Introduction to Xeriscaping: Water
Xeriscaping is basically the use of native and drought-tolerant plants, hard and soft mulches, rain harvesting, water-saving watering techniques.
Enchanted Xeriscape" - 7 Principles of Xeriscaping.
Combination of gardening concepts. Xeriscaping and hardscape landscaping materials
Native plants are well-adapted to the climate, precipitation, soils, insects, and other local conditions and are consequently easier to grow than non-natives. For information on the plants native to your area, check with your local nature centers, colleges, cooperative extensions, universities, and your state department of natural resources or similar agency.
Plants should be purchased from reputable suppliers not dug from the wild. It is illegal to remove plants from public lands.
Straw Mulch is laid down in every spot after planting.
coreopsis, buddleia (butterfly bushes) for the butterflies,
used: removed sections of water-hungry grass, added a stone pathway
This photo is march/april 2008, when the garden was completed.
White pea gravel adds to the Asian look of the garden.
A natural choice for xeriscapes - Cacti
Low-Maintenance Landscape Ideas
The following article is posted with many thanks to: The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, South Carolina
Prepared by Karen Russ, HGIC Information Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University
Although there is no such thing as a maintenance-free landscape, it is possible to have an attractive landscape that is easy to care for. Good planning, design, plant selection and timely maintenance will reduce the amount of care that a landscape needs to look its best.
Planning is essential to the development of a low maintenance landscape. Extra time spent in planning will be repaid many times over in later leisure time.
Analyze Site: Begin with a thorough study of the features of your garden site. This will include site conditions, problem areas, desirable areas and views. Plot these factors on a sketch of your garden site for future reference.
Determine sun and shade patterns for all areas. Does the area receive different light at different times of day or in different seasons? Some plants do well with full morning sun but cannot handle the hotter afternoon sun.Other plants that can handle full sun in summer are subject to sunburn in winter. You will also want to locate patios, shade trees and arbors according to sun patterns.
Evaluate the maintenance needs of existing plants and structures. Identify the existing plants and determine their condition and future growth. A tree that will tremendously outgrow its present location may be easier and less expensive to remove and replace now than later.On the other hand, you may have features that are of unexpected benefit. A solid bed of moss under trees can mean that you will never need to mow that area.
Check soil drainage and storm runoff. Areas that stay wet can be lethal to many plants, and damaging to structures. Either regrade or install drain tiles to improve drainage, or plant that area only with water-tolerant plants.
The type of soil in your yard will also affect drainage rates and the types of plants that will thrive. A soil test will determine if soil amendments or fertilizers are needed.
Identify areas such as steep slopes that may cause maintenance difficulties. Lawns on steep slopes can be both high-maintenance and unsafe. Plan to replace the grass with groundcover or use terraces and retaining walls to reduce severe slope problems.
Analyze Your Needs: Determine what your needs and desires are for your yard. Families with young children will need play areas that are safe and easily watched. Plan your landscape around the kind of activities that you and your family engage in. Outdoor sports and yard games require a lot of lawn space and sturdy plantings.
Large paved areas are desirable for outside entertaining. Remember the needs of outdoor pets. Dogs can severely damage gardens unless they are confined to a separate area.
Consider the amount of time that you can afford or want to spend in yard maintenance. New gardeners should start with easier plantings than an experienced gardener would put in. Start small and simple until you know how much you like gardening.
Many people enjoy some aspects of garden care and dislike others. If you dislike spending time watering, choose only drought-tolerant plants or install an irrigation system. Those who hate to rake can choose trees with fine leaves that disappear into a lawn.
Take into account the physical abilities of the users and their ability to perform different maintenance jobs. Wheelchair access requires wide paths without overlapping plants. Raised beds are helpful for gardeners who have difficulty kneeling.
You will also need to allow room for such practical purposes as clotheslines, trashcan storage, compost and pet runs.
DESIGN FOR LOW MAINTENANCE
Many of the maintenance needs of a garden are determined by the design. By following a few simple guidelines, you can build in ease of care from the start.
Simplicity: Keep the planting design simple. Make certain each plant in the plan serves a purpose. Elaborate plantings require a great deal of attention. Simple plantings, using only a few plant species, can be both attractive and easy to manage.
Materials Selection: Some elements of a landscape need more care than others. Generally, paving such as patios and walks require the least care. They are followed by structures such as sheds and arbors, then trees, shrubs, ground covers, and lawns. Bulbs, annual and perennial flowers, and plants that need special care, such as roses, need the most maintenance. Since few of us would want a garden without any seasonal flowering plants, the maintenance impact can be reduced by planting high-care plants in limited numbers and where they will have the most impact.
Beds: Planting beds are easier to maintain than many isolated plantings. It is easier to mow around a bed with a continuous edge rather than around individual plants. Gentle curves or straight lines are both easier to care for and more pleasing than complicated curves and shapes. Avoid sharp corners or narrow strips that mowers cannot reach. Beds should be narrow enough for easy access, or be designed with steppingstones or paths through them.
Edging: Edging saves maintenance by keeping mulch in and lawn out. Steel, aluminum and plastic edgings are readily available. A very attractive edging can be constructed of pavers or brick laid flush with the lawn. This kind of edging will reduce the need for hand-trimming. While a spade cut edging will need to be re-cut seasonally, it will keep bed edges defined and neat.
Hardscaping: Patios and decks are low-maintenance
choices for high traffic areas that will not allow the
successful growth of grass or other groundcover.
Sidewalks, patios and edging around beds should be low
and flat, permitting a power mower to ride up over the
surface and eliminating the need for hand edging.
Walks, patios, steps, walls, fences or shelters will need
periodic maintenance that will vary in frequency based
on the materials used. When considering various
landscape and construction materials, compare the initial
cost and maintenance to long term cost and durability.
Natural Areas: Some areas, especially on properties
with large trees, can be allowed to return to their natural
state. Woodlands are the natural condition for most
areas of the state. This option will require periodic care
to remove undesirable weed species.
Wildflower meadows require little supplemental
irrigation once established, and generally do not require
fertilization. They are an attractive alternative to the
traditional lawn since they need mowing only once a
year. This operation controls the growth of tree and
shrub seedlings, and if done in the fall, helps to spread
the wildflower seeds throughout the area.
Establishing a meadow garden will require effort
initially to control weeds until the young plants or seeds
are well-established. While a meadow garden need not
be weed-free to be attractive, it will require occasional
maintenance to control vigorous or invasive weeds.
The success of a wildflower species or mixture depends
on the adaptability of the species to a given area. Be
sure to choose mixes that are suited to your area.
Xeriscaping: The use of drought-tolerant plants in
watering zones will help to lower water use and reduce
maintenance. All the plants within a zone should have
the same water requirements and can be watered as a
group. High-moisture plants should be limited and
located where they can be reached easily with a hose.
Plants that rarely need supplemental moisture can be
used where a water source is not convenient. Lawns
usually use the most water in a landscape. By using
decks and patios, groundcovers and shrub beds, you can
limit lawn size and still have an attractive yard.
Care Zones: Keep small areas near the home highly
manicured and allow areas farther away to naturalize.
Group plants of similar cultural needs to save time in site
preparation and care. It is difficult to provide proper
water and light to all plants if those with dissimilar needs
are mixed together.
Drainage and Moisture Control: Use plants that
require little or no extra water after they are established
near buildings. Drier soil cuts down on mildew
problems and moisture damage and discourages insect
pests like termites and roaches. Make sure that the
ground close to the house is graded to channel water
away from the house. Make sure that roof drainage is
channeled to at least 10 feet away from the house with
drainpipes. Ground covers should be at least 6 to 8
inches below any untreated wood, and groundcovers and
organic mulches should be kept at least 12 inches away
from the house’s foundation in order to avoid giving a
bridge to termites. This area can be filled with crushed
gravel or stone. Allow for adequate air circulation
around the structure for vents and to prevent mildew.
Selecting the right plants is a very important step in
establishing your landscape. Selecting the improper
plant can increase your maintenance chores through
excessive pruning, extra watering and additional
spraying to control insects and diseases. Selecting the
right plant can reduce these chores and increase the time
you have to enjoy your landscape.
When choosing plants for your landscape, you should
know the characteristics of the plant such as mature size
and shape and whether it is evergreen or deciduous.
Select plants that are pest-resistant; hardy and heattolerant
for your area; and adapted for the sun, soil and
moisture conditions in your yard. Avoid plants with
messy fruits, pods or shedding branches. Select plants
that will not grow beyond the desired height and spread.
Select plants suited to the growing conditions rather than
try to change the conditions to suit the plants.
Trees and Shrubs: Most woody plants require less
maintenance than other plants, but some species and
cultivars are easier to care for or more pest-resistant than
others are. Select slower-growing trees and shrubs to
eliminate or reduce the need for pruning. Since these
plants are long-term investments, make sure that they
will not outgrow their space.
Groundcovers: Most ground covers need less water
than turfgrass, so replacing some of your lawn with a
ground cover will conserve water. Groundcovers are
often better choices than turf for steep slopes difficult
to mow or shady areas where grass does not grow well.
Beds of groundcovers at the base of structures such
as fences will help eliminate tedious trimming. Ground
cover plants need more maintenance when first planted
to prevent weeds until the area is covered. Fertilizer
and closer spacing of plants speeds ground cover
Vines: Vines can require very high maintenance if
improperly sited or can contribute greatly to your
landscape. Vines are excellent for providing a fast
screen. They will give height to a landscape while
needing little ground space and are therefore useful in
small gardens. Make sure that vines are given adequate
support and that you have time to keep them pruned. On
steep banks where a lawn will not grow, vines may be
used as groundcovers.
Flowers: While flowers need more maintenance than
any other plants, few gardeners would want to eliminate
them. To provide color along with easy upkeep, select
plants that are well-suited to your site, and use them in
limited areas where they will have the most impact.
Annuals need to be watered frequently and should be
deadheaded frequently. They must be replanted every
year. Perennials come back year after year, but many
need deadheading to look their best, and some must be
divided every few years. Many perennials need supports
to keep them from flopping. Naturalizing bulbs is an
excellent way to provide seasonal color with low care.
Other Plants: Roses and other specialty plants often
require more maintenance than other types of garden
plants. This does not mean that you need to completely
forgo your favorite roses. You may want to try to grow
them only in a small area though and select tougher
plants for the rest of your yard. You may even be able to
find certain types and species of roses that need a bit less
care. If your passion is water gardening, have a small
pond, one that can be cared for in time that you have
available. Native plants are often recommended for easy
maintenance, but keep in mind that most home sites bear
little resemblance to original soils or conditions. Make
sure that you choose plants suited to the current
conditions on your site.
Lawn: Lawns can be either moderately low-or very
high-maintenance, depending on the type of grass and
the standard of perfection you want to achieve. Lawns
need at least weekly mowing during the growing season.
Mow regularly to produce a healthy and dense lawn that
will outcompete weeds for sunlight and nutrients.
Remove no more than one-third of the grass height at
any one mowing.
To minimize landscape maintenance, consider reducing
the area of the yard devoted to turf. Keep large enough
grassy areas for entertaining needs and play areas, but
convert excess turf areas into plantings with lower
Soil Preparation: Trees, shrubs, and other landscape
plants must be planted properly and receive the right
amount of water if they are to establish themselves and
flourish. For more information on correct planting
methods, refer to HGIC 1001, Planting Trees; HGIC
1052, Planting Shrubs Correctly; HGIC 1058, Azalea
Planting, and HGIC 1100, Groundcovers.
Selecting Healthy Plants: Look for plants with healthy
foliage and make sure they are rooted firmly in the soil
in the container or ball. Check to see if the plants have
plenty of live, light tan or white roots. Avoid plants that
are root-bound or with roots exposed on the surface or
growing out the drain holes.
Mulch: Mulch beds with 2 to 3 inches of shredded bark,
pine needles or other organic material. This will reduce
weeds, retain soil moisture and keep soil temperatures
moderate. Keep mulch away from direct contact with
stems of shrubs and trees to avoid pest problems.
Watering: Provide adequate water to new plantings
until they are established. Typically, one or two full
growing seasons are needed for roots to extensively
develop into surrounding soil. Check for water needs in
the root ball, not in the new planting hole. For more
information on best watering practices, see HGIC 1056,
Watering Shrubs and Trees.
Plants are living organisms that need routine care to
thrive. Following correct maintenance procedures on a
timely basis can minimize maintenance.
Fertilizer: It is always best to base fertilizer
applications on the results of a soil test. Appropriate
applications of fertilizer as needed can improve the
appearance and condition of plants. Excessive fertilizer
can cause rapid growth that may be more susceptible to
insect and disease attacks and will require more pruning.
Other problems that can be caused by over use of
fertilizer include fertilizer burn and water pollution.
Pest Control: Check plants for disease and insect
outbreaks regularly. Problems are much easier to
control if caught early while they are affecting only a
small area. Before treating a possible pest problem,
make sure that it has been correctly identified. Make
sure that the insect is actually a pest, since many insects
are beneficial. Also find out the correct methods of
control and proper timing. You’ll find information on
controlling pests appropriately in HGIC 2755, Integrated
Pest Management (IPM).
Yard Trimmings: Grass clippings can be allowed to
remain on the grass to decompose. Your lawn will
recycle the clippings naturally, saving you time, money
and energy. Disposing of leaves, grass clippings and
other garden refuse is often a problem for gardeners,
particularly in an urban area. These garden and
landscape byproducts can be turned into useful compost
with little effort.
Watering: Lawn and gardens need enough water from
rain or irrigation to wet the root zone, generally 1 inch
per week on clay soils. Sandy soils that drain rapidly
may need to be watered with one-half inch of water
every three days. Plants will need more water during
periods of rapid growth, while flowering and in high
heat or windy conditions. They will use less water
during cool, damp weather. Adjust weekly watering to
your soil needs.
Irrigation systems can save much time and effort if
correctly installed and designed for your planting needs.
Overhead sprinklers or pop-up heads on an underground
irrigation system are appropriate for lawns. In flowerbeds,
spray-type emitters must be placed higher for
proper water distribution. For trees, shrubs and flowerbeds,
drip irrigation may be the most efficient system.
Hardscapes: Walks, patios, steps, walls and fences will
need periodic maintenance. The type and frequency will
vary with the materials used. For example, a concrete
patio would not need maintenance for 20 to 30 years,
whereas a brick in sand patio needs to be re-set every
three to five years. Brick set in mortar should last 20 to
30 years. Painted wooden structures and fences need
repainting every three to four years. However, woods
such as redwood, bleached or stained with a
preservative, usually last for the 20-year expected life
span of the structure.
Pruning: Take care of pruning needs early. Cut out
weak, narrow crotches on branches, crossing branches or
competing branches while they are still small. Pruning
jobs become more difficult with time. Avoid planting
trees and shrubs where they will outgrow their allotted
space without frequent pruning.
Tools: Power tools can make short work of many
maintenance operations. However, make certain they
are the right tools for the job. While string trimmers
quickly mow down weeds and grass around buildings
and fences, they should be used with extreme caution
around trees. The force of the trimmer line can cause
injury to the bark, leading to girdling and death.
Mowing: Mow at the proper height to allow grass to
develop deep roots that are more efficient in using soil
moisture. Correct mowing height also reduces weeds.
Plants Suitable For Xeriscaping
The plants i name are plants i have successfully used in xeriscapes in US zones 5 and 8
Yes, you can include certain roses in a xeriscape design!
Dwarf Yucca "Color Guard"
Grows 2-3 feet tall and wide
No garden is complete without varying shapes and foliage color. And some evergreen. I love the look and sword shape of Yucca. There aren't many varieties of manageable size that make it through a northeast winter, but this is one.
Perfect for xeriscaped water-wise gardens and desertscapes. It's a variety of succulent, so water needs are minimal. Yucca has average to low water needs, and a well-drained soil. Propagate by dividing the plant. I use these as a centerpiece, specimen, or backdrop. I also use these as a backdrop for my cactus and succulent garden beds.
A very pretty green and yellow, with swordlike leaves. Perfect for the center or backdrops of my Asian gardens. Looks pretty planted in pots anywhere. Gives interest and more impact in areas where you are growing bamboo or Japanese maples.
General listing of plants suitable for xeriscaping in
Pennsylvania, zone 5 courtesy of the USDA
You can search for xeriscape-suitable plants for your state, as well.