Ideas for a backyard xeriscape, a landscape that minimizes water use, can be as simple as adding native plantings to a garden border or as extensive as removing all or part of the lawn area and replacing it with native grasses, ground covers or hardscapes. To assure that the xeriscape is low-maintenance with maximum water-retention, plants are grouped according to their water requirements, and the planting areas are covered with several inches of mulch.
A successful xeriscape takes planning, careful selection of the correct plants for the environment and proper establishment into the backyard area. Reducing or eliminating turf grass is essential to a successful xeriscape. Low-traffic areas are easily replanted with buffalo grass, a native grass requiring minimal water and mowing. Shaded areas are best-changed into shrub borders, flower gardens or ground-cover areas. Flagstone or stepping-stone pathways that allow rain to percolate into the soil are functional and dramatic when incorporated into mulched areas planted with dwarf ground covers and herbs.
In sunny areas, native plant cultivars are popular, such as massed plantings of black-eyed Susan, purple cone flower, Russian sage, bee balm and day lilies. Lavender, creeping thyme and agastache (hummingbird mint) are also useful xeriscape plants as well as yucca plants, upright and creeping sedums such as 'Autumn Joy' and a variety of succulents. Ornamental grasses such as 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass and 'Morning Light' miscanthus provide large swaths of movement and late-season seed heads and color.