A water-wise landscape is designed to be functional and water-efficient. Consider the lay of the land- differences in soil and changes in sunlight levels throughout the day. Existing vegetation on the site indicates the kinds of plants that grow well in the area. When designing a water-wise landscape, group plants according to water needs. Place plants into one of three water-use zones:
  • High water-use zones
    • Small, highly visible areas, such as the home entrance are watered as needed
  • Moderate water-use zones
    • Plants in these areas are watered only when they show signs of moisture stress by wilting and turning a gray-green color
  • Low water-use zones
    • Plants in these zones are watered only during establishment
Ideally, not more than 10 percent of the landscape should be zoned for high water use, 30 percent or less of the area should be zoned for moderate water use, while 60 percent or more of the landscape should be zoned for low water use.


An individual landscape may have many soil types. Evaluate the soils for structure and texture, topography and slope of the site, and chemical characteristics. To determine chemical characteristics of the soil, take a sample to your local county extension office for testing. The results will tell you whether your soil needs lime and what kind of fertilizer will provide best growth. Amend your soil with organic matter to improve structure and texture, nutrient holding capacity, and water holding capacity. For poorly drained soils, add coarse-textured aggregate, such as pea gravel or stone.

During landscape construction slope beds away from buildings, introduce gentle swales to add interest and to retain soil moisture, plant moisture-loving plants at low elevations and plant drought- tolerant plants at higher elevations.


Today there is a huge variety of plants on the market, and selecting the right plant for each location in the landscape can get very confusing. Adaptability of the plant to the site in which it is to be grown should be an important consideration when selecting plants.

  • Sun exposure
  • Light intensity
  • Typical wind conditions
  • Average summer and winter temperatures
  • Drainage patterns
Regardless of whether a plant is native to the area or an exotic import, if it is adapted to the soil, the climate, and local site conditions, it will thrive.


For recreational areas, turf grass cannot be beat. It reduces erosion, provides aesthetic appeal and it absorbs pollutants.

However, turf grass also requires more frequent maintenance than most other plants, and it usually receives the highest amount of supplemental irrigation of any plant in the landscape.

Turf grass varieties differ tremendously in their drought tolerance. Bermuda grass, for instance, thrives in low water-use zones if it is kept healthy and well-maintained. It will actually go dormant during drought, then bounce back with vigor when rain returns. Ask your local county extension agent or nurseryman for a list of recommended drought-tolerant turf grasses for your area.

In a Xeriscape, the amount of lawn irrigated is minimized, just as the amount of irrigated ornamental plantings is minimized. Through careful plant selection and proper management, turf grasses can grow in all three water-use zones in a Xeriscape.


Efficient irrigation usually results from a carefully and appropriately designed irrigation system. The irrigation should be designed according to the water needs of plants. Never install an irrigation system before the landscape design is created. A well-designed irrigation system results in more efficient water use and less water waste. Consider using drip irrigation to water ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers. It uses 30 percent to 50 percent less water than sprinkler irrigation, and less water is lost to evaporation than with sprinklers.


Mulches provide many benefits in the landscape. They:
  • Aid in the retention of water and minimize evaporative water loss from the soil surface
  • Help prevent weeds that compete with plants for moisture
  • Add organic matter and beneficial micro-organisms to the soil
  • Moderate soil temperatures
  • Prevent erosion
  • Serve as a barrier to certain soil-borne plant diseases


A Xeriscape is a low-maintenance landscape. It requires:

  • Less water
  • Less fertilizer
  • Less frequent fertilization
  • Less routine pruning
  • Fewer pesticides
Water, fertilization and pruning encourage new vegetative growth and this growth increases the overall water requirements of the plant. This succulent new growth wilts readily during periods of limited rainfall, which encourages additional irrigation. Applying less fertilizer and fertilizing less frequently reduces the chance of nutrient runoff into rivers, lakes, and streams.

The information for this website was taken from the "Make Every Drop Count! Xeriscape: Seven Steps to a Water-Wise Landscape" brochure, published by the UGA Cooperative Extension.