What is Xeriscaping?
The word “xeriscape” is derived from the Greek “xeros,” meaning dry, and “scape,” a kind of view or scene. Together, xeriscaping is landscaping with slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and establish a waste-efficient landscape.
Landscapes can be designed from the start to reduce the amount of resources needed to maintain them. By selecting the appropriate plants and efficient irrigation systems, a balance can be achieved to fit your aesthetic needs as well as reduce resource use. Benefits of xeriscaping include cost savings through lower water bills and a reduction in the labor needed to maintain your landscape.
Elements of Xeriscaping
Designing a resource-efficient landscape requires the incorporation of a few design elements.
• Zoning–grouping plants in the landscape according to their water requirements. For example, water-loving plants should be grouped separately from drought-tolerant plants. This allows for the proper amount of water to be distributed to the plants as they need it.
• Use of drought-tolerant plants–these plants require less water and are adapted to drought conditions and soils with low water-holding capacities.
• Drought-tolerant turf–Ask your local nurseries which grass varieties have excellent drought tolerance and will grow well in your yard’s soil type. Centipede grass is appropriate for most of the Southeast. In Florida, bahiagrass, bermudagrass, and zoysiagrass all have excellent drought tolerance and may be suitable for your area as well. During dry periods, allow the turf to go dormant. When the rain comes, these grasses will turn green again.
• Mulch, mulch, mulch–because mulch reduces evaporation, it is used extensively in xeriscaping to replace areas that require extensive watering. Mulch can also be used to create paths or walkways throughout your landscape.
A few great plants for xeriscaping in NE Florida
1. Fakahatchee Grass. A Florida native grass that is drought tolerant but able to deal with those rainy summer days here in N.E. FL. It is somewhat salt tolerant as well and likes full sun. Many kinds of grass are considered drought tolerant and are perfect for xeriscaping. Others include Pampas, Fountain, Muhly, and Cord grasses
2. Helianthus. Commonly known as the beach sunflower, this cheerful, low-growing plant has bright, sunflowerlike blooms. A mature plant can cover several feet in diameter, so it makes a great ground cover. It will attract many species of butterflies.
3. Sunshine Mimosa. This is also known as the powderpuff mimosa, because of its distinctive pink flowers that resemble little fiber-optic puffs. It has deep roots, so once you get it established, it requires very little maintenance. A healthy, mature plant can spread as much as 12 inches in a day, providing excellent ground cover. It can even be mixed with grass and mowed without damaging the plant.
4. Coreopsis. Its sunny, daisylike flowers are beautiful and great for butterflies and pollinators. Once it is established, it’s sun- and drought-tolerant. A mature plant will re-seed itself, which means you don’t just have it once, you have it all the time. Fun fact: The coreopsis is Florida’s state wildflower.
5. Gaillardia. Also known as blanket flower, it has distinctive bright orange and red flowers. It is highly salt-tolerant, prefers sunny locations, and it will seed itself. As an added bonus, the pretty blossoms can last a long time in flower arrangements.
2. Agave and Yucca Plants. Few plants can match the bold and dramatic landscape impact of agave and yucca, both excellent choices for truly low maintenance low water gardening. These amazingly tough plants endure the extremes, hot sun, sandy soil, dry conditions, and salty spots with elegance and style. Combine with landscape boulders for a finishing touch.