In hot, dry places that experience drought conditions, thirsty lawns full of lush green grass and plants use a lot of water to stay beautiful. Traditional landscapes usually incorporate plants that aren’t well-suited to the Houston climate, which means they need a lot of water to keep them from drying out.
Xeriscaping might be the perfect low-maintenance alternative for anyone with conservation in mind.
In this beginner’s guide, we’re going to give you all the information you need to get started with xeriscaping — what it is, why it’s good for Houston landscaping, and the best plants to use in your landscape.
Let’s jump right in!
What Is Xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is a term supposedly coined in 1981 by the Denver Water Department to describe water-efficient landscaping. It is a combination of the word “landscape” and the Greek word “xeros”, which means dry.
In essence, xeriscaping uses a combination of rocks, soil, mulch, and plants that are native to the climate to cut down on the need for added irrigation.
The incorporation of drought-resistant plants is the most important part of xeriscaping. Including vegetation that is appropriate for your climate makes it easier for your lawn to thrive without a lot of maintenance.
Texas Xeriscaping vs. Texas Zeroscaping
Don’t let thoughts of barren desert landscapes put you off. There are plenty of beautiful, colorful plants that fit into xeriscaping so no two lawns look the same.
Houston xeriscaping is often confused with “zeroscaping” due to how it’s pronounced, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It isn’t the absence of landscaping. Xeriscaping takes a lot of careful thought and planning to pull off the right way.
When done right, xeriscaping can reduce the use of water anywhere from 50 to 75 percent.The water-saving concepts of xeriscaping are based on seven principles:
- Proper Plan and Design
- Soil Amendment
- Practical Turf Options
- Plant Selection and Zoning
- Efficient Irrigation
- Use of Mulch
- Proper Landscape Maintenance
To give you a better idea of how exactly xeriscaping conserves water, let’s take a closer look at each of these principles.
Texas Xeriscape Principles
1. Proper Planning and Design
The first step to creating any kind of landscape is a good plan. This includes sketching out your property to scale in order to decide what plants should be placed where. It’s important to take into account what function your landscape will serve and to draw in plants based on how big they will be when they are fully grown.
2. Soil Amendment
Compost and organic material are often added to the soil beneath shrubs and flowerbeds to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. This helps the soil retain and release water in a way that’s more accessible to your chosen plants.
3. Practical Turf Options
Consider alternatives to traditional grasses used in landscaping to reduce the amount of water your turf needs to stay green. As a rule, most xeriscaped lawns keep the grass to a minimum, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep it out of your landscape completely.
4. Plant Selection and Zoning
Choose plants for your xeriscaping that are native to Texas or exotic plants that are well adapted to the environment. You can find some of the best plants for xeriscaping in the section below.
But just as important as what plants you choose is where you place them. Different areas of your lawn have different access to light, wind, and moisture. It’s best to group together plants with similar light and water requirements to keep from over or underwatering certain plants.
5. Efficient Irrigation
No matter what kind of irrigation system you use, whether it’s hand watering, drip irrigation, or sprinklers, the best way to conserve water is to zone your irrigation. This ensures that each section of your xeriscaping is getting as much water as they need as efficiently as possible.
6. Use of Mulch
Mulches work to conserve water by preventing water evaporation from the soil. Organic mulch, such as bark chips and wood shavings, and inorganic mulch, such as rocks and gravel, can both be used in a xeriscape to keep the soil from compacting and keep the soil temperatures moderate.
7. Proper Landscape Maintenance
Mowing and fertilizing regularly help in maintaining your water conservation efforts. Periodic checks of your irrigation system, insect and disease control, and keeping the weeds at bay are all ways to take proper care of your xeriscaping.
Advantages of Xeriscaping in Houston
It’s natural to wonder what’s in it for you with any big change. Whether you’re starting from scratch or completely redoing your existing landscape, turning to xeriscape is an investment of time and money.
Thankfully, there are quite a few pros of xeriscaping that you should consider.
- Water Conservation
- Low Maintenance
- Less Fertilization
- Aesthetic Design
- Save Money
- Save Time
- Help Native Wildlife
Here is a closer look at these 7 amazing benefits of Houston xeriscaping vs a full lawn.
1. Save Water
We’ve been harping on this since the start of this guide. The entire purpose of xeriscaping is water conservation. The native plants and lack of significant stretches of turf allow you to maintain a beautiful lawn without the need for excessive watering.
2. Low Maintenance
In comparison with a traditional lawn, xeriscapes are extremely low maintenance. You don’t have to worry about mowing the grass every weekend or constantly pulling weeds. The most maintenance your xeriscape needs is occasional weeding and trimming to keep everything in line.
3. Less Fertilization
After the initial soil amendment for your xeriscape, your plants will thrive well on their own. There will be little to no need to fertilize your landscape, which goes hand-in-hand with the low maintenance of xeriscaping.
4. Interesting Designs
Traditional landscaping is beautiful in its own way, but xeriscaping offers a departure from the normal stretches of green grass and shrubs. You get your pick of some of the most interesting-looking plants native to your area and where to put them on your property. No two xeriscapes are ever the same.
5. Reduce Costs
You’re making an investment upfront to save money later on. The rocks and plants involved in xeriscaping are generally less expensive than those used in traditional landscapes. Not to mention, the money you’ll save on your utility bill when you’re saving all that water. Over time, the savings really start to add up.
6. Save Time
Thanks to the lower maintenance of xeriscaping, you will save time normally spent on yard work for the more important things in life. This is especially helpful when you would normally be working under an incredibly hot sun to keep your lawn from drying out.
7. Benefits the Native Wildlife
By using native plants in your xeriscape, you’re giving wildlife that may have lost their homes a place to get food and shelter. Don’t be surprised if you see birds and pollinators like butterflies and bees visiting your garden to find the plant life they’re so accustomed to.
Best Plants for Houston Xeriscaping
Once you decide on xeriscaping for your lawn, you’ll need to choose the perfect plants to spruce everything up. Local databases and nurseries are great places to find plants native to your area that are beautiful, drought-resistant, and the perfect fit for your project.
If you’re looking for a quick guide to some of the best plants for xeriscaping in Houston, here are some of our favorites.
The beautyberry lives up to its name with pops of brilliant purple berries sprinkled throughout bright green shrubbery. These berries are almost too colorful to be believed! This lovely shrub grows to be 3 to 6 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide, making it the perfect addition to any Houston xeriscape. It is a favorite plant of local birds and butterflies.
Plant these shrubs in partial shade to make them even more drought-resistant or in full sunlight to produce even more vibrant fruit.
This shrub covered in clusters of bright yellow flowers is a drought-tolerant plant native to Texas. Not only does it do well without a lot of water, but the lantana is also tolerant to heat and salt as well as deer resistant. It does best in full to partial sunlight and grows anywhere from 3 to 6 feet in size.
The blooms on the lantana turn from yellow to orange over time and are a favorite snack of the local bees and butterflies.
Gulf Coast Muhly
Also known as pink muhly grass, this perennial ornamental grass brings color and interest to any xeriscape. The soft pink seedheads look like wisps of dreamy smoke when muhly grass is planted in clusters. In Autumn, the color turns deeper and stays with the plant all winter long.
Gulf coast muhly grass is resistant to drought, insects, parasites, and deer grazing. It grows to be 2 to 3 feet tall.
Autumn sage is a popular landscape plant in the southwest due to its evergreen leaves and beautiful blooms. This shrub grows to be only 2 to 3 feet in height, making it perfect as a border plant or low hedge. Autumn sage traditionally blooms in red but comes with flowers in shades of red, pink, orange, purple, and white.
As a Texas native, autumn sage is drought and heat-resistant and does best in well-drained areas with lots of sunlight.
The firebush, aka the hummingbird bush, is a Houston native that produces stunning red-orange flowers. This bush can easily grow to heights of 6 to 8 feet but are easy to prune to a more manageable size. Given its name, it’s no surprise that this beauty will bring hummingbirds straight to your yard.
For the best results, make sure you plant your firebushes in full sunlight.
Eastern Purple Coneflower
The eastern purple coneflower is an easily-grown perennial that reaches heights of 2 to 5 feet. These lovely flowers feature a large spiny center that stands out like a cone surrounded by soft, drooping lavender petals. The coneflower is also known as echinacea, a popular extract used for medicinal purposes.
Coneflowers bloom through spring and summer.
The chaste tree isn’t really a tree at all but more of a giant multi-trunked shrub. In fact, it can grow to be up to 15 feet tall! Its open, sprawling growth habit demands space to grow and it can often become just as wide as it is tall. The signature of this small tree is its purple spikes that range from soft lavender to a deep purple depending on what variation you get. Its blooms attract birds, bees, and hummingbirds.
Despite not being a Texas native, the drought-resistant chaste tree has become well-adapted to the climate.
Not Ready to Xeriscape? The Grass Store Has All Your Houston Grass Needs!
You may not be ready to ditch grass … and that’s okay!
With 15 years of experience in the field, The Grass Store knows Texas and prides itself on carrying the very best varieties of Texas grass available.
Whether you’re in the market for the extremely popular Raleigh St. Augustine, the highly impressive drought-resistant TifTuf Bermuda, or a lush green Palisades Zoysia — The Grass Store has you covered!
And you don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty laying sod. The Grass Store offers professional installation in Houston from small jobs to full truckloads of grass.
You can put your trust in The Grass Store team starting with choosing your favorite grass through getting your grass delivered and having it professionally installed on your property.
When you’re ready to pick out the best grass for your lawn, head on over to The Grass Store to see the biggest selection of the best Texas grass straight from the farm.
Xeriscaping Houston — The Conclusion
Ready to get your xeriscaping on in the Houston area?
The Grass Store can help you with all of your xeriscaping needs!
Not only does The Grass Store provide the perfect turf for your Texas lawn, but they also offer everything you need for your landscape. At their retail location, you will find rocks, gravel, sand, mulch, and soil to add to your xeriscape design.
If you’re a Houston, Conroe, The Woodlands, or other Houston-area resident looking for a way to cut back on water usage, xeriscaping might be the answer for you. Through aesthetically pleasing design, amendments to the soil, and proper irrigation and care, xeriscaping works as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional landscaping.
Not to mention you get to support the native ecosystem and wildlife by bringing the plants that naturally grow around you onto your property.
Xeriscaping is a low-maintenance option that allows you to save time, energy, and money by working with the climate instead of against it. With the right plan in place, you’ll be enjoying your beautiful new drought-resistant landscape in no time!
Royalty free photos provided courtesy of Jeremy Levine.