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Water-Wise Gardening Xeriscape Principles For Western Gardens What is “Xeriscape”? Term coined by Denver Water Board in 1981 “Dry” + “scape” Water conservation through creative landscaping Does it have to look like this?? It can just as easily look like this!! What is “Xeriscape”?

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water wise gardening

Water-Wise Gardening

Xeriscape Principles

For Western Gardens

what is xeriscape
What is “Xeriscape”?
  • Term coined by Denver Water Board in 1981
  • “Dry” + “scape”
  • Water conservation through creative landscaping
what is xeriscape5
What is “Xeriscape”?
  • A concept of garden design that conserves water and honors the native Western landscape without sacrificing beauty
  • High water using plants are not banned, but are used in limited areas
  • Plants are grouped according to their needs
why xeriscape
Why xeriscape?
  • Conserve water
  • Fewer weed problems
  • “Sense of Place”: creating landscapes that reflect/blend with the native environment
xeriscape gardening
Xeriscape Gardening

Excellent choice

for difficult spots

seven principles of xeriscape
Seven Principles of Xeriscape
  • Plan and design
  • Reduce turf
  • Use appropriate plants
  • Improve the soil
  • Mulch
  • Efficient irrigation
  • Proper maintenance
plan and design
Plan and Design
  • Group plants by their needs
    • water
    • sun
    • salt tolerance (test soil)
  • Create water zones
  • Highest use nearest the house
reduce turf areas
Reduce Turf Areas
  • Assess current turf use
    • Pets? Children?
  • Assess ease of maintenance
    • Irrigation patterns
    • Mowing
  • Plan small, accessible areas near the house
improve the soil
Improve the Soil
  • Get the soil tested
  • Assess drainage
  • Coarse organic amendments
    • Wood chips, bark mulch
  • 3 - 6 yards/1000 square feet
  • Work in as deeply as possible
  • Do it right, do it once
use of mulch
Use of Mulch
  • Organic vs. Inorganic
  • Attractive
  • Conserves moisture
  • Organic improves soil
  • Dryland plants don’t need as much
  • Adds contrast: texture and color

Keeps soil cool

efficient irrigation
Efficient Irrigation
  • Plan the system to fit, or:
  • Plan the site around the system
  • Most systems are only 65% efficient
  • Use drip or soaker systems where appropriate
  • Time of day is important
efficient irrigation15
Efficient Irrigation
  • Get an irrigation audit
  • Check heads regularly
  • Use manual setting
  • Check soil and plants to determine water needs
regular maintenance
Regular Maintenance
  • Xeriscape does NOT mean no maintenance!
  • Water is needed for establishment
  • Flowering plants: deadhead
  • Perennials: divide, replace
  • Shrubs: prune as needed
  • Plan for winter interest



using native plants
Using Native Plants
  • Selection is limited
  • “Natural” doesn’t require just natives
  • Many other plants are well adapted to our soil and climate conditions
  • High desert natives have a limited color palette
using bulbs
Using Bulbs
  • Often overlooked as xeric plants
  • Earliest spring color
  • Very easy to grow
  • Like full sun, well-drained soil
  • Dormant in summer
  • Iris also like hot, dry summer conditions
spring flowering bulbs
Spring Flowering Bulbs
  • Utilize winter moisture
  • Beautiful early color
  • Specialized plants, not for everyone
  • Easy to grow
  • Cannot tolerate excess moisture
  • Do not mulch
  • Handle carefully!

Add striking color when in bloom


Many varieties are

hardy in Colorado

  • Good ground cover plants
    • Ice plant
    • Stone crop
  • Can become invasive
  • Useful for difficult areas
  • Cannot tolerate excess moisture
ornamental grasses
Ornamental Grasses
  • Many varieties tolerate dry conditions
  • Add texture, movement, height
  • Winter interest
  • May become invasive
ornamental grasses25
Ornamental Grasses
  • Subtle color
  • Winter interest
  • Sound
wildflower meadows
Wildflower Meadows
  • Mixes available for dryland conditions
  • Require water to establish
  • Require work to maintain
  • Excellent as transition zone to a native landscape
xeriscape gardening27
Xeriscape Gardening

Utilizes subtle contrasts:

plant lists
Plant Lists
  • Ground covers:


  • Flowering plants:


  • Trees and shrubs: