Your Plant Guide for Xeriscaping
Choosing xeriscape plants can be a baffling challenge. First you have
to decide on your plant hardiness zone, which keeps changing, and is
listed differently depending on which country you’re in; also important
are other factors such as your altitude, heat zone and amount of
rainfall or snow that you routinely get.
Many perennial xeriscape plants are not labeled as such; they are
mixed in with other plants that we know and love for cottage gardens and
Choose your xeriscape plant selection for your dry
garden from the many available in garden centers and online plant
catalogs; here are some hints to look for in the category or listing:
Generally, any plant that will grow in severe or harsh conditions can be termed a xeriscape plant, so look for alpine plants,
which can grow in high altitudes on rocky slopes and screes.
biggest challenge with growing many alpine plants is providing a damp
substrate, with extremely sharply draining shattered rock or gravel
These plants require adequate moisture for their roots to
find, yet absolutely perfect drainage around their crowns.
Ground Cover Plants
Low Water Plants
Drought Tolerant Plants
Of course, look for cold hardy cacti,
which have successfully adapted to some of the worst growing conditions
of any other plant.
They too require perfect drainage, although I’ve
also heard of them being transported downstream to colonize beside water
courses and streams. This would indicate that the pads, anyway, can
survive being immersed in water, for a short time at least.
The large tracts of land where these cactus plants are most prolific
will be alkaline and silty. They will go for many years without water,
but when they do finally get a good rainstorm, the bloom cycle is
triggered, and draws not only incredible numbers of insects to the
feast, but also many cacti aficionados who arrive to photograph this
A cactus garden filled with the many types of Opuntia,
Gymnocalycium, Cylindropuntia and many others will astonish and astound
those less knowledgeable gardeners, who assume that all cacti originate
in hot climates only.
Many native plants are also well known xeriscape plants. These include
species of ephemerals, which bloom in early spring, and go dormant
during hot summers. Some to look for are the hardy orchids,
exquisite in bloom, and valued by insects. Many prairie plants such
as Ratabida, Echinacea, Liatris and Rudbeckia are all colorful and hardy
additions to your xeriscape landscape.
Other xeriscape plants are evident by their extensive root systems;
in some instances such as leguminous plants they reach the water table,
sometimes meters below ground. These plants (the clovers and other
related plants) also have nodules on their roots which can store
nitrogen that they collect out of the air.
Some of my favorite
hardy succulents are among the best and most reliable of xeriscape
plants anywhere. I challenge you to find and appreciate their
diversity, textural beauty and the attraction for beneficial insects
such as solitary bees and those gorgeous flying flowers, butterflies.
Choose from among many Sedum varieties and species, Sempervivum, and Jovibarba.
Xeriscape plants are already among the perennials that we know and love; choose your familiar favorites for xeriscaping and low maintenance landscaping.
All you ever needed to know about growing succulents in your xeric garden is in this book:
10 Best Xeric Plants
Shrubs for Xeriscaping
Groundcovers for Xeriscaping