Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping that reduces the need for supplemental irrigation. Popular in areas such as Colorado, Nevada and Arizona, gardeners have come up with creative ways to plant attractive gardens that require very little water.
Keep several things in mind when creating a xeriscape. First, the soil in your garden must have strong water retention qualities. The use of native plants is important as well, as they are acclimated to the environmental conditions in your region. Finally, the use of mulch is vital in that it helps to keep the soil moist and the roots of the plants cool. Many plants adapt well to the xeriscape and some can lend a tropical feel.
Xeriscaping doesn't have to be drab and colorless. Many novice xeriscape gardeners are surprised to learn that the tropical-looking canna (Canna x generalis) is considered a good choice for the water-smart garden. Related to banana and ginger, the canna is a tropical plant that has adapted to a variety of climates. The plant requires six to eight hours of sunlight a day and fertilizer in spring and mid-summer. Deep watering once a week, preferably with a drip-type system, is all the plant requires once the rhizome is established. A soaker hose will work as well.
The smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) is a deciduous shrub, hardy to USDA zone 5a. This is another plant that can add some color and interest to the xeriscape. In the fall, the smokebush explodes into autumn colors: yellow, bronze, red and orange. In the summer the smokebush blooms in clusters of flowers that give the appearance of smoke coming off the plant. Heat and drought-tolerant, the smokebush will even thrive in dry, rocky soil. Water the smokebush once every two weeks once it becomes established.
Sedum is a succulent and by its very nature will thrive in a dry garden. Succulents store water in their leaves and stems and are well-adapted to growing in harsh conditions. The sedum requires full sun and can tolerate a range of soil pH. There are 400 species of sedum, with a variety of growing habits, from ground covers to shrubs. Species to consider for your xeriscape include S. adolphii and S. spurium. Water the sedum only if the weather has been particularly dry for one month.