Plan a Xeriscape Yard For Water Efficiency
If you live in an area where water is scarce and summers are dry, a xeriscape garden planted with drought tolerant native plants is the way to go. Xeriscape landscaping does not mean just gravel and rock with a few cacti. Drought tolerant plants can be just as colorful and interesting as plants that thrive in moist conditions. Many will attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Most are easy to maintain and quite hardy.
Choose a sunny spot for your xeriscape garden. Good drainage is essential for drought tolerant plants. Some dry regions will have a layer of caliche below the soil. If this impervious and hard layer of sedimented calcium carbonate lies beneath your topsoil, you may need to break it up so water can drain properly. If you are unsure about the drainage, build a raised bed, fill it with soil and compost, and add some crushed granite. This will slowly decompose and add essential minerals to the soil.
Once your chosen plants are in the ground, mulch the area with shredded bark or pine needles. This will act conserve the moisture in the soil in hot weather and help keep roots cool. Mulch will also soak up available water so it acts like a water reservoir. As the mulch slowly decomposes over time, it will contribute to the soil’s texture and add nutrients.
To encourage your new plants to get established, water them thoroughly when you plant them. Then during the first week water them lightly every day. Each week water them less often, and after 6 weeks they will need watering only every second week unless it rains. Look for drooping leaves that indicate your plants need watering. It is always best to water deeply and less often.
Many drought tolerant plants are commonly available in nurseries and garden centers. You can also find seeds and plants by searching on the internet. A few of the best common xeriscape plants are as follows:
Salvia lyciodes: Also known as canyon sage, this perennial grows into a small bush. It has cobalt-blue blossoms in both spring and fall, and silvery green evergreen leaves. Many salvia species are available, with various bloom colors, and all are loved by butterflies.
Echinacea purpurea: The purple coneflower has purple daisy-like blooms with an orange conical center. It grows up to 2 feet tall, blooming from spring through summer.
Lychnis coronaria: Commonly called rose campion, this perennial with vivid magenta blooms can grow to 2 feet. It has fuzzy gray green foliage that deer will not eat.
Armeria maritima: The sea pink is a small perennial with pink ball-like blooms. It has short evergreen foliage, and is very hardy.
Achillea species: Achillea or yarrow is a common wildflower with deeply divided silvery-green scented foliage. Many cultivars have been developed, and blossoms range from white to yellow, orange, pink and deep red.
Ceanothus: An attractive shrub that has small clusters of blue flowers that butterflies love. Species of this can be ground hugging or bushy, and some can be trained as a small tree.