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What is Xeriscape Landscaping?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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Xeriscape landscaping uses yard design and plant types that are easy to care for in a dry atmosphere. This type of landscape design was developed with water conservation in mind and is especially beneficial for landscapers in dry climates. Landscaping design technique used for xeriscape landscaping involves a combination of xeric plant selection, and landscaping and water systems designed for the most efficient irrigation. Xeric plants are plants well suited to regions with little rain. Xeriscape landscaping can also be called xeric or xerophytic gardening.

The word xeriscape breaks down to mean "dry landscaping." Its prefix, "xeri-," was derived from the Greek word "xeros," which means "dry." Principles of xeriscape include good soil texture design, a water system design that conserves water, and a landscape maintenance plan that handles water efficiently. A large part of xeriscape landscaping involves choosing the plants that are best suited for a local area.

Many of the plants used in xeriscape landscaping are plants well suited for dry conditions. Using plants that tolerate dry areas and heavy drought would be poor landscaping design in wet regions like the pacific northwest area of the United States. Desert plants commonly used in xeriscape landscaping include cacti and succulents. Landscaping in areas with more rainfall can include evergreens, hardy flowers, and ornamental grasses.

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Some people hold a misconception that using xeriscape landscaping means getting rid of all grass. This type of landscaping usually just means less lawn and better designed grassy areas. Some xeriscape designs use turf areas as a means of reducing erosion and collecting irrigation runoff. Popular grasses for xeriscape designs vary by region, but generally include bermuda grass, centipede grass and zoysia grass. Xeriscape grass designs tend to lean toward mid-size square grass areas rather than long grass runways, which can be less efficient to water.

Irrigation is a gardening term for automatic watering. Sprinklers, underground watering systems, and garden hoses are all forms of irrigation. Irrigation is in contrast to hand watering, which is more frequently used in container gardens than in landscaping. Efficient irrigation systems are one of the major parts of maintaining a xeric landscape.

Rocky or sandy soil drains quickly and is less apt to hang on to water in a dry climate. To increase water retention in soil, gardeners often mix in clay or organic material like compost, which hold more water than rock and sand. In contrast, areas that drain poorly can benefit from a soil mixture with added fast-draining sand or rocks. Draining water from areas where it tends to pool makes it available to plants in other parts of the landscape.

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