A prairie xeriscape provides a water-efficient method of landscaping. The Denver Water Department originated the term "xeriscape," which comes from a combination of "xeros," Greek for "dry," and "landscape." Denver Water outlines seven principles involved in creating a xeriscape: "planning and designing, limiting turf areas, selecting and zoning plants appropriately, improving the soil, using mulch, irrigating efficiently and maintaining the landscape." Benefits of using water-wise landscaping include reduction in water bills, conservation, less storm runoff containing chemicals and decreased energy use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Gain these benefits and more by creating a prairie xeriscape in your garden.
Create a plan. Decide which plants to include in your prairie. Use a mix of annuals, perennials and grasses that have low water needs. Opt for native choices when available. For annuals, choose plants that self-seed readily, such as cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatis) and four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa). Perennial flowers for prairies include black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and yellow columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha). Grass selections include big bluestem (Adropogon gerardii) and red flame miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis pupurascens).
Select a planting site that receives full sun. Most prairie plants perform best with at least six hours of sun every day. Amend the soil in the chosen location. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the area. Till or dig it in to a depth of at least 6 inches. Test the soil pH and adjust as needed with fertilizer for your plant selections.
Plant seeds and plants. A prairie xeriscape should not appear planned and orderly. Stagger plants randomly. Dig holes for perennials and grasses twice the width of the root ball. The depth should allow the crown to sit just at soil level. Replace the soil. Use a wildflower seed mix---or make your own--that contains the plants you want, and scatter it between the perennials and grasses.
Water the bed thoroughly, to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Spread a 2-to-3-inch layer of straw for mulch. The straw provides cover for the seeds and helps conserve moisture. It will break down as the plants grow and fill the area.