Xeriscape, not Zeroscape

adjective; ECOLOGY
  1. (of an environment or habitat) containing little moisture; very dry.

Xeriscape is a term used to describe landscape designs that utilize certain materials and plants in order to reduce the amount of water needed (Lyons 2016). Xerophytes are plants that require very little water to survive – they are adapted to arid climates and can tolerate long periods of drought (Ozkur et al. 2009). Many plants native to the Colorado prairie are naturally xerophytes; they are often perennial plants with lots of helpful adaptations, like deep root systems, to help them thrive on just a few inches of rain. Filling your yard with native xerophytes also helps out our native insects and animals!


Butterfield sculpture in the grasslands at Denver Botanic Gardens

Lots of suburban landscapes have started to integrate xeric practices in order to save water, which is an awesome trend. However, PlantTalk reports that the use of rocks, bare mulch and other surfaces has become a popular method, and one I like to refer to as Zeroscape. While saving water is great, rocks, bricks and concrete landscapes offer zero resources for wildlife. Rocks and similar surfaces also give off significantly more heat than plants, causing any retained moisture to evaporate even faster (Lyons 2016).

Using water smart plants not only saves water, but also provides rich habitat for native birds, pollinators, decomposers and more! Plus, having deep-rooted plants in the ground helps keep your soil healthy. Check out Plant Select’s New Plant Guide to learn more about plants they recommend. Here’s one to get you started: SONORAN SUNSET® hyssop is a beautiful flowering perennial, native and great for pollinators.


Lyons, L. (2016). How Surface Properties Partition Isolation Differently (Xeriscape vs. Turf). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/.

Ozkur, O., Ozdemir, F., Bor, M., & Turkan, I. (2009). Physiochemical and antioxidant responses of the perennial xerophyte Capparis ovata Desf. to drought. Environmental and experimental botany, 66(3), 487-492.


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