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What is Xeriscaping?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 17, 2024

Xeriscaping is a type of landscaping which is designed to use water extremely efficiently. The concept was originally pioneered in desert regions and areas with low water availability, but has since spread to places with abundant water supplies, along with conservationist philosophies. The goal of xeriscaping is to create a beautiful, natural looking garden which uses water in an extremely efficient way, lowering water bills and reducing the environmental impact of the garden.

The term is derived from the Greek xeros, meaning “dry,” and “scape,” for a view or scene. The “dry scene” of a xeriscape is usually anything but boring, since the gardener carefully plans a garden with a profusion of native plants, cacti, and succulents. The end result can range from a spare garden with a great deal of open space and garden rocks to a lush profusion of native plants spilling from terraced beds.

Careful planning is required for good xeriscaping. First, the soil is conditioned to help it retain water, and the soil is also regularly conditioned through the life of the garden to make it more efficient. A drip irrigation system with timers is often installed, since drip irrigation is very efficient, and then the gardener sets up a plant plan which takes the landscape and weather conditions into account.

Ideally, a well xeriscaped garden will have very minimal water needs. To accomplish this, there is a heavy emphasis on native plants, desert plants, and drought tolerant species. Plants with similar water needs are grouped together so that they can be watered in bunches, and many shade trees, bowers, and protective walls are installed to reduce the risk of evaporation. Dense ground cover also helps to keep the soil moist.

If plants with higher water requirements must be planted, they are typically planted close together and in a well protected area. They may also be situated uphill, so that plants below them can take advantage of their runoff and unused water. As is the case with any garden, a careful garden plan usually governs the overall look of a xeriscaped garden, and a xeriscaping consultant may work on the garden in the early stages.

A xeriscaped garden is at once easier and more difficult to maintain than a regular garden. It usually requires less weeding, trimming, and watering, three time consuming tasks associated with gardening. Since xeriscaping is designed to replace lawns, mowing is also not a necessity. However, the garden beds must be regularly cared for to ensure that they are at their most efficient. Thoughtful care must also go into planting in the garden so that it does not start to get weedy or ragged in the drier months of the year.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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