Texans face a dry and hot spring in 2022, with drought conditions continuing to develop across the state. But the lack of rain doesn’t have to put a dent into your plans for a lustrous backyard this year. Utilizing Texas’ native plants and grasses not only benefits your yard’s aesthetics but saves Texas’ precious water resources.
According to the Native Plant Society of Texas, there are more than 5,000 plants native to Texas. Due to the state’s size, it is quite biologically diverse, providing a wide array of native plants to enjoy.
But what do native plants have to do with drought? Native plants are adapted to dry conditions making them tolerant to long periods without rain, allowing them to conserve water naturally. If you want to incorporate native plants into your yard’s plans, xeriscaping is something you should consider.
Xeriscaping is a type of landscaping that uses native plants and grasses. These drought-tolerant landscapes require less watering and are more likely to survive the Texas climate as xeriscaping requires little water beyond what the natural climate provides. Xeriscaping is a solution that can reduce the need for supplemental water and gardening by offering two main benefits: saving water and money.
But xeriscaping doesn’t mean that your yard must be gravel and cacti. Texas has a wide variety of plants and grasses, including the American Beautyberry, Gregg’s Mistflower, and Gulf Muhly. With some preparation and outside time, you might be surprised how quickly your lawn transforms using native plants.
The trick to a successful xeriscape garden is to plan it out.
Planning will require selecting the type of native plants for your region within the Brazos River basin. Is the area usually wet or dry? Is it in full or part sun or shade? Do you want low-growing or large plants? There are many factors to consider.
Here’s how you can begin your xeriscaping journey.
Start by determining your layout/design and which native plants you would like to plant-specific to your region. Then, prepare the area you want to renovate by removing old or unhealthy plants, clipping, and pruning existing native or drought-tolerant plants.
Even though xeriscaping requires less irrigation, having a properly functioning irrigation system that will efficiently aid your plants in growing without wasting water is vital. Drip irrigation systems save water and are more effective than using sprinkler heads. According to Texas Gardener, more than 90 percent of the water you apply through drip irrigation will be available to plants compared to only 50 to 60 percent with sprinklers. If you do use above-ground sprinklers, have them run in the early morning hours to avoid evaporation loss or overwatered plant roots that allow them to begin to rot.
Once you have your landscape layout, you can move on to soil improvements. Most native plants don’t need very rich soil, so loosening up the dirt may be enough for them. But if you have a very shallow amount of topsoil sitting on red clay or rock, you may need to amend your soil to allow enough for plants to produce deep roots. Don’t forget to cover bare soil with mulch.
Spreading mulch will retain moisture and help condition your soil.
Next, arrange your plants with similar water and sunlight needs together in an area that suits their needs. For example, those that need more water should be placed in low-lying areas where water collects naturally.
With xeriscaping, turf areas should be kept to a minimum, usually just in areas that accommodate children and pets. More water-efficient plants or patios can be put in place of areas where turf is not needed. In turf areas, it is best to use drought-resistant grasses.
Finally, xeriscaped landscapes still need some maintenance! Weeding, pruning, fertilizing, and aerating will help maintain a beautiful landscape.
With some preparation and careful selection of the proper plants, Texas native plants can have a huge impact on your wallet and the conservation of Texas water. If you need some assistance planning your drought-friendly garden, Texas SmartScape offers useful tools and tips to ensure that your xeriscaped journey is successful. Click here to learn more.