May 12, 2022
How Drought Resistant Landscaping Can Create An Amazing Yard (And Save Water)
In North Texas, drought-resistant landscaping is becoming more and more important as we continue to face long dry spells. This post will look at how your landscape design choices can help reduce water usage and still deliver outstanding results.
As of April 2022, Dallas County and surrounding areas were still experiencing what the U.S. Drought Monitor calls “Moderate” and “Severe” drought conditions. In those situations:
- soil is hardened,
- dryland crops are stunted,
- pasture conditions are poor,
- wildfire danger increases,
- and water restrictions are implemented.
As a home or commercial property owner in and around the DFW area, what can you do to make your property less dependent on water while still looking great?
Drought Tolerant Landscaping
Xeriscaping is a way of arranging your landscape and selecting plants so that your property requires little (or no) irrigation.
In the early days of xeriscaping, many people removed their lawns entirely and replaced them with gravel and cactus. It isn’t necessary to go quite that far here in North Central Texas in order to reduce water but still surround yourself with beautiful spaces.
Here are a few ways to apply xeriscaping ideas to your landscape:
- Reduce the size of your lawn. Large areas of turfgrass require a lot of water to keep them healthy and green. You don’t have to eliminate it entirely but think about how you could redesign your lawn to use fewer resources.
- Use native plants. We’ll give you some specific examples in the next section, but as you think about making adjustments to your property, consider the water needs of the plants you select. Native plants are those that naturally grow well where you live. Many incredibly beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees simply require way too much water to be practical in our area. However, choosing more drought-tolerant plants doesn’t mean settling for less attractive selections. There are many plants native to our area that have unbelievably beautiful blooms and foliage!
- Use the “rule of thirds.” Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research and Extension program recommends designing your landscape with ⅓ drought-tolerant turfgrass, ⅓ native plants, and ⅓ pervious hardscape. You will automatically accomplish the other two principles we mentioned by following this rule of thumb.
Hardscape Landscaping Ideas
Stones make great hardscape materials. You can achieve an almost endless variety of looks depending on the type of stones you choose, and they require absolutely zero water or maintenance!
- Use pavers to extend the outdoor living areas around your home or commercial building.
- Use boulders as a focal point in flowerbeds.
- Use flat stones or pavers as walkways instead of concrete.
- Use gravel (mix up the sizes and colors for more interest) as mulch or to replace areas that were once thirsty lawn space.
- Use mulch (we recently did an entire post on this) to cover large areas. Sometimes a “mulch bed” may be all you need around large trees or if the bed isn’t a main focal point.
Drought Tolerant Plants
Using native, drought-tolerant plants can significantly reduce the water needs in your landscape. Native plants are hardy and well adapted to where you live. Local flowering plants, ornamental grasses, and shrubs are all tolerant of extreme Texas summer conditions.
The City of Richardson, TX (Dallas’ nearest neighbor to the North) put together a great PDF listing all kinds of drought-tolerant plants that do well here. Here are several selections that we think you’ll really enjoy in your landscape:
- Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) – This blue flowering winner has profuse blooms that almost seem to defy the heat. Even though it’s a flower, it can grow 2-4 feet high and wide like a shrub making it perfect for covering large areas with just a handful of plants.
- Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) – On the smaller side, these tiny white flowers grow 6-12 inches tall. Set them in and among other larger plants for variety. They bloom nearly all year long, so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
- Passion Flower (Passiflora spp.) – If you’re looking for something with some height, check this one out! They can grow up to 10 feet tall and deliver unique blue, purple, and red blooms from spring to fall.
- American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) – This shrub grows anywhere from 3-10 feet in size and has big showy white clusters of blooms in spring and summer. You can easily use it to take up a lot of space if necessary.
- Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) – While technically a shrub, it is more of an ornamental grass ideal for smaller spaces. It only grows 1-2 feet big, but it has tall stems with purple flowers that create height and interest. Use it along walkways or in beds where space is limited.
- Century Plant (Agave americana) – Related to the aloe plant, this one has more of that “western desert” feel, but it’s so interesting we had to include it. Its thick gray-green leaves grow to be 3-5 feet long, and it can spread 6-10 feet in diameter, making it a great specimen focal point in a flowerbed. Even though one of its common names is “century plant,” it only lives 10-30 years. However, near the end of its life, it sends up a long single stalk with yellow blooms that can sometimes reach 25-30 feet tall!
- Verbena (Verbena spp.) – There are many varieties of this flower to choose from. Some are annuals, so check the label before planting. For dependable perennials in our area (Zone 7), look for Rough verbena (Verbena rigida) or Trailing verbena (Glandularia canadensis). Some suitable types include: Homestead Purple, Summer Blaze, and Texas Rose.
- Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) – Similar to monkey grass (also a good groundcover) but smaller, this makes a great alternative to ordinary turfgrass. It is much hardier, requires less maintenance, and can spread to cover large areas depending on the variety. Dwarf mondo grass is an even shorter option for a lawn replacement.
- Sage (Salvia spp.) – There are over 900 species in the sage/salvia family, so there’s bound to be one that is just right for your property. It’s a great groundcover to grow in mass plantings, and as a bonus, it will attract tons of pollinators.
- Bermuda (Cynodon dactylon) – Dense grass, high drought tolerance, can handle heavy foot traffic, requires full sun.
- Buffalo (Buchloe dactyloides) – Thinner grass, excellent drought tolerance, best in areas with little or no foot traffic, full sun.
- Zoysia (Zoysia spp.) – Dense grass, good drought tolerance, does well in the shade (some varieties more than others), holds up well under moderate traffic.
This list just scratches the surface. For even more information on these types of plants, check out another post we did on “12 Plants That Grow Well In Texas.”
Your Irrigation System Is Key to a Low Maintenance Drought Tolerant Front Yard
Drought-resistant landscaping centers around how much water your plants will need. Therefore, it makes sense to also pay attention to how you are using your irrigation systems. Texas A&M’s AgriLife team recommends a good rule of thumb: “Irrigate less often, but deeply.”
Here are some tips for maximizing your irrigation system without wasting water:
- Water without creating runoff. Water that flows away isn’t doing your plants any good.
- Check your system regularly. Inspect it at least once a month.
- Water only when necessary. The goal is to supplement rainfall, not replace it.
- “Cycle and Soak.” Run two or more shorter cycles 30-60 minutes apart for each zone instead of one long one. This allows water to soak into the soil instead of running off to where it doesn’t do your plants any good.
- Timing is everything. Water when it is cooler and the sun won’t immediately evaporate the moisture. Early morning just before sunrise is best. TAMU recommends after 6:00 a.m. or before 10:00 a.m. (link to irrigation post)
- Turn your irrigation off during the winter. (Here’s a post we did to help you with that too.)
We Can Make Drought Resistant Landscaping Easy
Taking all these steps to transform your landscape from heavy water usage to one that is drought tolerant but still beautiful can be a lot of work. Our teams know how to take care of it all and make it easy on you from design to done.