Xeriscaping 101: How To Create A Water-Wise Garden

Water is a precious resource, and it can be easy to waste. But with a little know-how and a few simple adjustments, you can keep your garden as water-wise as possible while still enjoying all the blooms and foliage you crave. Here are some tips to get you started:

Xeriscaping: Less Grass, More Color – YouTube
Key Takeaways
Xeriscaping is a landscaping approach that involves selecting drought-tolerant plants and minimizing water usage.
By using xeriscaping techniques, homeowners can reduce water consumption, save money on landscaping costs, and create a sustainable garden.
Xeriscapes can be visually appealing and diverse, using plants and design features that provide color, texture, and interest year-round.
Implementing sustainable landscaping practices can provide multiple benefits, from reducing water usage to supporting local ecosystems.
Using native plants in landscaping can help increase biodiversity, improve air quality, and provide other benefits.

Avoid Planting Lawns In Hot, Dry Climates

Lawns are also not sustainable in hot, dry climates. In these areas, water conservation is key to preventing wildfires and other natural disasters. 

Lawns are not drought tolerant at all; they require a lot of water to keep them looking presentable, which means you’re wasting tons of money on irrigation. 

And that’s not the only way lawns negatively impact the environment: because they take up large amounts of space that could otherwise be used for more useful purposes (like growing food), they contribute to habitat loss for wildlife like bees and birds that need pollen-rich plants in order to survive.

Xeriscaping is a great way to conserve water while still having a beautiful and sustainable garden. As we discuss in our guide on Xeriscaping Tips for a Beautiful Sustainable Garden, it involves selecting drought-tolerant plants, using mulch, and minimizing lawn areas to reduce water consumption.

Create A Drought-Tolerant Plan

When you’re planning your xeriscaped garden, here are some things to consider:

Use drought-tolerant plants. These plants are able to survive with less water than traditional, non-drought-tolerant plants. 

They have deep roots or can retain moisture in their leaves and stems longer than other plants.

Plant in a pattern that maximizes the amount of water you can capture from rain or irrigation systems. 

If you’re using drip irrigation (see below), plant rows of tall shrubs around the perimeter of your garden beds so that water will not run off into your neighbor’s yard, wasting it on non-edible plants! 

To make sure your sprinklers are hitting only where they should be hitting, place stakes along each bed before setting them up so no one accidentally sprays their house when watering instead.

Use mulch to keep moisture in soil and prevent weeds from growing up through cracks between rocks.

Plant NameWater NeedsLight NeedsSoil TypeOther Details
AgastacheLowFull sunWell-drainingDrought-tolerant, attracts pollinators
Russian SageLowFull sunWell-drainingDrought-tolerant, fragrant foliage
SedumLowFull sun to part shadeWell-drainingDrought-tolerant, succulent leaves
ConeflowersLowFull sunWell-drainingDrought-tolerant, blooms in summer
YarrowLowFull sunWell-drainingDrought-tolerant, deer-resistant

Drought-Tolerant Plan

Creating a drought-tolerant plan is a great way to reduce water usage and create a sustainable garden that thrives in hot and dry conditions. Selecting plants that are adapted to low-water environments can help minimize the need for irrigation, while still providing color, texture, and beauty to your landscape.

When planning your drought-tolerant garden, consider factors such as sun exposure, soil type, and plant characteristics such as water needs, hardiness, and bloom times. Incorporating hardscaping elements such as gravel, rocks, and paved surfaces can also help reduce water usage and create a cohesive design. By creating a thoughtful drought-tolerant plan, you can help conserve water and create a beautiful and sustainable landscape.

Be Aware Of Your Microclimate

What is a microclimate?

A microclimate is the combination of weather conditions that are unique to a particular location. For example, your backyard likely has some areas that receive more sunlight than others and therefore have different temperatures, which affects plants’ needs for water. 

These differences in temperature can also affect how much water your lawn needs. If you use a sprinkler system to water your lawn, you may want to consider watering each section of the yard separately so that each area gets enough moisture without being over-watered or under-watered.

If you’re wondering why sustainable landscaping is important, our article on Why You Need to Implement Sustainable Landscaping in Your Garden Now can provide you with some answers. From reducing water usage to minimizing harmful chemical use, there are many benefits to creating an eco-friendly landscape.

Have The Right Soil

A good garden is a product of the soil. It’s important to choose the right kind for your landscape and plants, and some soils will need adjustments before you can start planting.

Soil Type: If you’re starting from scratch with a new yard, it’s best to use topsoil or sandy loam as a base layer for your project. 

This will give you a strong foundation that drains well and holds water in the ground long enough for your plants’ roots to absorb it all. 

If there’s already something growing on the land (such as grass), then consider how deep those roots are before choosing what type of soil mix goes topmost in your yard; this way, whatever’s below won’t be disturbed by any irrigation work required.

Drainage: Your soil should be able to drain excess water away from plant roots quickly after rainfall events; otherwise they’ll become susceptible to root rot or dry out completely during dry spells between rainstorms, both situations which can lead directly back into this article again! 

A simple way to check whether drainage is happening properly is by digging down at least 6 inches into the ground with an ordinary shovel (or other tool); if moisture levels start decreasing immediately upon hitting the bottom edge line once again tells us which direction things flow through here–and hopefully not into our homes!

Suitable Soil Types

Soil TypeWater RetentionDrainageOther Details
Sandy soilLowHighDries out quickly, may require more frequent watering
Clay soilHighLowRetains moisture well, may be prone to waterlogging
Loam soilModerateModerateGood balance of water retention and drainage, suitable for many plant types
Rocky soilLowHighMay not retain moisture well, may require additional amendments
Chalky soilLowHighMay be prone to drought, may require amendments to improve fertility

Soil Considerations

Having the right soil is crucial for creating a sustainable garden that thrives. Different plant types have different soil requirements, and selecting the right type of soil can help promote healthy root growth, reduce water loss, and improve soil fertility. Understanding your soil type and any limitations or needs it may have can help you select appropriate plants and make necessary amendments.

Consider conducting a soil test to determine pH levels and nutrient content, and consider adding soil amendments such as compost or other organic matter to improve soil structure, water retention, and fertility. By having the right soil, you can help ensure the long-term success of your garden.

Know Your Plants

To start, you’ll want to know which plants are native to your region. Native plants have adapted to the environment and can thrive with minimal care. 

They don’t need much water or maintenance, provided you are in a climate that suits them. If you live in an arid desert, for example, then it makes sense for you to plant cacti and other hardy desert dwellers rather than succulents from other regions of the world.

Additionally, knowing which non-native species require more or less water than their local counterparts will help when deciding where best to place each plant in your garden. 

For instance: if there is not enough rainfall in your area but plenty of sun exposure during certain seasons (such as summer), then avoid planting cacti like prickly pears (Opuntia spp.) or yellow flowered cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida). 

You would be better off with something like agave because they prefer drier conditions with high sunlight exposure a perfect match!

Sustainable landscaping doesn’t need to be time-consuming or expensive. Our guide on 15 Simple Steps to Sustainable Landscaping for the Busy Homeowner offers some practical tips to help you get started, from using compost to conserving water.

Use Mulch And Other Ground Covers

All those weeds you’re seeing in your garden are a sign that the ground is too bare. Mulch controls weeds and retains moisture by preventing light, air, and water from reaching them. 

It also works to keep the soil cool during hot summer days and protects it from erosion during storms.

To ensure your mulch does its job, make sure it’s at least 2 inches deep and don’t use old wood mulch; it decomposes quickly and can create an unappealing odor in the garden if left out too long.

An eco-friendly alternative is shredded leaves; just be sure not to use ones from diseased trees or any that contain weed seeds!

Ground CoverWater Conservation BenefitsOther Details
Wood mulchRetains soil moisture, suppresses weeds, moderates soil temperatureMay attract termites, can wash away in heavy rain
GravelAllows for water infiltration, suppresses weeds, requires minimal maintenanceCan reflect heat in sunny areas, may not be suitable for certain plant types
CloverFixes nitrogen in the soil, shades soil to reduce evaporationCan be difficult to establish, may not be suitable for foot traffic areas
MossAbsorbs water, provides insulation, helps reduce soil erosionRequires shade and consistent moisture, may not be suitable for high-traffic areas
ThymeDrought-tolerant, provides ground cover and aroma, attracts pollinatorsMay require light pruning, not suitable for heavy foot traffic

Mulch and Ground Covers

Using mulch and other ground covers can help retain soil moisture, reduce evaporation, and improve soil health. Wood mulch is a popular choice for many gardeners, but other options, such as gravel, clover, moss, and thyme, can also provide benefits for water conservation and aesthetics.

When selecting a ground cover, consider factors such as sun exposure, soil type, water needs, and expected foot traffic or other use. By using appropriate ground covers, you can enhance the beauty and sustainability of your landscape.

Choose Low-Water Plants

Learn more about the plants you’re considering, and look for the ones that are recognized as being drought-tolerant. 

These include succulents, cacti, agaves and aloes. If you don’t have a green thumb or just want to make sure that your garden is healthy no matter what happens in nature, there are plenty of other options out there: trees like oaks will also help protect your yard against floods.

Using native landscaping plants is not only environmentally-friendly but can also provide various benefits. See our article on 15 Surprising Benefits of Using Native Landscaping Plants to learn more about how they can help increase biodiversity, improve air quality, and support local ecosystems.

Check Plant Tags For Water-Wise Details

Check plant tags. You can find a variety of water-wise plants at your local nursery, but it’s important to know what they need before you buy them. 

The best way to do this is by checking the plant tag or asking a member of the staff. Plants that require less water will have a number written on their tags that corresponds with their water needs (for instance, 1 will mean low water needs and 9 means high). 

Once you’ve got an idea about how much watering each plant needs per week, keep in mind that you’ll need to keep up with this schedule even during periods of drought.

Use mulch around trees and shrubs for extra protection against evaporation and erosion by wind or rainwater runoff. Mulch also helps retain moisture in soil underneath plants’ roots so they don’t dry out as quickly as they would otherwise

Water-Wise Plant Details

Plant NameWater UseShade ToleranceSoil NeedsOther Details
Blue FescueLowHighWell-drainingOrnamental grass
SalviaModerateMediumWell-drainingAttracts pollinators
ConeflowersModerateMediumWell-drainingBlooms in summer
Japanese MapleModerateHighWell-draining, acidicDeciduous tree

Check Plant Tags

When selecting plants for your garden, it can be helpful to look at the plant tags or labels to find water-wise details. Many nurseries and garden centers use labels that indicate the plant’s water use, shade tolerance, soil needs, and other useful information.

By choosing plants that are appropriate for your region and your specific garden conditions, you can help reduce water usage and create a sustainable landscape. Remember to also consider factors such as sun exposure, microclimates, and other site-specific conditions when selecting plants.

Group Plants By Water Needs

The first step in grouping plants by water needs is to know your plants’ water requirements. Plants with similar water needs grow better together, and you can group plants with different requirements in the same area or in different areas of your garden according to their individual needs.

You need to consider not just how much water each plant needs, but also how fast it will use up that amount of water. Some plants can tolerate periods of drought much better than others, so if you want them all to grow together without stressing each other out too much, keep this in mind when grouping them together!

Xeriscaping is a great way to save water and money while still having a beautiful garden. To learn more about this water-wise landscaping approach and how to implement it in your own yard, check out our comprehensive guide on The Ultimate Guide to Xeriscaping: Save Water and Money.

Design Your Garden To Capture Rainwater

To capture as much rainwater as possible, you’ll want to make sure that your garden is well equipped to receive it. 

The easiest way to do this is with a rain barrel that collects water from the downspouts on your house and directs it into a reservoir where it can be used for watering plants or irrigating a vegetable garden. 

If you don’t have access to a downspout or live in an apartment building, try using a rain gutter system instead!

Another option is installing a rain chain on your roofline this will allow you to direct water from your gutters directly into your yard and garden via gravity-fed pipes. 

Finally, if none of those options work for you (or if they’re too expensive), adding an actual pond can be another great way of collecting water from nature’s bounty! 

There are plenty of options available depending on how much money/space/time you’re willing

Recycle Your Water

You can also recycle water from household sources, such as showers, baths and laundry. The used water can be reused for watering your garden or houseplants.

You can use the water from your swimming pool to water your plants because it has already been filtered and is clean enough for drinking purposes. You may also want to consider reusing the greywater from washing machines (if you happen to live in an area where it is legal).

You don’t have to throw away old dishwashing liquids either, you can reuse them by adding them into your toilet tank! Just add a few drops every time you flush, and voila! 

Your toilet will smell great every time someone goes number two in there (or number one as we like to call it). It will also make things easier when changing baby diapers just put some of this stuff on their bottom before swiping them off with paper towels!

Water When Necessary

Watering should be done only when necessary. This doesn’t mean watering your plants every day, but it does mean checking the soil before you water. 

If the soil is dry about an inch deep, then it’s time to water. Water deeply but not too frequently (you don’t want to wash away all of your good work).

If you need to water more than once a week, consider adding more plants or planting in a different area.

Plant TypeWatering Frequency
SucculentsWater once every 2-3 weeks in hot weather, once every 4-6 weeks in cooler weather
Drought-tolerant trees & shrubsWater once every 1-2 weeks in hot weather, once every 2-4 weeks in cooler weather
Native plantsWater once every 1-2 weeks in hot weather, once every 2-4 weeks in cooler weather
Cool-season grassesWater 1-2 times per week, depending on rainfall
Warm-season grassesWater once per week, depending on rainfall

Water When Necessary Guidelines

The above guidelines provide suggested watering frequencies for various types of plants under normal circumstances. However, it’s important to remember to always water plants when necessary, depending on weather conditions, soil moisture, and other factors.

Consider using a smart irrigation system that can monitor local weather and adjust watering schedules accordingly, or using drought sensors that can detect when plants need water and send alerts to your phone. By watering only when necessary, you can improve plant health, reduce water waste, and save money on your water bill.


The key to a successful xeriscape is learning how to make the most of what water you have. With that in mind, we hope this article has given you some useful tips on how to create a water-wise garden. 

If you follow our advice, then you’ll be well on your way to creating an oasis in your own backyard where plants thrive and flowers bloom no matter what time of year it is!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources you may find helpful to learn more about xeriscaping:

Xeriscaping: Creative Landscaping: This guide from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides an overview of xeriscaping and offers tips for selecting and caring for drought-tolerant plants.

Xeriscaping: How to Save Water, Time, and Money With a Water-Wise Garden: This blog post from Ruby Home provides an introduction to xeriscaping, including some key principles and benefits, as well as some design ideas.

Xeriscaping: What is It and How to Do It: This article from The Zebra explains what xeriscaping is and how it works, as well as some key tips and considerations when creating a xeriscape garden.


What is xeriscaping?

Xeriscaping is a landscaping approach that involves selecting plants and other features that require minimal water and maintenance to thrive. This is often done in regions with limited water resources or in areas with a desire to conserve water.

What are the benefits of xeriscaping?

Xeriscaping can help reduce water usage, save money on landscaping and maintenance costs, conserve energy, and provide habitat for local wildlife.

Do xeriscapes have to be dull and uninteresting?

No, xeriscapes can be visually appealing and diverse. They can include plants and design features that provide color, texture, and interest throughout the year.

Do xeriscapes require less maintenance?

Yes, xeriscapes are designed to be low-maintenance, with plants that require minimal watering, pruning, and fertilizing.

Can xeriscaping be done in any climate?

Yes, xeriscaping principles can be applied in any climate, but the specific plants and features used may vary depending on the climate and weather patterns in your area.