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Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Ideas

Conserve water in the garden with these beautiful plants and ideas.

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    • Corner Cool-Off

      A pretty bed provides blooms without hogging water.

      • Water runoff typically happens on sidewalks and other hardscapes. Minimize moisture waste by planting a strip next to walkways.
      • A quick way to reduce water loss: Reduce the amount of grass, which requires tons of moisture, particularly during hot-weather months of July and August.
      • If certain plants require a bit more water, plant them together in containers to concentrate their moisture needs.
      • Very tall containers elevate plants to add height to a garden.
      • The easiest way to conquer drought-prone garden areas is to plant flowers that don't require a lot of water to thrive -- lavender, for example.
    • Circle Play

      Hardscape elements step up to the challenge of a drought-tolerant garden.

      • Groundcovers -- here, thyme -- provide a good way to catch water that might be lost on the gentle slope.
      • Two sculptures -- a whimsical cat, and an orb -- offer drama in place of showy, water-needy plants.
      • In any garden, but especially in drought-conscious ones, mulch is essential to conserving moisture (and it keeps down weeds).
      • Many flowers supply showy blooms but require loads of water; in place of them, hardscape elements -- including pavers and a series of circles -- furnish visual interest.
      • Once established, shrubs and evergreens, such as arborvitae, require very little supplemental water -- except in times of extreme drought -- and offer bountiful structure and color.
    • Water Smarts

      Foliage plants shine in this drought-tolerant garden.

      • Many drought-tolerant plants offer less-showy blooms, but make up for it with interesting foliage, such as this Japanese bloodgrass.
      • The combination of grass and concrete in many curb strips doesn't do much to stem water loss, but this planted version catches water before it hits the street.
      • In place of grass, choose drought-tolerant plantings, which are more likely to prevent erosion.
      • Shade, too, can be a necessary element in the fight against water loss: Plants lose a lot of moisture from evaporation on hot days.
      • Grasses and artemisia offer beautiful foliage in this planted bed.
    • Charming Cascade

      An unexpected water feature dresses up a drought-smart yard.

      • A fountain may not seem like a first choice in a drought-tolerant garden, but good design can enable the feature to capture and recycle water.
      • Showy foliage, including Japanese forest grass, offers dramatic visual interest.
      • To counteract the warming effect of pavers, consider groundcovers to cool key areas, such as wide gaps between stones.
      • Herbs -- oregano and thyme, for example -- are good drought-tolerant plants for a garden.
      • Planted and mulched areas on a slope also provide a spot for water to soak into the ground.
    • A Better Garden Bed

      Water-saving strategies make gardening sense for this flowerbed.

      • Showy hardscape elements, such as an oversize boulder, fill in gaps in a drought-tolerant garden by adding unexpected focal points.
      • If plants with a variety of water needs are included in a garden, group those with similar requirements together, such as the lavender cotton the penstemon grouping here.
      • Another way to ensure good growth for water-smart plants: Add the right amounts of soil amendments, such as a healthy dose of natural compost.
      • A tall outdoor light provides accent and security to the landscape.
      • Different varieties of evergreens offer structure and color.
    • Down the Garden Path

      An attractive garden bed relies on native plants.

      • Research native plants, such as yarrow, which often have built-in drought-tolerant features.
      • Spread 2-3 inches of mulch between widely-spaced plants; this reduces water loss and suppresses weeds.
      • Install a drip-irrigation system. It wastes less water and delivers hydration directly to the plants.
      • In place of mortar, a porous material between paving stones provides another way for rain to soak into the soil.
      • In this garden, simple elements, including a birdbath and wooden bench, offer subtle focal points.
    • Clever Corner

      A small flowerbed offers a solution to a difficult site.

      • Even narrow strips of garden that aren't planted need to be mulched, as evidenced by this border between bed and sidewalk.
      • Add a raised bed with distinct borders and include plants to prevent water loss from an abrupt grade shift.
      • A careful selection of boulders gradually steps down the bed, directing water to planted areas.
      • Plants that require more water often require good drainage. To ensure smart water use, make sure soil is amended properly with plenty of compost.
      • If drought-resistant plants such as bougainvillea need watering, schedule to water them early in the morning or late in the day to prevent water loss from evaporation.
    • Good Grasses

      An unexpected burst of color comes from a collection of ornamental grasses.

      • Water naturally runs down slopes, even small ones. Creeping thyme at the bottom of a gravel path helps prevent water loss in this garden.
      • Tucked unobtrusively in the landscape, a rain barrel offers an eco-smart way to recycle rainfall.
      • Make pathways from a porous material, such as gravel, instead of non-permeable concrete so soil can absorb some water before it runs off.
      • Ornamental grasses offer color and structure in this drought-resistant garden.
      • Purple catmint and allium edge the gravel path in this flowerbed.
    • Side Swipe

      A mixture of plants and hardscape elements adorns a side yard.

      • Planting a drought-tolerant garden doesn't mean eliminating high-need plants. It does mean limiting those plants to use as dramatic accents, such as this yellow climbing rose.
      • A trellis decorates the home's facade and offers a welcome hardscape element in the garden.
      • Gaps between pavers provide spots for water to soak into the ground below.
      • Durable lamb's-ears offers vigorous growth from late spring through fall.
      • Creeping thyme randomly softens edges of the pathway.
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      Cheery Repose

      A casual accumulation of plants dresses up a garden.

      • Densely planted flowerbeds help to keep weeds from sprouting (and eliminate the need for mulch, too).
      • A collection of water-hardy plants, including lavender, catmint, goat's beard, and lady's mantle, all require minimal water to reach maximum growth.
      • A metal trellis offers a bit of hardscape height and visual interest.
      • To maintain the laid-back vibe of this garden, a wooden fence serves as informal edge.
      • A more permeable walkway, such as pea gravel, offers another solution to prevent water runoff.
    • Drought-Tolerant Container Garden
      11 of 12

      Drought-Tolerant Container Garden

      Learn how to create a container garden that will stand up to summer's heat.

    • 12 of 12
      Next Slideshow Small Garden Ideas

      Small Garden Ideas

      A small garden space doesn't mean you can't have the garden you want. Here are our favorite ideas for small garden ideas, including small patio garden ideas, to help you maximize your space!
      Begin Slideshow »

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