16 Drought Tolerant Landscape Design Ideas

Thirsty for a jaw-dropping landscape that won’t guzzle all your water resources? Drought-tolerant landscaping is your answer! With a touch of creativity and a bit of planning, you’ll be able to design a low-water oasis with superb plants and hardscaping materials that’ll make your home the talk of the neighborhood. We spill the tea on key tips, stellar plant combos, and low-maintenance hacks to keep your garden shining all year round. 

What is drought-resistant landscaping?

decorative rocks in landscaping, drought tolerant landscaping ideas

Drought-resistant landscaping is a type of landscaping that uses plants and other materials that require minimal water to maintain. It is becoming increasingly popular in areas with limited water resources, such as California, Arizona, and Texas. Drought-resistant landscaping typically includes native and adapted plants, which use the least amount of water and are the most sustainable. Additionally, drought-tolerant plants such as aloe, artichokes, and lavender can be used to create an oasis paradise with your landscape.

Drought Tolerant Landscape Design Ideas

1. Use native plants

One of the best ways to create a drought-tolerant landscape is to use plants that are native to your area. Native plants have evolved to thrive in your local climate and soil conditions, so they require less water and maintenance than non-native plants.

2. Group plants together

Another way to reduce water usage in your landscape is to group plants based on their water needs. This way, you can direct water to the plants that need it the most, and allow any drought-resistant plants to go without. No waste!

3. Use mulch

a gardener putting mulch around a potted tree

Mulch is a great way to conserve water in your landscape. Mulch helps to prevent evaporation, keeps the soil cooler in summer months, and reduces weed growth.  It’s also great for homeowners because it makes for beautiful curb appeal.

4. Use drip irrigation

A drip irrigation system is an efficient way to deliver water directly to the roots of plants, where it’s needed most. It’s a low-pressure, low-volume lawn and garden watering system that delivers water to home landscapes using a drip, spray or stream. Drip irrigation can be used with both native and non-native plants.  

5. Collect rainwater

rain barrel in backyard, drought tolerant landscape design

One of the best ways to reduce your reliance on municipal water is to collect rainwater. Rain barrels, cisterns, and rain gardens can be used to collect rainwater from your roof or reduce runoff, which can then be used for watering plants or even washing your car. No more hose!

6. Use greywater

Greywater is wastewater from household activities such as laundry or dishes that can be reused for other purposes such as watering the backyard or plants on your deck. Using greywater can help reduce your water bill while also helping to keep your landscape healthy.

7. Plant in the fall

Fall is the best time of year to plant in many parts of the country, as the cooler temperatures and increased rainfall help new plantings establish themselves before the heat of summer sets in. Fall planting also allows you to take advantage of seasonal discounts on trees, shrubs, and other perennials (my favorite part).

8. Create a xeriscape

The term “xeriscape” comes from the Greek root word “xeros”, meaning dry. The idea behind xeriscaping is to create a beautiful landscape while conserving water resources to the greatest extent possible. Xeriscapes typically use native plants, mulch, and drip irrigation to create an attractive landscape that requires minimal irrigation. 

9. Choose drought-tolerant

close up photo of a lamb's ear plant

Russian sage, Lamb’s ear, Artemisia and Santolina are all drought-tolerant perennials that thrive in sunny spots. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a bushy, woody-based deciduous perennial with long terminal panicles of small, lavender-blue flowers. Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) has fuzzy silver leaves and is known for its soft texture. Artemisia (Artemisia ludoviciana) is an aromatic shrub with white foliage and Santolina (Lavender Cotton) cultivars prefer well drained soil and have yellow flowers. All four plants provide an extended display of showy flowers and are an important source of nectar and pollen for honey bees.

Other examples include succulents, cacti, and ornamental grasses. Trees are also an important part of any design, but they can also be heavy water users. To reduce water usage, consider using trees like acacia, olive, or mesquite. 

10. Utilize hardscaping materials

hardscape materials including large rocks and paver paths with flowers and shrubs

Hardscaping materials such as sand, gravel, river rock, or pavers can be used to create pathways and patios that require little or no water. You can even use them around the perimeter of the house or a pool. Build a stone or brick patio or an outdoor fireplace. Utilizing these materials will reduce your reliance on irrigation while still creating an attractive outdoor area. 

11. Monitor your landscape

Regularly monitoring your landscape is the best way to ensure that it is using water efficiently. Pay attention to how your plants are responding to the amount of water you are providing, and adjust accordingly. Also, check for leaks or broken sprinkler heads as these can lead to unnecessary water waste. 

12. Ground Covers

green plants on black soil, Photo by Sudipta Mondal on Pexels.com

Everyone’s pretty green lawn is one of the most water-intensive elements in landscaping. To reduce water usage, consider minimizing the size of your yard or replacing it completely with groundcovers.  More and more people are starting to get rid of their traditional green grass so they can save money and time mowing. Some popular groundcover plants include Clovers, Ashanti Society Garlic, Asian Jasmine, Aztec Grass Lily Turf, Big Blue Liriope, Black Scallop Ajuga, Blue Rug Juniper and more.

13. Low to no-mow grass

If you’re too scared of your HOA or what your neighbors will say, there are other green grass alternatives that you can use. Switch to a no to low-mow grass (which also means it’s no to low-water).  I personally have used a brand called Pearls Premium, but there are other varieties that can go longer periods without mowing or watering.  

14. Consider an irrigation audit

If you want to take your water conservation efforts to the next level, consider having an irrigation audit done by a certified professional. An irrigation audit can help you identify areas where water is being wasted, and make recommendations for how to improve your irrigation system. 

bright green and pink succulents

15. Practice conscientious watering

Finally, when it comes to conserving water, the most important thing is to practice conscientious watering techniques. Water deeply and infrequently, and avoid overwatering plants that don’t need it. With smart watering practices, you can keep everything looking great while reducing water loss and saving money on your utility bills. 

16. Educate yourself

The more you know about water conservation, the better equipped you will be to make smart decisions when it comes to designing and maintaining your yard. Read up on the latest water conservation methods and talk to local experts for advice on how to create beautiful curb appeal with native plants and less water.

How do you make a drought-tolerant landscape?

First, prepare the soil by adding organic matter such as compost or manure. This will help the soil hold moisture better and reduce the amount of water needed for plants to thrive. Second, add mulch around plants to help retain moisture in the soil and keep weeds from growing. Third, practice tough love by removing any plants that require too much water. This will help prevent overwatering and ensure that only drought-tolerant plants remain in your garden. Fourth, harvest rainwater when possible by collecting it in barrels or tanks for use during dry spells. Finally, choose the right plants for your particular area. Possible options may be succulents, agave, cacti, bermudagrass, white clover, creeping thyme, creeping germander, or bugleweed.  

potted olive trees

How can I landscape without water?

If you’re looking for ways to landscape without using water, there are several options available. You can add permeable hardscape elements such as gravel or decorative stones, and create outdoor rooms with these materials. Planting a curbside strip is another great way to save water while still having a beautiful garden. Finally, rock gardens work well on slopes that receive no water and can give your garden a unique look.

Landscapes and gardens are an important part of any home or business, but they can also be significant sources of water waste. No matter what type of landscaping you choose, it’s important to be mindful and try to conserve resources. With some creativity and planning, you can create a stunning low-water landscape that looks amazing. But more importantly, following these tips will also help you save money on your utility bills while helping to save the planet!

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