What are the 7 Principles of Xeriscaping?
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
In our last blog, we defined xeriscaping, talked about the benefits of xeriscape landscaping, gave some examples of plants that would thrive in a xeriscape, and even briefly talked about what you might be able to expect as far as the cost of having a xeriscape installed as a part of your landscaping. Now we are going to discuss xeriscaping and the seven principles that must be met in order to achieve a truly xeric landscape.
What Is Xeriscaping and How Does It Work?
Just to recap from last week, the main goal of xeriscaping is to have an outdoor living space that is water conscious, sustainable, low-maintenance, and helps encourage a healthy environment. You can read about the benefits of xeriscaping in our last blog to learn about how xeriscapes achieve all of these things!
7 Principles of Xeriscaping:
1. Xeriscaping Requires Strategic Design
A good landscape always starts with a good design. A solid landscape plan will help ensure that your whole landscape is cohesive, bringing you a beautiful and functional area. Certain things such as sun exposure, soil type, drainage, maintenance desires, budget, and the like will all play a big part in the landscape elements you choose. You also want to make sure that you consider the plants you intend to use, planting varieties with similar needs together to make sure that all of your plants are able to thrive with minimal care or special attention. For this initial planning part of the process, you may want to consult with a landscape design specialist to get their expert opinion on plants and other elements that you wish to incorporate into your design.
2. Xeriscaping Improves Soil Quality
Much of the soil that naturally exists in Colorado is high in clay content and often not conducive to healthy plant growth. If you want your plants to be low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and remain healthy, they will need quality soil to grow in. Improved soil will store water efficiently while also draining freely, aiding with efficient water use and also maintaining moisture levels that are conducive to your plants. There are many different amendments that can be used to improve your soil, such as compost, sand, bark, manure, or other nutritious elements, though it is often more efficient to have your soil tested to see what exactly it would benefit from. Also, certain plants require soil that is rich in organic materials, and others require very lean soil, so knowing what you are going to plant will also greatly affect how you amend your soil.
3. Xeriscaping Limits Turf and the Use of Non-Native Plants
The majority of landscapes across the country involve excessive amounts of grass or other non-native plants that result in high-maintenance, unsustainable yards that require shocking amounts of water to sustain. Regardless, turf areas are often practical, functional, and desirable. Contrary to some opinions on xeriscaping, lush lawns do not necessarily have to be excluded from your xeriscape entirely. The key is simply limiting the space that you designate for a lawn so that maintenance is simple and water use is reasonable. So, if you want some sort of lawn for your kids and pets to play, consider shrinking the area significantly, or open your mind to other options such as water-efficient ground cover plants or alternative grasses. Xeric landscapes can completely eliminate the use of traditional lawns and other plants or flowers that are not native to Northern Colorado, and at the very least should cut down on these elements significantly, however it all really comes down to personal preference and how each household wants or intends to use their space.
4. Xeriscaping Capitalizes on the Use of Native, Low Water Plants
Plants that are native to Northern Colorado are naturally more drought-tolerant, more resistant to pests and disease, and overall healthier plants since they are growing in their native environment. There are countless varieties that are also colorful, fragrant, long-blooming, and require very little maintenance. Using such plants in your landscape is one of the biggest aspects of xeriscaping, as this achieves the sustainable, water-conscious, low-maintenance principles that xeriscaping aims to embody.
5. Xeriscapes Incorporate Mulch
Perhaps one of the simplest and easiest principles of xeriscaping is taking advantage of the many useful properties of mulch. Mulching a large area or just around the base of plants covers the soil, providing a more sightly appearance, helping to lock in moisture that would otherwise readily evaporate, maintaining cooler soil temperatures, helping lessen soil erosion from wind and water, and reducing the growth of weeds. Mulch is also very low maintenance and cost-effective, requiring little more than a quick refresh every year or two.
6. Xeriscapes Use Efficient Irrigation
Just because your landscape is xeric does not mean that it is able to survive with no water at all. However, instead of overhead sprinklers that lead to water being lost to wind and evaporation, consider using other smart approaches such as drip systems. Drip irrigation systems are easy to maintain and make sure that your water is getting used as efficiently as possible. With such irrigation systems, the water that is being used comes into direct contact with the ground at the base of your plants, ensuring that your plants get the water they need. Smart irrigation practices also involve watering deeply instead of frequently. This encourages deep root growth which leads to plants that are more hardy and able to tolerate drought better in extreme situations. If you have well-amended soil, drought-tolerant plants, and a mulch layer protecting the soil, there should be no reason for excessive watering.
7. Xeriscapes are Low Maintenance
While maintenance will still be necessary, xeriscapes in essence require much less maintenance than traditional landscapes. If all of the above principles are met, this one should not be difficult to achieve either. Keep up on weeds to help lessen the amount of water and nutrients that are lost to these unwelcome visitors; don’t cut back turf areas too short as this can result in loss of moisture and damage to plants; prune any trees, shrubs, or perennials as needed; and refresh mulched areas as needed! With a properly designed and executed xeriscape, this is more or less all the maintenance you should have to handle.
How To Create A Xeriscape
If you would like to learn more about xeriscapes, check out our blog that answers the question "What is Xeriscape Landscaping?" in depth. And if you would like to know more about what it would take to design and install a xeriscape of your own, learn more about our residential landscaping services or reach out to our residential landscaping team today!
Frontsteps. “7 Principles of Xeriscaping.” Frontsteps. 26 June 2019. Web. Date Accessed: 17 May 2022. Retrieved from: https://frontsteps.com/blog/7-principles-of-xeriscaping/
Lifescape Colorado. “Planning Ahead – The 7 Principles of Xeriscape.” Lifescape Colorado. Web. Date Accessed: 17 May 2022. Retrieved from: https://lifescapecolorado.com/2014/03/planning-ahead-the-7-principles-of-xeriscape/
Miller, Craig. “The Seven Principles of Xeriscape.” Castle Pines North. Web. Date Accessed: 17 May 2022. Retrieved from: https://cpnmd.org/site_media/media/servee_documents/The_7_Principles_of_Xeriscape_cCmmMWp.pdf