Xeriscape (pronounced ZEER-ih-scape) is a term coined in the early 1980s by Denver Water to describe the use of native and climate-adapted plants in landscaping. Up until then, the typical yard was a blanket of bluegrass with a shade tree in the middle.

Find the plants for your yard using our water-wise plant guide at plantsforgreeley.com

What can xeriscape do for you?

Solve Landscape Problems

Xeriscape provides practical solutions to various climate and landscape concerns. Features can be incorporated that cool a home in the summer or warm it in the winter. Structures and plantings can be located to block wind and provide shelter from rain and snow, as well as to control surface drainage.

Give Something Back to Nature

Each year, as the growing human population encroaches on wildlife habitats, more and more plant and animal species disappear. Following Xeriscape principles — and through the careful selection of plants — we can lure birds, bees, butterflies, and wildlife back into our yards. A more natural landscape has less impact on the environment, and often requires fewer pesticides. As an added benefit, Xeriscape plays a role in minimizing diversion of water from mountain habitats and maintaining water levels in aquifers.

Extend Water Supplies

Water resources are being depleted as Colorado's population continues to grow. People want to live here because of the great weather — but that great weather is a result of only 8 – 15 inches of precipitation a year. We all have a stake in making efficient use of our limited water supplies. Xeriscape can reduce water consumption by 60 percent.

Reduce Pesticide Use

Native plants have more resistance to pests and diseases. By using native and climate-adapted plants instead of exotics, you can decrease your pesticide use.

Increase Beauty and Resilience

Xeriscapes are beautiful as well as drought-tolerant. With their variety of colors, textures, and fragrances, they serve as an ongoing source of enjoyment and provide a delightful treat for the senses. Even during times of drought, Xeriscape retains much of its beauty while conventional, water-thirsty landscapes suffer. In addition, well-designed, -installed, and -maintained Xeriscape can increase property values up to 15 percent.

Seven Steps of Xeriscape

  1. Planning and Design: Before you ever pick up a shovel, pick up a pencil first. How will you use the yard? Do you have children, dogs, cats, a vegetable garden, compost bin, a clothesline? Will you be entertaining or playing outdoor games? Do you love the view of the mountains but not the view of your neighbor’s hot tub? Do you have drainage problems? The first step is to sketch out your yard. Do several studies on where you might put play areas, gardens, beds, or service areas. Indicate places you do or don’t want screens. At this point, you can either go to a landscape architect or continue on your own.

  2. Soil Amendment: Soils can vary from one part of the yard to the next. Whether you have sand or clay, the addition of organic matter (compost) will greater improve your chances for success. Our soils in this area tend to be fairly shallow with a layer of hard clay — sometimes just inches below the surface. The proper amount of organic matter to add is approximately four cubic yards per 1,000 square feet or a layer of two to four inches. Till it in as deeply as you can, to around eight to 12 inches. If done properly, you shouldn't have to till again — which disturbs the natural cycle of the soil. Organic matter in the soil is important for a number of reasons, including retention of water. Compost (which is high in organic matter) is easily added to the soil and is an excellent storage system for moisture. Lack of initial soil preparation is a major reason for subsequent lawn and landscape failure.

  3. Reduced Turf: Evaluate your yard for its various micro-climates. Bluegrass needs full sun, but a rocky south-facing slope will be too dry to promote a healthy lawn. Eliminate turf in long narrow strips and on slopes. These typically hard-to-water areas promote over-spraying and runoff and would be better planted with low-water-use shrubs, flowers, or ground covers.

  4. Efficient Irrigation: We tend to water more than we need. Drip irrigation and bubblers are efficient ways to water plants at the ground level to reduce evaporation. These systems supply a continuous drip for a longer period than typical sprinkler heads. While they have been used to water turf, their most frequent application is on trees, shrubs, flower borders, and in vegetable gardens. If you have a clock-controlled irrigation system, don’t just program it at the beginning of the season and forget it. The landscape is going to need less supplemental water in May than in July. Reprogram it every month. Check your heads frequently to ensure that they’re spraying the lawn — not the street or other hard surfaces.

  5. Appropriate Plant Selection: The best part of planning your Xeriscape is the selection of plants. Do some research, look at books, go to Xeriscape gardens. While you’ll get the greatest water savings by sticking to low-water-use plants, you can incorporate others as well. Just make sure they’re grouped together and watered separately. With efficient planning and irrigation, roses and vegetable gardens can be included in your low-water-use yard.

  6. Use of Mulches: Mulches minimize evaporation, retard weed growth, slow erosion, and help prevent soil and temperature fluctuations. Organic mulches include wood chips, shavings, or straw; inorganic mulches —such as rock — can also be used, but excessive rock can retain heat around your plants and around the house. The use of landscape fabric, not plastic, is recommended for tree and shrub beds and under paths but not for use in perennial beds.

  7. Appropriate Maintenance: Proper pruning, weeding, fertilization, and attention to your irrigation system will preserve and enhance the quality of your Xeriscape. A landscape adapted to the environment will require less maintenance and fertilizer and will reduce the use of pesticides and other chemicals. The principles of Xeriscape will ensure an attractive, healthy landscape with the use of just the right amount of water.


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