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South Central Gardening: Xeriscaping to Conserve Water

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Maximize water savings with xeriscaping tips for Texas and Oklahoma.

Black-eyed Susan

By Susan Albert

If your area experiences hot and dry summers — common in Oklahoma and Texas — your yard may benefit from xeriscaping, a comprehensive method of water conservation.  

Xeriscape, a term coined by the Denver water department, combines seven landscaping concepts that efficiently conserve water without sacrificing the health or beauty of the plant material. By incorporating all these tips into your garden plan, more water savings are possible.

According to Oklahoma and Texas Extension services, the seven xeriscape principles are:

Shasta Daisy

Planning and design. Plan your landscape on paper noting structures, areas of trees and shrubs, limited turf area, and drainage. Then consider budget, appearance, function, water requirements, and maintenance. Choose plants to complement the site and structures and conserve water.

Soil improvement. Adding amendments to the soil increases its ability to absorb and hold water. Incorporate about 4 to 6 inches of organic material such as peat, shredded pine bark, and rice hulls. Also consider having your soil analyzed to determine which nutrients are needed, thereby eliminating guesswork.

Buffalo grass

Practical turf areas. Plan for lawn areas based on need, and use proper grass varieties for sun or shade. Buffalo grass (pictured) is an underused low-water variety. By eliminating unnecessary turf, such as long, narrow areas, you reduce the amount of water needed. To further reduce lawn area, incorporate patios, decks, ground covers, and shrub beds.

Butterfly weed

Plant selection and placement. Choose water-wise plants in varying degrees of water use: very low, low, and moderate. Site plants appropriately in each zone, according to watering needs. Plants can be native or well-adapted exotic plants. Pictured is the native butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Efficient irrigation. Soaker hoses and drip irrigators can save water and reduce weed growth in beds of shrubs and flowers. For lawns, use sprinkler irrigation and water less often but more deeply.

Bearded Iris

Mulching. Using mulches in flower and shrub beds can maintain soil moisture, reduce weeds, moderate soil temperature, and reduce water evaporation.

Appropriate maintenance. Maintenance activities such as fertilizing, pruning, weeding, and mowing at the correct height promote a healthy garden.

Russian sage

The trick to maximizing water conservation is to combine all seven tips rather than use one or two. Here is a sample of suggested low-water-use plants for Oklahoma and Texas:

PERENNIALS:

  • Autumn sage (Salvia greggii)
  • Bearded iris  (Iris cultivars)
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)
  • Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis)
  • Carypoteris (Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Blue Mist’)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)
  • Coreopsis (C. verticillata)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis cultivars)
  • Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
  • Shasta daisy (Chrysanthemum x superbum)
  • Yarrow (Achillea spp.)
Firebush

ANNUALS:

  • Cockscomb (Celosia spp.)
  • Cosmos (Cosmos spp.)
  • Firebush (Hamelia patens)
  • Lantana (Lantana camara)
  • Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)
  • Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
  • Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
  • Mexican zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia)
  • Pentas (Pentas lanceolata)
Rose of Sharon ‘Pink Chiffon’

SHRUBS:

  • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
  • Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Deciduous holly (Ilex decidua)
  • Juniper (Juniperus spp.)
  • Mugo pine (Pinus mugo var. mugo)
  • Nandina (Nandina domestica)
  • Shrub roses (Rosa species)
  • Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria)
  • Sumac (Rhus spp.)
  • Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
Crossvine

GROUND COVERS:

  • Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
  • Juniper (Juniperus spp.)
  • Lilyturf or monkey grass (Liriope spp.)
  • Santolina (Santolina spp.)

CLIMBERS:

  • Climbing roses (Rosa spp.)
  • Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)
  • Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
  • Clematis (Clematis spp.)
Mexican feather grass

ORNAMENTAL GRASSES (Perennial):

  • Fountain grass (Pennisetum ruppelii)
  • Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis cultivars)
  • Ravenna grass (Erianthus ravennae)
  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
  • Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)

TREES:

  • Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica)
  • Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
  • Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
  • Caddo sugar maple (Acer saccharum ‘Caddo’)
  • Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis)
  • Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)
  • Deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara)
  • Lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
  • Oklahoma redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma’)

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