Using drought resistant landscaping is a great way to keep up appearances and even use proper rainwater collection and run-off in an attractive manner. There are several layers of landscaping which should be considered in order to avoid “dry patches” or “empty spaces” in your landscaping.
You will need ground cover, plants of both shade and flowering varieties, as well as green contributors, and non-plant materials for steep or hard-to-plant locations. It is also wise to plan your drought resistant landscape along the natural curves of and slight indentations of the land to catch as much natural rainwater as possible.
Drought Resistant Plants for Your Landscape Design
Ground cover is one of the highest water requirements in any landscaping endeavor, therefore must be chosen very specifically for drought resistant conditions. While there are many varieties of colored ornamental drought resistant grass which do not turn yellow or die out very easily, grass is still one of the highest uses of water available. As a result, you may find succulent ground cover to be much easier to maintain, as well as sturdier under foot traffic and even some driveways.
Succulents are plants which are similar to cacti (only without the thorns) and which hold water in their leaves and stems. If you are on a budget, pick an easily spreading succulent ground cover, but avoid this option if you are in a residential area where it may spread to unwanted yards or traffic areas. For large spaces, though, easily spreading ground cover is your best bet, since it does not need as much seed and will cover the lot or acreage fairly quickly on its own.
Succulents are also great because they hold soil in place while also using only small amounts of water. Watering is not needed past the initial planting of drought resistant ground cover, and you should choose a variety which only grows 4 inches tall.
A wide variety of desert-dwelling, drought resistant plants is great for landscaping. The two most widely used and appealing varieties are Yucca and Aloe Vera. Yucca produces tall white tufts of ornamental stems and low growing, wide green leaves. These plants are great for rows, individual or small group plantings, or for covering a small area of land with interesting tall and short variety.
Yucca is most appealing along a wall or in a line along roadways. Aloe Vera is often used by homeowners for its healing properties on burns. You can cut a leaf off and split it open and soothe and heal sunburn. For commercial placement, the low, bright green fan of Aloe Vera makes it a great green ground cover, accent plant, or filler plant between larger and smaller ornamentals. The plant is easily pruned and maintained and looks attractive all year round. Plants that repel deer and other wildlife are not nearly as needed with both Yucca and Aloe Vera around.
Of all the drought resistant plants, shade plants are the most useful to the landscaper. Trees are the most effective drought resistant shade plants, preventing evaporation of water, and allowing plants underneath to catch a break under the hot summer sun. Ginkgo Biloba, a bright yellow tree, along with Shagbark Hickory and Red Maples, is one of the most attractive trees, particularly in the fall.
All three of these varieties are highly drought resistant plants and produce plenty of nice shade. Crape Myrtles, Sumacs, American Elms and Hawthorns are also excellent in near-desert conditions. The beautiful Thornless Honey Locust is particularly enjoyable in both residential and commercial settings since it attracts the soothing sound of locusts in the evening. It is quite pleasant, particularly in quiet areas where there is not much sound variety.
Of all of the drought resistant flowering plants, Hydrangea, Flowering Quince, and Winterberry are the most versatile drought resistant plants. Layering these three plants will not only keep birds and honeybees happy, but they will produce beautiful color for the summer, fall, and beginning of winter. Make sure you add flowering shrubs in corners, and in the center of ornamental areas. Because flowering plants require greater upkeep, use them for accent pieces only in a drought resistant landscape.
Other Aspects to Consider
Wood chips, gravel, red brick pieces, and stone are great fillers for drought resistant plants which can only tolerate well-drained soils. Use these non-plant materials to supplement clay soil which does not allow for very much drainage. Use wood chips as mulch in open areas where evaporation is high.
Water catchment or preservation and active use of all rainwater is one of the best ways to create a residual, sustainable, drought-resistant landscape. There are two steps in this process, digging swales and forming ridges or bales in the land.
First, get a level and the exact angle of land slope, even on very flat land, in order to determine how rain water travels over the ground naturally. Watch the water as it flows when it is raining, as well. Now, following the horizontal curve of the land, cut wide, shallow swales (or curved ditches) into the ground, fill them up with mulch, such as wood chips or gravel, and make sure that the wind will not blow the wood chips away. Plant trees and flowering shrubs on the downslope side of the swale, and more drought-resistant plants on the upslope side.
Secondly, wherever your land has run off into a ditch or a street where the water will not be of any use to you, form bales (or earth ridges) to catch the water and make it flow where you want it to go. This ensures that all of your landscape work and setup will have the most help from mother nature. The less water you have to pump into your landscape, the better. Water catchment solutions like swales and bales are perfect ways to make use of all rainwater and to prime any manual watering you set up.
Drought resistant landscaping is difficult and tricky if you don’t have all of the tools and handy methods found in this article. Evaporation and water runoff are the two primary reasons for landscaping failures. This is not necessary, though. You can achieve so much with proper earthworks and drought resistant plants that your landscaping can be a success from the very beginning.