How-To: Xeriscape

Xeriscaping is a conservation-savvy practice that replaces traditional grass lawns and thirsty plants with water-wise, low-maintenance yard alternatives.


Coined (and trademarked) 35 years ago by Denver Water in Colorado, the term xeriscape pairs xeros, the Greek word for dry, to the word “landscape,” with “-scape” meaning scenery and shape. 

Transitioning from a traditional grass yard to a xeriscaped yard doesn’t have to be done at all at once—even small changes can make a big impact. A good place to begin xeriscaping your yard is at its trickiest (or least attractive) area. Condition-tolerant plants—often native species—thrive in areas where grass or flowerbeds don’t.




1. PLAN 

Know your yard—where it slopes and drains, what’s shady and moist or sunny and dry. Using that information to maximize plant placement and irrigation, sketch out your design based on a visual focus (say, a dry river), feeling (zen garden, anyone?) or special features (like attracting pollinators).



2. SOIL 

Know your dirt by having your yard’s soil analyzed. This step ensures your plants will thrive and flourish—not die—in your existing soil. Mulches and amendments can only do so much, and the idea is to create a sustainable, self-caring yardscape—not a headache.




Establish sun-loving plants in the sun, shade lovers in the shade. Zone plants by water needs, using existing drainage routes to guide appropriate plant choice.




If grass is an included component of your plan, consider using drought-tolerant native varieties or even planting a non-grass lawn. Grass requires extra water.




Pine needles, bark chips and leaves applied between two- and four-inches deep has several benefits. Mulching creates a barrier that helps to block weeds and also decreases water evaporation while enriching the soil. Avoid gravel and rocks. They don’t hold moisture and will radiate heat into your plants.




Efficient irrigation is essential. Water slowly for maximum soil saturation, and deeply to reach all root systems. Using a drip, bubbler or micro-irrigation system minimizes water use while maximizing water saturation and penetration.




Proper planning, plant selection, watering and mulching create a low-maintenance yard requiring less water, less pesticides and less work.