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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
  • 11 of 12

    Drought-Tolerant Container Garden

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

  • Next Slideshow What Should I Plant Together?

    What Should I Plant Together?

    What plants go together? Pairing plants by color, season of bloom, and shape can sometimes be confusing. So, here's a list of some of our favorite combinations with tips on how to put them to good use in your landscape.
    Begin Slideshow »

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