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By: Marko Vuorinen
Xeriscaping is the act of landscaping using plants that do not need a great deal of water. It is also the more efficient use of water to take care of your landscape. Xeriscaping is becoming more popular in areas that are naturally dry and areas that are prone to drought. The West is an excellent place for applying xeriscape principles, as much of the land west of the Rocky Mountains is considered semi-arid, and it is especially prone to drought. By applying the principles of landscaping for drier areas, it is possible to enjoy a beautiful landscape without running up the water bill or spending a great deal of time trying to keep your landscape from wilting.

Many people, when they think of landscape with xeriscape think of cactus and rock gardens. The truth is that these types of landscape designs are very efficient and make interesting landscapes. Cacti come in many varieties and can be quite beautiful. Many cactus plants bloom with lovely flowers as well. Cactus can add an interesting look to your landscape, and add a uniqueness and distinction to your yard. If you have young children, however, it is a good idea to choose cacti without spines. There are different types of cactus plants that do not have the harp spines we think of, and there are plenty of other plants, related to cactus, called succulents that are great for xeriscaping.

Rock gardens are also excellent for xeriscape landscaping. They take up space that bushes and lawn would use, but require less care. Additionally, rock gardens can look very interesting and there is no reason that that a variety of plants cannot be planted among the rocks. There are many flowers, ornamental grasses, and small shrubs and groundcovers that can grow in the midst of your rock garden. Be sure to choose hardy plants, preferably native plants, which can tolerate living in close proximity to the rocks.

But just because xeriscape is about conserving water does not mean that your landscape has to be all cactus and rock gardens. It is possible to create and maintain a landscape using xeriscape principles with more traditional flowers, and even with lawns. The key is to carefully choose your plants and then to care for them more efficiently, especially as it relates to water use.

Some plants that are excellent in most xeriscapes are perennials (they store a great deal of nutrients in their roots and bulbs, and do not need as much water), ornamental grasses, vines, shrubs, and groundcover. As mentioned before, the use of native plants in your xeriscape landscape design is essential in having a landscape that is not too high maintenance and one that conserves water. It can be very interesting to combine these more traditional landscape plants with plants like cacti and succulents. It adds variety and makes your yard that much more interesting.

Efficient use of water can help your plants become part of the xeriscape. If you water intelligently, you can help your plants become stronger, utilize the moisture in the soil better, and consequently better withstand drought, insects, and disease. These watering tips even work when watering the lawn. The reason efficiency is so desired is because most people use twice as much water as is necessary to water their lawns. Instead of water frequently and quickly, water occasionally and deeply. It may take more time, but the water will soak into the soil and encourage the roots of your plants (including the grass) to reach down into the soil. Things like mulch and wood chips can help the soil hold moisture better as well, and aeration ensures that the water gets down closer to the roots.

You xeriscape can be a beautiful landscape that also conserves water. If you keep in mind the basic principles of xeriscaping, chances are that you will be able to save yourself money in water costs, and that you will be able to enjoy healthier plants. Additionally, you will find that you spend less time on maintenance when you incorporate the principles of xeriscaping. Native plants that are deeply watered stand an excellent chance of blooming again and again - and giving you much pleasure over the look of your landscape.

Marko Vuorinen
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