Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Ideas

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

By Kelly Roberson


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Drought
1/11
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.

2/11
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.

3/11
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.

4/11
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.

5/11
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.

6/11
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.

7/11
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.

8/11
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.

9/11
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 ear offers vigorous growth from late spring through fall.

    -- Creeping thyme randomly softens edges of the pathway.

10/11
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.

11/11
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