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(775) 727-8512


Land Art Landscaping
P.O. Box 4832
Pahrump, NV 89041
Working Hours:
Mon - Fri 7am to 2:30pm
Sat & Sun Closed

Xeriscape (Drought Tolerant)

Xeriscape (Drought Tolerant)

The word xeriscaping is a portmanteau of xeros ξήρος (Greek for “dry”) and landscaping, and xeriscape is used for this style of garden. Xeriscaping refers to a method of landscape design that minimizes water use.

In some areas, terms such as water-conserving landscapes, drought-tolerant landscaping, zero scaping, and smart scaping are used instead. Plants whose natural requirements are appropriate to the local climate are emphasized, and care is taken to avoid losing water to evaporation and run-off. The specific plants used in xeriscaping depend upon the climate.

Xeriscape Advantages


Cacti are not the only low water consuming plants used in Xeriscaping.


Lowers consumption of imported or ground water.


More water available for other domestic and community uses and the environment.


Less time and work needed for maintenance effort, with gardening simpler and less stressful.


Little or no lawnmowing


Xeriscape plants in appropriate planting design, and soil grading and mulching, takes full advantage of rainfall retention.


When water restrictions are implemented, by municipality or water costs, xeriscape plants will tend to survive and thrive, while more ornamental plants may be unable to adapt.


1. Plan and design
Create a diagram, drawn to scale, that shows the major elements of your landscape, including house, driveway, sidewalk, deck or patio, existing trees and other elements.

Once you’ve completed a base plan of an existing site, think about how you want to use your new Xeriscape. Do you want it to be a place for dogs to run? Curb appeal? Frame or screen views? Create a conceptual plan (bubble diagram) that shows the areas for turf, perennial beds, views, screens, slopes, etc. Once finished, develop a planting plan that reinforces the areas in the appropriate scale.

2. Soil amendment
Most plants will benefit from the use of compost, which will help the soil retain water. Some desert plants prefer gravel soils instead of well-amended soils. Plants should either fit the soil or soil should be amended to fit the plants.

3. Efficient irrigation
Xeriscape can be irrigated efficiently by hand or with an automatic sprinkler system. Zone turf areas separately from other plants and use the irrigation method that waters the plants in each area most efficiently. For grass, use gear-driven rotors or rotary spray nozzles that have larger droplets and low angles to avoid wind drift. Spray, drip line or bubbler emitters are most efficient for watering trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers.


If you water by hand, avoid oscillating sprinklers and other sprinklers that throw water high in the air or release a fine mist. The most efficient sprinklers release big drops close to the ground.

Water deeply and infrequently to develop deep roots. Never water during the day to reduce water loss to evaporation. If you have an automatic sprinkling system, adjust your controller monthly to accommodate weather conditions. Also, install a rain sensor to shut off the device when it rains.

4. Appropriate plant and zone selection
Different areas in your yard receive different amounts of light, wind, and moisture. To minimize water waste, group together plants with similar light and water requirements, and place them in an area that matches these requirements. Put moderate-water-use plants in low-lying drainage areas, near downspouts, or in the shade of other plants. Your turf will require the most water and shrub/perennial beds will require approximately half the amount of water. Dry, sunny areas support low-water-use plants that grow well in our climate. Planting a variety of plants with different heights, colors and textures create interest and beauty.

5. Mulch
Mulch keeps plant roots cool, prevents soil from crusting, minimizes evaporation, and reduces weed growth. Organic mulches, such as bark chips, pole peelings, or wood grindings, should be applied 2 to 4 inches deep. Fiber mulches create a web that is more resistant to wind and rain washout. Inorganic mulches, such as rocks and gravel, should be applied 2 to 3 inches deep. Surrounding plants with rock makes the area hotter; limit this practice.

6. Alternative turf
Native grasses (warm-season) that have been cultivated for turf lawns, such as buffalo grass and blue grama, can survive with a quarter of the water that bluegrass varieties need. Warm-season grasses are greenest in June through September and straw brown the rest of the year.

Native grasses (cool season) such as bluegrass and tall fescue, are greenest in the spring and fall and go dormant in the high heat of the summer. New cultivars of bluegrass, such as Reveille, and tall fescue, can reduce typical bluegrass water requirements by at least 30 percent. Fine fescues can provide substantial water savings and is best used in areas that receive low traffic or are in shady locations.

Use the appropriate grass and limit the amount of grass to reduce the watering and maintenance requirements.

7. Maintenance
All landscapes require some degree of care during the year. Turf requires spring and fall aeration along with regular fertilization every 6 to 8 weeks. Keep your grass height at 3 inches and allow the clippings to fall. Trees, shrubs, and perennials will need occasional pruning to remove dead stems, promote blooming or control height and spread. Much of the removed plant material can be shredded and used in composting piles.

Xeriscape (Drought Tolerant)

NOTE: Many Denver Water employees helped coin the term xeriscape, and Xeriscape and the xeriscape logo are registered trademarks of Denver Water, the water department of Denver, Colorado.

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