Dry but pretty: Low-water landscaping options reduce waste

Allecia Vermillion

If you spend the rest of the year installing high-efficiency faucets and taking short showers, a few months of lawn watering during the summer can undo all your conservation efforts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a typical suburban lawn guzzles 10,000 gallons of water every year in addition to rainwater.

In arid climates like Arizona and southern California, water is scarce. So it’s not uncommon for homeowners to eliminate their lawns and rework their yards with desert plants and natural grasses. While cactus may not be a practical option in most parts of the country, there are plenty of planting options to help your garden flourish with less water — and less of your time.

Ryan McGrath, spokesman for Proven Winners ColorChoice line of plants, says that the humble shrub can provide beautiful blooms with very little maintenance. Unlike annuals and perennials, most shrubs don’t require extra watering. His recommended varieties include ninebark, buckthorn, butterfly bush and bluebeard.

Replacing a portion of your grass with grouped plantings of shrubs can reduce the amount of water, fertilizer, pesticide and mowing time your yard requires, McGrath says.

Stones, groundcover and ornamental grasses can also help shrink your lawn and enhance the look of your yard.

Tips for low-water landscaping

- When possible, opt for native plants and grasses, which are suited to your climate and require less water. Using mulch minimizes water evaporation. Organic varieties also help improve soil health as they decompose.

- Group plants according to their water needs for more efficient watering.

- Collecting gray water or rainwater for garden use can also shrink your home’s water bills.

- When selecting plants, read tags closely. Avoid labels like “hard to establish” or “needs frequent attention.” Your local nursery can help you select drought-tolerant options.

— Environmental Protection Agency