Xeriscape Plants: 35 Drought-Resistant Options

Ed Wike
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What Is Xeriscape Gardening?

Xeriscape or xerogardening, is a landscaping style that uses plants to create functional designs that reduce water consumption. This helps homeowners create a beautiful, practical garden while maintaining a balanced water budget.

While the concept is over 30 years old, xeriscape gardening is still very much a growing trend. Homeowners who want to design an efficient garden typically choose from plant varieties that are well-adapted to weed control methods, require little water, or bloom throughout the seasons. But before they plant, they establish a water budget for the garden, choose formal or informal irrigation systems, and match the area to specific plant characteristics.

Xeriscaping is more than just keeping the water bottle in your kitchen, however. The success of a xeriscape garden hinges on how homeowners water existing plants and how they choose plants for their design. To ensure that xeriscape gardening doesn’t become a nightmare for homeowners, gardeners need to make sure their plants are durable and without bugs.

Xeriscaping has become a popular option for homeowners. If you’re looking to create a beautiful garden that uses less water, consider using the tips outlined in this book.

Principles of Xeriscape

The available water in your area will directly impact your ability to establish xeriscape plantings or continue existing plants. A good rule of thumb to keep your plants healthy is to select the best plants for your part of the country. For instance, you can still grow things like citrus and avocado in the desert portions of the southwestern United States with careful watering, but you can't grow them in the colder coastal and mountainous regions without a lot of water that is difficult to obtain during winter and spring.

There are really only general guidelines to xeriscaping, not hard & fast rules. Some people like the least-fussy, most-attractive plants listed here. Some people like to do every xeriscape project with landscaping plants that look very natural. Some people use rocks and gravel to reduce the gardening workload and still other people like combining rocks and gravel with potted plants and perennials. Overall, there are no strict requirements to xeriscaping; it is a lifestyle.

Xeriscaping is definitely possible in a small urban yard such as a few hundred square feet, possibly a quarter acre of lawn or to the extreme of a few acres.

Plants You Might Want To Consider

As the most abundant biomass on Earth, plants do a remarkable job of locking up atmospheric carbon and making wood, which sequesters the carbon for centuries.

Plants are thus critical to slowing climate change.

One of the ways to support plants is through favorable legislation, but a more immediate way to support these environmentalists is by including them in your next water-wise landscape design.

If you’re interested in switching from thirsty exotic landscape plants to water-wise, locally-adapted plants, check out Xeriscape, an ecology-based approach to landscape design that mimics sustainable natural ecosystems.

It’s a universal term that refers to any non-irrigation landscape design featuring locally-adapted vegetation, native or adapted to the region where you live. Xeriscape landscapes not only use almost zero water but also require less maintenance while creating a more natural environment that’s perfect for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects.

The Xeriscape approach has been used for decades in the arid Southwestern states and in the past few years it’s been embraced by water-stressed regions from coast to coast.

Very Short (Under 1 Foot Tall)

Sedum (Sedum sp.)

—Creeping Charlie (Pachystachys Lutea)

—Sedum (Sedum sp.)

—Golden Oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. Hirtum)

Short (1-2 feet tall)

Succulent rosette of sharp, stiff, triangular leathery polt leaves.

Moderate (3-5 feet tall)

Agave chrysantha – A compact shrub that‒s bold and easy to grow, “Golden Torch” produces soft, bright yellow flowers, from March to June. Beneath the plant’s showy blooms, its succulent leaves add a hint of silver to your garden. This tough, low-maintenance plant may need some protection from the sun, during extreme heat. 8-12 inches tall at maturity. Hardy to 15 degrees.

Bacopaenae – The silvery-hued, oblong leaves of this low-growing perennial, resemble those of coleus, making it an ideal grass substitute. In the early summer, Bacopaenae gives way to sprays of lavender, tubular flowers. 12 inches tall at maturity. Hardy through Zone 9.

Blue Star Junipers – This large, juniper’s most distinct feature is the blue-green color of its foliage. As a bonus, it’s also drought-tolerant. Like most junipers, blue star is both delicate and rugged. 25-30 inches tall at maturity, blue star is often shaped into a small, well-proportioned conifer. Hardy to 10 degrees.

Tall (5+ feet tall)

{1}. Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). This is the quintessential plant for the front yard. The large yellow flowers are lovely and ample seed production makes a wonderful show for the birds. This plant sprawls so it can be allowed to grow into a naturalized planting. A sunflower patch can be dispersed around large and small trees to make a beautiful yard. They make a fine addition to a butterfly garden and smaller varieties can be used in the rock garden.
{2}. Larkspur (Consolida, Delphinium, or Delphinium chinense). These plants strut their stuff in late spring with spikes of blue, lavender, or purple flowers. They have even been called spur larkspurs, because the flowers turn up at the tip. They grow well in larger garden soil areas or in between the cracks of rock gardens.
{3}. Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria, S. senecio). Although it has a long name this is a tremendously attractive plant for the dry garden. Plant it around rock gardens or the edges of a path or walkway and see how the seed heads blow in the breeze. The seed heads can be easily used in floristry arrangements because they are light and attractive. They can be sheared and used in dried arrangements.

Very Tall (Over 10 feet tall)

Abutilon, or common Abutilon, is native to India. The common name is derived from the Arabic word "hibaabyila", which means "father of large plants", as these plants grow very tall and are extremely bushy.

Arizona Cypress is an evergreen tree native to Arizona. It grows very tall and thrives in hot, dry, and arid conditions.

Bird of Paradise is an exotic flower that grows tall and is well-known for its succulent, colorful, and tropical appearance.

Blue Hawaiian Hibiscus takes its name from its vivid, deep blue flowers. It grows tall and its flowers are long lasting.

Bleeding Heart Vine is thick and woody, making it a perfect choice for climbing fences and walls.

Candelabra Cactus is named so because of its shape. It is an exotic plant that grows very tall. It is not only pretty to look at but also provides a lot of shade.

Chinese Red Bayberry is an evergreen shrub with delicate, red-colored, very large berries. It can grow as tall as a tree. Its berries are edible, although they are not as sweet as blueberries.

Cottonwood is a large tree known for its large size, with its branches up to 50 feet long.