Originally the brainchild of the Denver, Colorado, Water Department, xeriscaping is a means of creating landscapes that utilise less water. Over time, this developed into what are now known as the seven design principles of xeriscaping.

The seven design principles of xeriscaping are applicable to any region and adaptable to a variety of climates. These principles are designed for use by homeowners. This includes the manner in which a xeriscape should be irrigated.

Plan and Design

The process of xeriscaping begins by creating a scale diagram that shows the major elements of a landscape, including the house, patio, driveway, and other existing elements. From this basic diagram, known as the base plan, a conceptual plan is created. This designates area for turf, perennial beds, and so forth.

Soil Amendments

Plants included in a xeriscape should fit the soil present. If that is not the case, the soil must be amended to fit the plants.

Efficient Irrigation

A xeriscape can be irrigated efficiently with an automatic sprinkler system. Each zone of a xeriscape has a specific type of irrigation system put in place to most efficiently meet its needs. These type of irrigation systems include:

  • gear driver rotors
  • spray emitters
  • drip line emitters
  • bubbler emitters

Watering is to be done deeply and infrequently. This practice is undertaken to develop deep roots. Watering is never undertaken during the day to prevent water loss due to evaporation.

Appropriate Plant and Zone Selection

A major element of xeriscaping is selecting appropriate plants and understand that different zones in a landscape receive different amounts of light, moisture, and wind. Water is conserved by grouping plants together with similar water needs. In many ways, plant selection and zone-appropriate planting is at the heart of xeriscaping.


Mulch is designed to keep plant roots cool, prevent soil crusting, minimize evaporation, and reduce weed growth. Organic mulches are preferred when it comes to xeriscaping. These include:

  • bark chips
  • pole peelings
  • wood grindings

Organic mulch should be applied 6 to 10 centimetres deep.

Inorganic mulches are also used as part of a typical xeriscape. These include rocks and gravel. Inorganic mulches typically are spread to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. If you’re having any trees trimmed on your property, it’s worth asking the arborist whether they can leave the mulched branches to use in your garden beds after.

Limited Turf Areas

A prime distinction between traditional landscaping and xeriscaping is the limited use of turf. Native grasses like mondo grass and blue grama are recommended for xeriscaping. These types of grasses require a quarter of the water needed to cultivate traditional grasses used in lawns in the United States, including bluegrass.

Native grasses are greenest in the spring and fall and go dormant during the heat of the summer. By using a native grass, not only is water use reduced but so are associated maintenance requirements.


Any type of landscape necessitates maintenance throughout the year. For example, any type of turf requires spring and fall aeration. In addition, turf needs regular fertilisation approximately every six to eight weeks.

Turf included in a xeriscape should be at a height of about 3 inches. When the grass is cut, the clippings should not be collected, but allowed to fall to the ground.

Trees, shrubs, and perennials need occasional pruning and trimming to remove dead stems, control height, and promote blooming. A good deal of the plant material derived from pruning and trimming can be shredded and then utilised in compost piles.

Myth of Xeriscaping

Having been presented the seven principles of xeriscaping, it is also important to dispel a persistent myth about this landscaping practice. Xeriscaping doesn’t result in “desert scenes” or landscapes thin on greenery.

Yes, there can be xeriscapes that feature a desert-like motif, depending on the region in which the landscaping is being undertaken. However, there exist a multitude of hearty, green plants that thrive with a minimal amount of water.

Undertaking Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping remains something of a new concept as of this time. By that it is meant that there are yet to be landscape professionals in some locations in the country that have a great deal of practice in xeriscaping. That is starting to change as xeriscaping is becoming more widely utilised across the country.

With some limitations in access to landscape professionals with significant experience in xeriscaping, many homeowners embark on this type of effort on their own. This includes initial design and planning, plant selection, and installation of appropriate watering systems for a residential xeriscape.