When you hear the expression “drought tolerant landscape,” do you still picture a bleached cow skull lying on a bed of rocks? Perhaps with a cactus or two to spruce it up? Yuck. Unless you really love cactus (and, we admit, there are many attractive specimens), get that picture out of your head. Low water and true beauty are a combination made in landscape heaven.
So what’ll it be? Colors, shapes, textures, sizes – there are hundreds of drought tolerant plants just waiting to transform your yard. Since they require little to no water, all you’ll need to add is imagination.
Location, location, location
You may want an entirely different look for your front yard than in back. Your primary concern in front is curb appeal, with landscaping that enhances the architecture of your home. The back yard, though, is where you do your outdoor living. That space might include sitting and dining areas, a pool, putting green or bocce ball court, and special play areas for your little kids and your dog.
Landscaping ties it all together. Drought tolerant landscaping is the sustainable choice, and it rewards you with more time to enjoy your yard.
Deciding the look you want to achieve is entirely up to you. But you’ll have to work with what you have. Heat and shade determine which plants will thrive for you with least water or maintenance. If your front yard faces south or west, you’ll want sun-loving plants that can tolerate heat. Spaces that face north or east – or are well-shaded by shrubs or trees – call for different plant choices.
Pretty (and pretty impressive) lawn alternatives
You could easily do away with a lawn altogether. Short tufted grasses create a subtly undulating appearance. A groundcover such as myoporum parvifolium (dwarf creeping myrtle) will be evergreen and produce pretty pink or white flowers. But it’s strictly for show. Walkable groundcovers are a fun alternative, to cover large expanses or tuck in between flagstones. You’ll get not only teeny flowers but, in many cases, a lovely scent as you step across the plants.
But let’s be honest. Sometimes you really want a lawn. You like the way it looks, and – drought or not –grass is a central play area for most families. You need premium artificial grass. Nothing is more “drought tolerant.” It looks lush and vibrant all the time, and asks for almost nothing in return. It’s a wonderful landscaping element whether you want just a small patch of grass to highlight a certain area or a greater expanse for hosting backyard football games.
A pleasing landscape features more than plants
Drought tolerant perennials, shrubs, and trees are the mainstay of any water-wise garden. But for maximum eye appeal throughout your landscape, you’ll want to incorporate practical elements (walkways, for example) as perhaps a visual surprise or two. A birdbath. Or an interesting boulder.
Ideas that will have you swooning
Want to know how various plants might combine beautifully, or get ideas for combinations you might never have considered? This page is a treasure trove. It links to dozens of articles (complete with photos) that showcase inspiring combinations of drought-tolerant plants and describe each of the plants in detail.
Troll through the pathways, borders, hedges, and complete gardens, and you’ll find something you love, whether your landscaping aesthetic leans toward minimalist or effusive, charming or elegantly formal. You’ll find plant combinations that feature fragrance, and interesting arrangements for every season.
When it comes to drought tolerant landscaping ideas, the problem is not lack of choice, it’s picking the ideas and the plants you love most. And that will be no easy feat!