Xeriscaping: Drought-tolerant Landscaping

    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • Pansies, violas, snapdragons, stock and calendulas can be planted now to replace summer annuals.
    • Wildflower seed broadcast with the first rains will take root over the winter and burst into flower next spring.

Xeriscaping: Drought-tolerant Landscaping

After two years of serious drought, now that the rains are finally arriving and the soil may soon be “diggable,” you may find that this is an excellent time to do some landscaping. California, and other parts of the West, experience periodic droughts that can make it almost impossible to keep landscaping watered in many areas. For this reason, it makes sense to design your landscaping with water use in mind, by grouping plants according to their water needs.

From the Greek word xeros – meaning “dry” – comes the term xeriscape, (pronounced ZEER-i-scape), which is simply landscaping using minimal irrigation. The secret is to use tough, drought-tolerant plants that will grow in the amount of sun or shade available on a particular site.

Most often, xeric plants are used for hot, dry south and west facing areas. You can use plants that like more moisture along north and east facing walls. Don’t mix plants with high and low water needs in the same planting area.

Shrubs that will grow well in xeric conditions include rockroses, California wild lilac, lavender, rosemary, cotoneaster, manzanitas, and junipers. These will give you a variety of sizes and textures to fill large spaces and tumble over rocks and down hillsides.

Add color to the setting with some of the many perennials that tolerate these conditions. Reliable, easy-care yarrows have flat clusters of colorful flowers and finely divided, fern-like foliage. Smaller varieties, like ‘Red Beauty’, are low growing with 18-inch flower stems while ‘Moonshine’ grows to two feet and ‘Coronation Gold’ can reach four feet tall. They bloom through much of the summer.

Coreopsis, with their golden yellow flowers, also bloom over a long season. Lamb’s Ear, known for its “furry” leaves, is very drought tolerant. Echinaceas and Rudbeckias, both types of cone-flowers, are good summer-bloomers as are Gaillardias and red-hot poker plants.

Red Valerian is a well-known plant in many older gardens, where its rosy-pink flowers on tall, floppy stems bloom continuously from late spring through early summer. It reseeds readily and is easy-to-grow.

The sage family includes many colorful landscape plants. However, most of them find our climate too wet or too cold in the winter. Salvia ‘May Night’ is a neat clump-forming plant that sends up 18-inch spikes of dark purple flowers. It is very attractive in a mixed border.

Sedums are often overlooked but these succulents are excellent in sunny spots with well-drained soil. From the low-growing ‘Cape Blanco’ with its attractive silver-gray foliage, to the 24-inch tall ‘Autumn Joy’ with its large domes of bright pink flowers, sedums contrast beautifully with more delicate plants.

Large areas can be planted with a wildflower mix. Now is the perfect time to broadcast these seeds. The mix may include California poppy, lupine, purple coneflower, and gaillardia.

By designing your landscape with xeriscape plants, you can make the most of precious water resources.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.