Translated by Nick R
Although the term may seem strange to you, xeriscaping has gained popularity thanks to the way it allows you to design landscapes that reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation.
So, if you’re in an area that suffers from drought or simply looking for a way to have a more environmentally friendly garden, this blog is for you!
Next, we’ll talk about the definition of xeriscaping and xerophytic plants. We’ll explain everything you need to know to have your own xerophytic garden with few resources and how to take care of it. In the end, you’ll find the top 5 xerophytes for your garden.
Table of Contents
What is xeriscaping?
It’s a landscaping practice that seeks to create and maintain a beautiful garden while conserving water resources as much as possible. It consists of choosing native or well-adapted plants that can thrive with as little water as possible.
However, a xeriscape or Xero-garden is not a space full of cacti and succulents or a place with a dry look and earthy colors. Quite the opposite! You’ll see that it can have a modern design with beautiful colors and large plant diversity. One can even say xerogardening works with any type of plant as long as it’s in the right location and properly maintained.
That being said, xeriscaping is promoted in regions that don’t have a sufficient freshwater supply or that are not easily accessible. Although it’s not limited to a certain climate, this practice first became popular in arid places that suffer from drought.
Additionally, many people use this official landscaping technique to reduce environmental impact and waste no water. They also appreciate saving time, money, and the other benefits that we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Benefits of xeriscaping
The first and clearest benefit is that Xero-gardens require less water and are thus more sustainable than traditional ones. Especially, since it can reduce water use by up to 80%. In addition, reducing the watering frequency makes it much easier to maintain.
The use of Native Plants is promoted
As we said before, one of the objectives of this practice is to highlight native plants as they are better adapted to your environment. This way, you can ensure the garden’s success, even if it doesn’t need much care.
Naturally, you can use plants from similar environments or, for example, those that resist drought. There are many of these on the market, and they’ll surely provide you with a more diverse landscape, full of varied textures, sizes, and colors.
It supports local wildlife
If we talk about the wildlife native to a given place, they also depend on native plants as a source of food. Likewise, local plants benefit from being pollinated.
There is less need for fertilization
By using locally adapted plants, they would be more capable of functioning by themselves. However, new shoots or seedlings will do well with a little boost at the beginning.
There is a reduced pesticide use
Again, because native plants are adapted to their environment, they aren’t as susceptible to pests. This clearly reduces expenses and time spent on using pesticides.
What are xerophyte plants?
They are plants that, throughout evolution, have developed adaptation mechanisms to withstand drought and reduce their water requirements. Therefore, they are the ideal type of vegetation for xeric landscaping.
Likewise, these plants, apart from surviving in dry environments, can also withstand high and low temperatures. Also, they don’t require constant maintenance and resist pests.
Something spectacular is that they don’t belong to a specific family or genus, but rather there is a large variety of species that have adapted to arid climates. That said, you can expect a great diversity of colors, sizes, and textures in your garden.
Later we’ll recommend some xerophytes that you can include in your collection, however, on the internet, you can find more of them and even discover plants that you had no idea were xerophytes. This way, you won’t feel that xerophytic gardens are just spaces full of cacti.
Among the characteristics of xerophytes are:
- They have a greater root development that allows them to collect and retain water stored in the soil. Thus, not only do the roots grow longer and thicker, but also deeper.
- They have fleshy leaves and thick stems that function as a mechanism for storing water and then distributing it when the plant needs it.
- They have leaves with stomata and a thick epidermis that enhances photosynthesis even in drought.
How to have a Xero-garden?
Now we’ll show you how you can implement this landscaping technique. Either if you are in an arid area, or because you liked the design and want to implement it while helping the environment.
Aspects to consider about Xero-gardens
- Suitable plants
- Type of soil and substrate
- Irrigation system
To begin with, you must choose the space in which your xeric garden will be placed. This can take all the ground or a partial area of it. You can also use raised beds, which are rectangular and somewhat deep; however, we suggest that they are made from resistant materials such as brick or cement to make them look more modern rather than like cultivation beds.
As we said, you need to choose the right plants. You can research which species are native to your area or those of a similar climate to yours and select those you like best. On the other hand, the xerophytic plants will undoubtedly help you reduce water consumption.
You should also know what type of soil you have and what your plants need. Remember the sandy soil, which is rough, dry, and drains water very well. Loam, which has a dark brown tone, is softer to the touch and holds humidity better. Finally, clay, which has fine yellow grains and holds water so well that it even puddles.
Now that you are familiar with your plants and the soil in your garden, you’ll know if you need to improve the land to provide the ideal habitat. To do this, you’ll need the most suitable substrate. For example, sandy soil should be accompanied by vermiculite or peat to increase water retention capacity. Alternatively, loamy soil will do well with sand or perlite to improve aeration and water drainage capacity.
However, you can buy prepared soil and use it where you’ll have your plants. This depends on the size of your garden and what works best for you.
You’ll also need some type of mulch or mulching to help conserve moisture, improve soil fertility and even prevent weed growth.
You can use organic fertilizers such as worm castings, dry leaves, or wood chips. Other options are stone or gravel, which will also give a great style and are part of the most used elements.
Don’t forget to choose the irrigation method. We have a blog specializing in irrigation systems in case you want to take a look and learn more about them. For xeriscaping, the most common would be drip irrigation, but this also depends on the size of your garden and your budget.
What we do advise is collecting rainwater when possible, and all you’ll need is a hand-held watering can to hydrate your plants. Remember that it’ll be less frequent than usual, so it won’t be a demanding task.
Procedure to set up a xerogarden
In short, you must follow 4 steps:
- Group the plants by needs
- Design your xerogarden
- Upgrade the soil
- Sow the plants
Since different areas of your garden may have differing amounts of moisture and sunlight, it’s good to group plants according to their specific needs or care. That is, you need to consider those plants that do well in direct sunlight and those that prefer partial or full shade. This will help you know where specifically to plant them.
Once you have grouped the plants, design your xerogarden. You just need to arrange and move your plants to see what the result would look like. It’s time to let your creativity run wild.
The next step is to upgrade the soil. Not only by using the substrate as mentioned above, but also with mulch. If it’s an organic compost, you can put it all over the soil at once; if it’s rock or gravel, put a good layer after planting the plants.
Now, if your garden suddenly grows grass, the best is to remove it totally or partially. Remember that the idea is to reduce the irrigation needs and lawn areas demand greater water volume.
Finally, what you need to do is sow the plants. As this is a landscaping technique, we suggest you buy seedlings or mature plants to sow directly in your garden so you can appreciate their design.
Although it’s possible to sow from seeds or cuttings, keep in mind that the plants need regular watering during the growing stage. Not to mention that the process will be longer and more time-consuming.
Care of a xerogarden
The most essential thing is to water efficiently. At least during the first year, it’s best to keep watering at regular intervals to allow plants to develop roots. In this way, they’ll establish in the soil and become stronger.
If you water manually, try to give each plant a good stream of water so that the water reaches all the roots and the soil stays moisturized for longer.
Also, it’s beneficial to water the garden more frequently than usual in the hottest part of the year. Even though regular watering can take place every 15 days or more, in summer or hot seasons, the watering interval should be once a week.
So, if you already have a drip irrigation system set up, give your plants some support when the temperature rises.
Don’t forget that one way to reduce further your environmental footprint is by collecting rainwater. In fact, this type of water is the best option for both your indoor and outdoor plants. That’s because rainwater doesn’t have all the chemicals that tap water does have.
On the other hand, it’s good to perform a minimum and regular maintenance. In order to maintain a landscape that keeps its aesthetics and health, you shouldn’t forget some tasks such as pruning, fertilizing, and cleaning.
The most frequent task would be pruning, both to control the height of the trees or shrubs and to remove the dry parts and promote flowering. Likewise, it’ll be helpful when your plants are adults and you want to propagate them.
Top 5 xerophytic plants for your garden
As promised, we’re going to finish by suggesting 5 xerophytic plants that you can include in your home or specifically in your xerogarden, whichever you prefer.
Porcelain flower Wax flower
It has thick, rolled, deep green leaves. It produces fragrant star-shaped flowers that gather in clusters and have a very light pink color with a reddish tinge in the center. Its popular name comes from its waxy foliage and is native to eastern Asia and Australia.
Since it is a vine plant you can have it in your garden in a raised bed or in a hanging pot. Another way is to place support on which it can roll-up.
It likes bright, indirect light. Although it can tolerate direct sun during spring and fall, the sun’s rays in summer can burn and discolor its leaves. For this reason, it’s advisable to place it in a spot where it receives morning sun, but not afternoon sun, or full shade if necessary.
It needs well-drained soil that provides moisture, but not too compact to avoid waterlogging. So any substrate with some additional perlite will be perfect.
As for watering, being on this list means that it lives in environments with little water. Fundamentally, you don’t need to water excessively or leave it flooded because it runs the risk of root rot.
In summer, you can increase the watering frequency a little to encourage the plant to bloom and cool it down from the high temperatures. As in autumn and winter, it tends to be rather dormant; it can be watered about once a month. However, observe the behavior and appearance of your plant to make sure that everything is going well.
When it comes to propagation, the easiest and most effective way to propagate waxflower is by cuttings. Take a stem with at least 1 node and a few leaves and place it in a glass of water to encourage branching. When you see that it has developed several roots, you can plant it in soil.
Eucalyptus is a genus of ornamental trees and shrubs with appealing aromatic and therapeutic blue-gray leaves. There are about 700 species of eucalyptus, most of them native to Australia.
If you want to include it in your garden, you must give it plenty of space to develop a root system and grow to its full size. We advise you to carry out training pruning in which you cut the longest stems to control the height of the plant.
Eucalyptus loves direct sun, so you can place it in the area of your garden that gets the most bright sunlight of the day.
It likes to be in humid but well-draining soil. It’s also good to supply it with soil rich in organic matter, as it needs to extract more nutrients due to its size.
While your plant is growing, you should water it with relative frequency. Once established, it’s rather tolerant to drought; but if it passes for long periods without water, you’ll notice its leaves and branches falling off more than usual.
For reproduction: cuttings and seeds can be used. Interestingly enough, the latter is quite effective and recommended. However, do not forget that to start your xerogarden is best to acquire a seedling no more than 1 meter high, which you can plant in pots or directly in the ground; it’ll depend on your space, however.
It’s a tree or ornamental shrub native to the Asian continent, specifically China, Japan, and India. When young, its leaves have a light green or reddish color, which darkens when mature. In addition, they are stunning in autumn as they have an orange or yellow appearance. As for their flowers, they can come in white, pink, purple, or red.
Also, it’s a plant that enjoys being exposed to direct sunlight as this helps it during growth and flowering. In addition, it resists frosts rather well, as it can withstand temperatures below -15° C (-15° F).
It needs fertile, light, and well-drained soil. It won’t do well in clay soils since excess water and humidity will make it more prone to diseases.
Likewise, watering should be moderate. It’s best to water the plant when the soil is fully dry, so about once a week would be the norm. In very hot periods, you could increase the frequency to 2 waterings per week, although with a proper substrate and using mulch, this should not be necessary.
For its maintenance, we suggest pruning and cleaning. This way, you achieve the most convenient height and remove dry stems and leaves. If you want to know about its reproduction, it’s easily done by planting 10 cm cuttings.
That’s true, there are also aromatic and medicinal plants that you may not know can resist drought. We talked already about eucalyptus oil that can be used for aromatherapy and other remedies. But there are other species that you can include in your garden and surely will benefit you.
On the one hand, there is
rosemary, a woody shrub with fragrant leaves and flowers commonly purple. It’s widely used in cooking, but it also has been deployed for aesthetic purposes thanks to its outstanding nutrients.
With similar features, but popularly used in cooking, is thyme. Likewise, an aromatic shrub that commonly blooms white and is frequently planted in vegetable gardens for its healing properties.
Also, there is Aloe vera, undoubtedly a well-known medicinal plant that is used in all kinds of health and beauty products. It’s also known for being succulent since its thick leaves keep its famous medicinal gel, which makes it resistant to drought.
Besides, its shape will bring a distinctive style to your garden. You’ll be able to harvest its leaves and use its gel on the skin, and hair or consume it for your organism.
Finally, we’d like to mention lavender, which we have included in our blogs about plants for hair care and plants that you can have in your room. You’ll see that its aroma helps you reduce stress while its beautiful flowers fill your garden with life.
Cacti and succulents
Last but not least, succulent plants cannot be left out. We find a wide variety of genera and families, which also have a great diversity of sizes, colors, textures, and shapes.
In our blog about succulents, we recommend 11 of which you can find more detailed information about care, benefits, reproduction methods, and much more.
You should definitely include at least 1 of these plants in your xerogarden. You’ll notice that their maintenance is even much less than the other species mentioned above. Also, with such diversity, you’ll surely like it so much that you’ll start collecting them.
They generally do well in both direct and partial sun. Of course, the sun exposure will affect the plants’ tone, so if you prefer them to keep their natural color, you can leave them in the shade.
As for the soil, we advise you to use the prepared substrates for cacti and succulents. In case you want to use your garden soil, perlite will be the key to proper aeration and drainage.
Finally, as for watering, like all the plants on this top, it’s best to water them when the soil has dried completely. These plants store water through their fleshy leaves, so they have no problem dealing with drought.
Whether you’re interested in xeriscaping because it saves money, reduces environmental impact, or because you live in an area with low water resources, you’ll see that this is a practice that will bring you great benefits.
Besides, you’ll have a beautiful landscape beyond tradition for a lower price and little maintenance. Therefore, we hope this blog has helped you learn about this technique and encourages you to have your own xerogarden. Let’s get to work!