Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Ideas That Work
By Jacquelyn Nause
Many homeowners are looking into low-maintenance gardens and plantings that can thrive with minimal water. Drought-tolerant landscaping offers the benefits of a beautiful outdoor space while conserving water. Here’s how to plan your low-water home garden.
Make a Plan
First things first: how do you want to use the space? Consider seating areas, pathways and areas for pets or kids. Drawing a map of the space will help you visualize the flow. Note important considerations such as sun, shade and slope.
Conduct a soil test and amend your soil accordingly with organic matter such as compost. If you have an irrigation system, test it for leaks or cracks, and repair as needed. If you don’t have any irrigation to consider, now is a good time to think about adding a system such as drip irrigation or soaker hoses with timers.
As for plantings, consider plants that are native to your region. Check your hardiness zone, or ask a local master gardener for plants, trees and shrubs that are native to your area.
Cover the Ground
Bare soil is not hospitable to plants, and covered soil holds moisture longer, which is key to creating a drought-resistant garden. Cover all soil with mulch, river rock or a drought-resistant ground cover such as sedum or thyme.
Not all mulches are created equal, though, so be sure to use a soil cover appropriate for each area. Organic mulches such as wood chips and bark dust hold moisture, which is beneficial for some areas of drought-resistant gardens but may lead to stem rot in cacti and succulents. Stones and pebbles, rubber mulch and artificial turf are all fine options for drought-resistant landscaping.
When designing your planting, choose plants that love full sun and good drainage. All plants will need water initially when settling into their new location. Once established, though, drought-resistant plants will need little or no water during hot summer months.
Trees like incense cedar, fig, ash, juniper and sumac are good options for dry zones that get very little water. If planting grasses, fescue, silver grass, fountain grass and sedge offer delicate greenery with low water needs.
Perennials and herbs add interest and flashes of color to a space. Choose from drought-tolerant flowers such as butterfly weed, evening primrose, sea holly and cape fuchsia. Rosemary, thyme, oregano and lavender offer low-water landscaping that’s also edible. Not only do these plants add beauty, they also invite garden friends like hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.
Along with succulents such as cacti and yucca, shrubs make fine borders or add interesting height to a space. Crape myrtle, butterfly bush, smoke bush, elderberry and oregon grape are smart choices for a low-maintenance yard.
Taking Care of Your New Garden
Aerate and fertilize turf in spring and fall, prune trees, shrubs and perennials , and compost any dead plant material. Check irrigation system for leaks or cracks. While drought-tolerant landscapes reduce the amount of water needed, you can’t eliminate the need for water entirely. Expect to water more frequently the first few weeks after planting. Then check your plants from time to time for pests and disease, as well as to ensure they look healthy and happy.
Drought-resistant gardens are a good opportunity to add unique and beautiful plants such as kangaroo paw, sticks on fire or artichoke to your space. But a low-maintenance garden can be more than just an enjoyable adornment for your property. It’s also an environment-friendly way to conserve natural resources, especially in more arid regions.
Jacquelyn Nause is a contributing writer with specialties in real estate, parenting and wellness. She enjoys traveling with her husband, being a doting mother to her two incredible kids and enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest playground.