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Monday, January 17, 2022

Xeriscape Gardening

Xeriscaping is a method of garden design which involves choosing plants that can be maintained with little water.

Landscape can be organised in harmony with the site by using drought tolerant plant species and mulch material in a way to minimise the water use. 

Xeriscape is based on 7 water-wise principles:

  • Planning and design
  • Soil improvement
  • Practical  turf area
  • Efficient irrigation
  • Mulch
  • Low water-use plants
  • Appropriate maintenance

How to design:

  • The entire garden can be divided into zones with differential water requirements. The ‘oasis’ zone with relatively higher water use is usually earmarked in more visible places such as patios, entry areas, and beside the paths. Shaded areas alongside the walls are ideal for this zone as the water loss is less here
  • The terrain shall be formed in such a way that the rain water from the rooftop or excess water in the garden will drain into this zone to cater to the needs of the plants. This zone requires more maintenance and is the garden’s most attractive area where flowering shrubs and colourful foliage plants are planted in groups
  • Beyond the ‘oasis’ is a transition zone of moderate water use. This zone contains plants that require less frequent irrigation and usually less maintenance
  • Further away shall be low-water-use zone, which requires no supplemental water or very infrequent irrigation during dry periods. This zone is generally positioned away from the access of visitors. The stress-tolerant plants are grown in this zone and also mulch is used to reduce the water use
  • Proper levelling of the ground, will allow the water to be absorbed in the ground immediately, rather than running down or accumulating in the same place. The soil should not only absorb water but should also be capable of retaining and being well-drained at the same time. Good drainage of water can be achieved by adding organic composite, and if possible changing the soil in some places.


  • Mulch is the cover material provided over the soil and around the plants to reduce evaporation, soil temperature and erosion. It also limits weed growth thereby reducing competition for water and nutrients
  • Impermeable plastic mulch may be used in areas where the soil must be kept dry, for example, where the harvested water is being channelized from one area to another 
  • Permeable weed barriers, bark, gravel, wood waste or other porous mulch
  • Clay and sand soil have properties that suit xeriscaping gardening. Composite should not be added to areas dedicated for succulents and cacti.


  • Irrigation is necessary at least during the first few years while the plants get established, and during summer months thereon.
  • Irrigation channels for the all the three zones should be separate from each other, and managed independently with separate valves.
  • Efficiency of the irrigation system too plays a vital role in conserving water. Sprinklers are appropriate for lawn and ground covers, whereas drip irrigation is more appropriate for shrubs and trees
  • Adding compost and small quantities of clay increases the water-holding capacity of the soil. Loosening the soil allows better infiltration of water and air and hence improves root development.


  • Xeriscaping also requires operations like pruning, weeding and pest management, of course in a smaller scale.
  • The flower and shrub beds should be covered with mulch, which is a composition of decaying raked leaves, wood barks, composite, etc.
  • Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, control weed growth, and slowly release nutrients to the plant roots over time.

Through xeriscaping the gardens can be kept healthier owing to lesser need of fertilizers and pesticides

Plant Species for Xeriscaping Garden:

Reference ImageCommon NameSpecies
Whale’s tongue agaveAgave ovatifolia
Graptosedum speciesGraptosedum species
Lemon GrassCymbopogon citratus
Khus- VetiverVetiveria zizanioides
Painted-ladyEcheveria derenbergii
Crassula CampfireCrassula capitella
AloeAloe Vera
Hedgehog cactusEchinopsis spp.
Green Wheel Plant
(Houseleek, Lakshmi Kamal)
Sempervivum spp.
Rock daisyPerityle emoryi
LavenderLavandula spp.
EuphorbiaEuphorbia spp.
Prickly pearOpuntia spp.
West Indian LantanaLantana camara
Bell MimosaDichrostachys cinerea
BerZiziphus mauritiana
KhairSenegalia catechu

Some design ideas for Xeriscaping

-Imitating a dry river bed. Use of pebbles, stones and wooden logs with plants on the edges.

-Use of trees as well as shrubs and small plants. Plants of different heights and textures.

-Use of flowers to add colour

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