Drought-Tolerant Landscaping


We now have “Smart” plants and “Smart” irrigation controllers that can help us save money and water.

“Smart” plants are plants that naturally survive in your area based on your soil, climate and rainfall. Most areas have plants that thrive best without lots of water and there are lists of “water-wise” or “Smart” plants for all regions of the United States. Take a look at your plants and see how you can incorporate some of the “Smart” plans in a landscape redesign that can actually pay for itself by the water savings.

How do these plants work? Drought-tolerant plants survive long periods of drought by storing water internally or by developing extensive root systems that sink deep into the soil. Many drought-tolerant plants have additional protection through a waxy coating that reduces evaporation or hairs on the leaf surface that reflect some of the light, insulating the plant. Most drought-tolerant plants use several of these features to survive on low amounts of precipitation.

Native plants often are considered more drought tolerant than exotic landscape plants. However, there are also many exotic plants that adapted to thrive in the native environment. The use of drought-tolerant plants will reduce time and money spent on irrigation. Many drought-tolerant plants are also tolerant of poor-to-average soils. Some even prefer poor soils.

A popular choice for drought-tolerant perennials is sedum, also known as stonecrop. Sedum and many other succulent plants are not only tolerant of drought but favorites in rock gardens. While cacti and succulents may have a place in some drought-tolerant gardens, they are not the only alternatives. There are numerous plants found in most landscapes that survive periods of drought. Placing these plants in the garden reduces the need to supply extra water during periods of inadequate rainfall.

Coreopsis and coneflowers are valued for their long-blooming periods as well as their drought-resistant properties. These plants will also tolerate a wide range of soils. Lamb’s ear provides wonderful texture in rock gardens and spreads easily. It is typically grown for its silvery foliage, which has a velvety texture. Because of its velvet-like texture, lamb’s ear is very drought tolerant.

“Smart” irrigation controllers are irrigation clocks that automatically adjust irrigation run times in response to environmental changes. Smart controllers use sensors and weather information to manage watering times and frequency. As environmental conditions vary, the controller increases or decreases irrigation. Smart controllers have the ability to turn off your sprinklers automatically during rain, high wind or low temperature. Smart controllers reduce outdoor water use by an average of 15 to 30 percent. They also reduce over-watering, which can cause fungal disease and insect problems.

So, if you want to save money on your landscape watering, here is how to start:

  1. See if your city or county offers any rebates or grants for installation of “Smart” irrigation controllers. This can often offset some of the initial costs.
  2. Convert some of the turf areas into drought-tolerant plants, which require less water. 
  3. Inspect your current irrigation system and make sure it is working properly. Adjust water times.

 Without making any changes in the types of plants, it will be impossible to keep the landscape looking good with minimal water usage. If your association has common area landscaping, now is the time to discuss and devise a plan with your landscaper, along with informing your membership of the water situation in hopes of reducing homeowner concerns when these changes go into effect. Together we can save water and money!

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