Convert Your Water-Thirsty Yard into a Water-Wise Escape


Donna DiFrancesco headshot
By Donna DiFrancesco

Did you know that over half of household water – even up to 70 percent – goes into our landscapes? That’s why a low-water-use landscape, or xeriscape, is one of the best and easiest ways to save water, save money on your water bill, and create a landscape that is much easier to maintain. Xeriscape (zeer-ah-scape) is a term that defines a creative approach to landscaping that includes simple principles to ensure that landscapes are water efficient, yet creative and colorful.wl_Hummer DD Mesa

So, what specific steps can you take to help your yard drink responsibly? Whether you’re landscaping a brand-new yard from the soil up or planning to overhaul an existing one, creating a landscape in the desert can be an exciting but challenging venture. Follow these three simple ideas to keep your landscape water-wise and fabulous!

1. A Great Yard Begins with a Great Plan

When designing your landscape, take into account your preferences or style and the function or purpose you want your yard to have. Your landscape can create an extension of your indoor space: you may want to bring the indoors out (entertainment, cooking patios) or even the outdoors in (beautiful views through windows and doors). Creating a plan is the first important step, especially if you need to install your landscape in phases to keep it within your budget. Other functions may include gardening and play areas, but don’t forget to consider placement of trees for a shady retreat or to shade your home to save energy. You also want to think about grading for rainwater harvesting to channel water from your rooftop or other surfaces to your plants.

Look for: “Landscaping with Style in the Arizona Desert” booklet and/or consider hiring a landscape architect or designer.

2. Choosing Plants that Thrive

Start with Arizona-friendly plants that are right at home in our climate by needing less wl_swallowtail on Mexican orchid DD Mesawater, tolerating our soils and handling our temperature extremes. There are hundreds of native or desert-adapted plants available that can provide screening, shade or even a sculptural focal point (think our bold, armored agaves). Would you like to attract birds or butterflies to your yard? Perhaps you are looking for year-round color? There’s a plant for that! When choosing plants, look up the mature size to be sure it won’t outgrow the planting area.

Look for: “Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert” booklet and visit botanical gardens or xeriscape demonstration gardens for ideas and inspiration.

3. Proper Irrigation to Keep Your Landscape from Soaking You

Almost all new plants should be watered regularly to get them established; and most plants, low water use or not, need some kind of irrigation even after they become mature. Irrigation isn’t rocket science, but it can get technical when talking trajectories, operating pressures and control valves. That’s how setting up or reconfiguring your irrigation with the proper design will ensure that you’re watering efficiently while keeping your landscape healthy and beautiful. See the basic components of a drip irrigation system for how much and how often to water in the xeriscape booklet mentioned.

Look for: “Landscape Watering by the Numbers: A Guide for the Arizona Desert” booklet and get professional help if you need it from an Arizona landscape contractor or from an irrigation supply store.



ls_front yard DD MesaThe Water – Use It Wisely conservation campaign is all about making smart water use fun, easy and practical, and provides a great deal of online landscape information. The campaign is supported and promoted by 17 valleywide partners. Last April, the campaign embarked on a spring promotion and contest for a landscape installation package valued at $8,000! The contest was an incredible success with 10,901 entries and one lucky winner in Avondale, and will be repeated this year starting in mid-April. Find out how to enter and find the video series that followed last year’s makeover at The website also provides links to all three online booklets mentioned, or call your water conservation office or visit a local nursery for hard copies.



Donna DiFrancesco is a Conservation Coordinator at the City of Mesa (a Water – Use It Wisely partner) where she educates Mesa residents about Xeriscape, water conservation, living green and sustainability. She dreams of someday taking on a superhero persona as Xeriscape Woman, wearing a large “X” on her chest, and carrying an ironwood branch magic wand that will turn dull, grassy lawns into beautiful xeriscapes.

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