appropriate statement.

  • 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 mono-culture 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 horicultural topics, please visit www.planttalk.org.

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