Drought tolerant plant garden.

Inspiring Xeriscape Ideas For Your Home

Mary Grace Schmid5-Minute Read
July 15, 2022

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There’s a reason why homeowners spend so much time working in their yards, as nothing makes a better first impression than a beautifully landscaped home exterior. Before any visitors step inside of your home, they’ll likely step through your front yard and see your outdoor designs. If you want to refresh the look of your outdoor space while also saving on your water bill each month, xeriscaping might be the right option for you.

What Is Xeriscaping?

While xeriscaping has become more popular in recent years, many people still don’t know exactly what it means. Although it has a sci-fi ring to it, the term “xeriscape” is actually derived from the Greek word “xeros,” which translates to “dry” in English. Xeriscaping is a type of low maintenance landscape design that utilizes native plants and grasses, which helps conserve water.

By using plants that are native to your area, little water beyond what nature already provides is needed to keep them alive. This is ideal for homeowners who live in drier climates and consistently deal with drought conditions or water shortages, as switching to xeriscaping is estimated to reduce outdoor water usage by 50%.

­­Considering that most outdoor water usage is wasted if not used correctly, implementing some xeriscaping ideas in your own backyard can make a huge impact on the water supply (and your water bill), even if you don’t live in a dry climate.

Getting in contact with a landscaping service to discuss what xeriscaping ideas makes the most sense for your front or backyard is a great way to get started with your xeriscaping journey.  

7 Principles Of Xeriscaping

Ken Ball, ASLA LLA, who was part of the original team of landscape and water industry professionals that created the idea of xeriscaping in Colorado in 1981, developed the seven principles of xeriscaping. Let’s take a look:

1. Plan For Smart Water Use

The first step to any successful xeriscape idea is to plan for your unique home situation. Keep in mind how you plan to use the areas around your home, what areas are shady or sunny and where the water resources are. You’ll want to group plants together that need a similar amount of water, sun and maintenance. You can divide your property into low, moderate and high water use areas and plan accordingly. Typically, the area closest to the home will need the most water and shade. The outer edge of your property will need the least amount of water and the area in the middle will be the transition zone.

After you map out the plan for your own yard, prepare the areas you want to renovate by removing any old, unhealthy plants and pruning existing native plants. And remember to consider your own budget, desired aesthetics and what you can expect for maintenance.

2. Soil Improvement

Having high quality soil makes a huge difference when it comes to drought-tolerant plants and xeriscape design. Quality soil retains moisture, effectively cycles nutrients while absorbing pollutants and minimizes runoff.

3. Limit Turf Area

Reducing water usage means reducing the amount of grass around your home. Grass drinks water more than anything else in your yard, so keep it only where it’s functional. Look to replace turf with native grasses that thrive in your area’s climate or low-water ground covers that require minimum fertilizer.

4. Choose The Right Native Plants

Select plants that are native to your area and align with your desired aesthetics. Remember, different plants require different amount of sunlight and water, so group accordingly.  

5. Mulch

Mulch has plenty of benefits for xeriscape yards, as it helps prevent evaporation and weed growth. Use the recommended 2 to 3 inches of natural mulch to help maintain your native plants and improve the aesthetics of your yard.

6. Efficient Irrigation

Even though xeriscaping requires less water, a properly functional irrigation system that eliminates water waste is crucial. Drip irrigation systems save water and are more effective than using sprinkler heads. If you do use above-ground sprinklers, have them run in the early morning hours to avoid evaporation loss or overwatered plant roots that allow them to begin to rot. 

7. Proper Maintenance

A xeriscape yard still needs some maintenance, while it be much less than your typical landscaped yard. Weeding, pruning, fertilizing and aerating will help keep your yard beautiful, vibrant and healthy.  

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Xeriscape Front Yard Ideas

Knowing the xeriscaping principles is a great place to start, but how can you put them into action? Here are a few ideas to get you started in your front yard.

1. Pick The Right Plants

Selecting the plants that are native to your area is a vital part of your xeriscape design, especially if you need drought-tolerant plants. Plants such as succulents and cacti do well with a minimum amount of water, but once native plants are established, they also require very little to no additional water beyond rainfall and no additional fertilizer. Some common drought-tolerant plants include beardtongue, fountain grass and even lavender.

2. Use Gravel

While you wouldn’t want to completely replace your grass with gravel, utilizing gravel as an accent around landscaping features or as a pathway can create even more dimension in your yard. Don’t forget to install a border between the gravel and any patches of ground to help prevent the stones from spreading.

3. Mixing In Mulch

Mulch isn’t just a principle of xeriscaping, it’s also a great way to beautify your yard! You can incorporate both organic and inorganic mulch to protect your plants, but each type has different benefits. Organic mulch, which includes wood chips, straw, saw dust and peat moss, improves the condition of the soil as they decompose. However, it will need to be replaced more often due to its decomposition. Inorganic mulches, like rocks, brick and rubber, are more ideal for windy areas but tend to retain more heat. Avoid using inorganic mulches in sunny areas or around non-native plants.

When placed intentionally, mulch can enhance your landscape design and look. Try placing some inorganic mulch around flowerbeds to add a rich brown to your colorful landscape design.

Backyard Xeriscape Ideas

When xeriscaping, don’t forget to show some love to the backyard! While it may not be the first thing that your visitors see when they pull up to your home, it’s a great space to entertain and spend time outside. Here are some ideas for your backyard xeriscape.

1. Build An Outdoor Living Space

When you put all the hard work into incorporating xeriscape ideas in your yard, you’ll want to sit back and enjoy it! Adding a fire pit, patio, outdoor kitchen, awning or pergola are just a few options for outdoor living spaces that can spice up your backyard oasis.  

2. Inspire Hardscape Elements

Implementing hardscape elements, like concrete, brick, stone, pavers or wood, helps retain surrounding soil and water to maintain the xeriscaping design that you worked so hard to create. Use the hardscape materials to create stone patios, walkways, terrace gardens or even retaining walls.

3. Create A Rock Garden

After a long day, stepping outside to a rock garden can be both relaxing for you and practical for your xeriscape. Incorporating a rock garden to your drought-tolerant plants, like succulents and cacti, allows the plants to thrive while also adding visual interest. Don’t forget to leave spaces between the rocks so that the plants have a chance to grow.

The Bottom Line On Xeriscape Ideas

With some preparation and creativity, xeriscaping can have a huge impact on your wallet and water conservation efforts. By taking inspiration from these landscape xeriscape ideas and principles, as well as other tips for eco-friendly landscaping, you can elevate your outdoor space to new levels.  

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

Mary Grace Schmid

Mary Grace Schmid is a staff writer covering homeownership, personal finance and lifestyle topics. She has a B.A. in public relations from Baylor University with a minor in political science and enjoys photography, music and reading in her free time.