Starting the Xeriscape Process

Lush xeriscape example  compressed

Xeriscaping most definitely does not mean  “zero–scaping,” as there are so many xeriscape plants that stay attractive year-round, that are colorful even when not in bloom, that entertain with fantastic shapes and textures, and that bring life and nature to your garden.

The process of transforming your landscape into a sustainable xeriscape garden begins when you get rid of water-thirsty plants that no longer serve their purpose. How do you decide which plants to save and which to remove?

Start from the top down: with trees. A tree that has been in the ground for a few years and is showing promise is definitely worthy of special watering. A mature tree is hard to replace and has taken many years and much care to get it to that stage, so it also deserves saving. Besides these positive points for saving your trees, check to see whether your tree is doing what it’s supposed to do. Does it shade your house or patio, saving energy in hot weather? Does it provide fruit? Does it provide a design element, offer privacy or screen a bad view? If a tree dwarfs your house, sheds needles on your roof or spiky seeds on your patio, or threatens to drop its branches on your car or the neighbor’s yard, perhaps it’s a good candidate for the “let-go” list.

Next examine your shrubs. Are they too big for the space? Do they need a lot of pruning or too much other maintenance? Are they consistently infested with whitefly? Are they water needy? Are they providing you with a privacy screen? If you don’t like the answers to these questions, perhaps they are also good candidates for the “let-go” list.

Ask the same sorts of pro and con questions of your smaller plants and delete those from your landscape that are too water needy or don’t provide you with what you had hoped for when you planted them.

Next consider your lawn. You already know turf needs frequent water and maintenance. Do you still have children that like to play on the lawn? Are you afraid that your landscape will look bare without a lawn? If you let go of the lawn to create a more sustainable landscape, the rewards are plenty, as there are many options for a more colorful, more interesting landscape with fascinating, drought-resistant plants that will excite you year-round. Browse UC Davis’ “Arboretum All-Stars” for a list with photos and care instructions.

Another item to look at is your irrigation system. Many local water agencies offer rebates for lawn removal and installation of low-volume and smart irrigation systems. Visit to find out more about these rebates.


Christiane Holmquist
Christiane Holmquist Landscape Design
330 A St., San Diego, CA 92101

Categories: Gardening