Have you ever seen a plant out in nature and thought to yourself, “Wow, I wish I could have that in my yard!”
Mountain mahogany in the wild
Gray rabbitbrush (transplant) and mountain mahogany in landscape
Well sometimes you can and if you include certain types of plants, you’ll benefit in several ways including:
- Saving $$$ on your water bill.
- Ensuring that your garden plantings survive and thrive.
- Attracting wildlife.
- Spending less time on maintenance.
California Quail near prickly poppy and green rabbitbrush
Water wise gardening, otherwise known as xeriscaping, incorporates plants that require less water. The plants can be native to the area or from other areas with similar environments. There are hundreds of these types of plants that can be incorporated into your garden.
Deciding what to plant
You need to consider the environment where you live. I live at an elevation of 3,400 feet in an area that gets about 10 inches of precipitation per year. Water is a precious resource here.
Desert primrose in the wild
Desert primrose in landscape
When deciding what to plant, you can start by going to a local plant nursery. You could also check out information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System. Click here to find resources in your state. Local sources can tell you more about water requirements for different plants and what grows there, soil types and amendments, how to water efficiently, what mulches to use, and how to maintain your landscape.
Purple sage in the wild
Purple sage in landscape
Plan and design your landscape before you start purchasing plants. Consider establishing “zones” where plants have the same soil, light, and water requirements. Figure out what type of watering system you want to have. We use a drip irrigation system to target the plants with limited amounts of water. If you choose plants that grow well in your environment, they may require very little water once they are established.
Finding water wise plants
Find a source for getting plants that grow best in your area. I am very lucky to live near Wintercreek Restoration and Nursery, a nursery that specializes in native plants. I have also successfully transplanted drought tolerant native plants from other parts of my property. Some plants, like buckwheat, are more successful if raised from seed. Native plants may not need additional soil amendments when you plant them. Be sure to mulch around plants after planting them and do maintenance as needed.
Oregon sunshine “volunteers” in landscape
Oregon sunshine transplant in landscape
It can be a daunting task to get started with a water wise landscape design. You can hire a landscape designer or do it yourself. We have done it ourselves using local resources. I often buy plants that are small because they cost less. Last year my garden looked kind of pitiful. It takes time for the landscape to mature so I have to remind myself to be patient. This year, even after a heavy snowfall winter, the plants are much bigger so I am beginning to see their potential. Yay!
Beavertail cactus propagated from one leaf next to fringed sage