One key to water-wise landscaping is the use of native (or indigenous) plants. Indigenous plants have adapted to your area and therefore require less maintenance. Native plants also supply food and shelter for animals and insects. When you visualize a landscape of native plants, it doesn't have to look like an abandoned lot. Plus you don't have to limit your selection to native plants only. Just be sure to group plants that have the same requirements for water, sun and feeding.
To increase water conservation, look for drought-resistant plants. In general, these plants have small, silver leaves and deep taproots. Succulents, such as sedum, are also able to withstand dry weather.
Compare the plant's water requirements to the microclimates identified in your plan. Plant these new communities accordingly. When planting, take into consideration the plant's size at maturity. Layer by height and bloom time for emphasis and constant color.
Established, well-rooted plants offer the additional benefit of increased pest and disease resistance. They require less fertilizer (which saves money and time).
Do not collect native plants from roadsides, parks, vacant lots or anywhere. Digging them up is not conscientious and, depending upon where you are, it may be illegal. Plus, they typically don't transplant well.
Turfgrass can also be a component of xeriscapes. Manage existing turf more efficiently through the following:
- Mow at the proper height with a sharp blade to keep grass healthier.
- Aerate (then top-dress with compost or peat moss) to allow water to reach roots rather than run off.
- Replace or re-seed your lawn with one of the less thirsty turfgrass varieties available.
- Reduce turf areas by converting parts of the lawn to mulched beds, adding groundcover or creating larger shrub beds. Areas where turf doesn't grow (under trees, for example) are candidates for mulch or groundcover. Changing these areas allows you to better concentrate your efforts into turning the remaining turf area into an attractive lawn.
- Remove thatch if necessary.