Xeriscaping for water restriction areas

The term Xeriscaping first began appearing in landscaping circles in the early 1980s around Denver when that area was experiencing a severe drought and water was being rationed. The idea revolved around using as little water as possible and still maintain interesting and attractive landscapes. In time the concept began to catch on, not just in the Southwest where water shortages are more widespread, but across the entire country, even in areas where rainfall is more plentiful. In fact, almost all of the 50 states are actively pursuing Xeriscaping programs.

Part of the Xeriscaping concept is using plants that are natural to the geographic area instead of bringing in exotic plants that require higher maintenance and often higher water usage. In parts of California, developers are required to submit Xeriscaping plans before building permits are issued.

Benefits of Xeriscaping

  • Saves water when Xeriscaping is correctly implemented

  • Landscape is healthier during extreme climate conditions

  • Beautiful landscape designs are possible using natural materials and local plants

Implementing Xeriscaping

There are 3 areas of a correctly implemented Xeriscaping.

  • Very low water-use areas: these areas include hardscapes and paved areas that require no water.

  • Low water-use areas: this includes areas where water is only needed to maintain plants during extreme drought conditions.

  • Moderate water-use areas: this includes typically smaller areas where plants are grouped and when supplemental watering is required, it can be watered more efficiently.

One of the important steps is improving soil where plants will be installed so that whatever water is provided, it is easily absorbed and retained by the plant without excess run-off or flow-through drainage.

Practical Grass

In most instances, particularly in arid areas, the variety of turfgrass selected should fit the growing conditions at the location, not what you remember as a child. Just because you grew up in the midwest with soft bluegrass under your bare feet, doesn't mean that you should have the same kind of lawn in the southwest, or living in Florida.

In designing Xeriscaping, try to limit turf areas where it can be easily maintained. That means keeping lawns in relatively flat areas, with no long narrow paths or steep inclines of turf that can be extremely wasteful to irrigate.

Turfgrass can help control erosion, modify air temperatures, reduce urban glare and can help control dust and mud. Turf is also useful for slowing runoff from landscape areas and can be of practical benefit in areas like swales. Grass is also functional in open recreational areas and can be maintained without heavy use of chemicals that have recently caused health concerns.

Practical Plants

It is important to use healthy plants adapted to your area and plant them in the right place with careful attention to getting them well established. Encouraging the growth of deep roots by preparing the soil and using appropriate irrigation practices is crucial to helping plants establish themselves.

Use a 2" - 4" layer of mulch to help conserve water. Besides reducing water evaporation, mulch also reduces invasive weeds that will compete for water.


With proper watering, weeding and pruning, mowing, and limited fertilization application and controlling harmful pests your Xeriscaping will remain a healthy and long lasting beautiful environment for you and your family.