If you’re looking to reduce your water consumption, there’s no better place to start than your own yard. Whether you’re planting annuals or putting in new shrubs and trees, there are plenty of drought-tolerant gardening tips you can follow to create a beautiful garden with less water.
Drought-Tolerant Plants for the Garden
The best plants for low-water gardens are xeric plants (from the Greek word meaning dry) which are hardy and do well in dry climates. These plants have developed over time to be drought tolerant and use less water than traditional garden varieties.
Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’
Pacific Wax Myrtle
Sweet Potato Vine
Another option is drought-tolerant ground covers like creeping thyme or purple sage. These types of plants will not only make your garden look lovely but will help conserve water as well!
These plants will still need to be watered during dry spells for the first year or two until they become established. Once established, these water-thrifty plants will save you time.
Keep your soil in check with mulch
Compost and mulch are two of the easiest ways to retain moisture in your garden. A layer of mulch can cut down on water consumption by up to 50%. Compost is also an excellent addition to any soil because it will increase the amount of organic matter present in the soil. Organic matter increases the water-holding capacity of soils and improves nutrient availability. These two materials will both help you create a beautiful garden that won’t need much watering!
Plant closer together
Plant trees and shrubs closer together to provide shade and reduce the need for watering. Put large plants in the center of your garden, or place small plants around them to offer them some protection from strong winds.
Use Stones for Visual Interest
Using stones is one way to add interest to your garden. Stones are natural materials that are found in nature and can be used as focal points in your landscaping. They can also be used to create paths throughout the garden as well as act as barriers and even create shade around plants that need to be protected from the sun.
Dry Creek Beds
You may want to consider adding a dry creek bed to your drought-tolerant landscape. A dry creek bed is a type of garden design that mimics the natural environment by including rock or gravel as pathways and raised beds where plants can be planted.
Install a Water Feature
Installing a fountain in your drought-tolerant garden can actually help reduce water consumption. Typically fountains use about 3 gallons of water per hour. A typical backyard fountain can use up to 300 gallons of water per day. If you are using an electric pump then the cost is more as well. An aerating fountain only uses 3-5 gallons of water per hour. This type of fountain recycles the same amount of water over and over again without ever recharging the reservoir tank with new water.
If you are looking for a way to use fewer pesticides, less water, and create shelter and food for wildlife, then native shrubs may be a great addition to your garden.
Some Benefits of Native Shrubs
- Native shrubs are adapted to our environment. This means keeping them alive year-round may not be as difficult in the long term as more cultivated plants.
- They don’t require as much water and can also reduce rainwater runoff and even erosion in the landscape.
- They provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for pollinators and other animals.
- They conserve water because they are adapted to our area.
- They do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides than lawns.
- Native plants do not require mowing. Excessive carbon is created by lawnmowers and other gas-powered equipment and can contribute to global warming. These plants actually remove carbon from the air.
- Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife.
Some Top Native Shrubs for the Pacific Northwest:
Red-flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)
This shrub really brightens up your garden in early spring. It is a favorite of hummingbirds. Other birds also enjoy the berries, but they are non-edible to humans. Red-flowering Currant grows upright to between 3 – 9 ft. tall.
Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor)
Oceanspray has cascading, creamy-white flower clusters and an arching habit. It is also known as Ironwood due to the strength of its wood. It can range from 2- 20 ft. tall. Oceanspray is drought tolerant and likes the sun. It blooms in June and July.
Tall Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium)
Oregon Grape, the state flower of Oregon, has attractive foliage, yellow flowers, and blue “grapes.” It can be used as a hedge plant and is evergreen. Oregon Grape can get up to 6 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide.
Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea or Cornus stolonifera)
This fast-growing shrub has year-round interest. Its red twigs are pretty, followed by leaves of reddish burgundy. The white flowers are sometimes present with the white berries. Birds are attracted to Red-osier Dogwood. It likes fairly wet soil and can grow in full sun from 3 – 18 ft. tall.
Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)
This native shrub has year-round interest. Pacific Ninebark has glossy leaves and puffy white flowers that turn red in the fall and then to yellow seeds. The leaves turn reddish-brown. In the winter, the branches have peeling reddish-colored bark. This shrub can be planted in the sun or shade. It grows 10-15 ft. tall and is attractive to butterflies.
Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)
The Indian Plum is attractive to birds such as cedar waxwings and is also eaten by mammals. It grows as a multi-stemmed shrub to between 5 – 20 ft. tall. You need male and female plants for fruit. The bittersweet small fruit ripens in the fall and can provide winter feed for birds and other wildlife. It is one of the first shrubs to flower in the spring (February). It attracts bees and flies as pollinators.
Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii)
Mock Orange has white fragrant flowers in the summer. A hardy shrub, it can be planted in full sun or part shade. Birds are attracted to this shrub, which can also be used as a hedge plant. The flowers attract moths and other pollinators. It grows from 6- 15 ft. tall.
Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
This native evergreen shrub not only has a fun name but is also attractive to birds and insects. Kinnikinnick is low maintenance and has pink hanging bell-shaped flowers that bloom in the spring. The red berries appear from July and last through winter. This plant prefers sun and well-drained soil but can also tolerate some shade and soil variation. Kinnikinnick is used as a groundcover and grows up to 3 ft. wide.
Salal (Gaultheria shallon)
Salal is also known as Oregon wintergreen and is an evergreen native shrub. Salal can grow to over 6 ft tall in the shade and 3 ft. in the sun. It has urn-shaped flowers that are white to pink in color and bloom in April and May. The edible (but mealy), dark-purple berries ripen from July to September. As a common forest understory shrub deer and elk eat the leaves mostly in winter. The berries are eaten by birds and squirrels and the flowers attract hummingbirds.
At Frontier Landscaping we can help you design and install a native plant garden or incorporate more native plants into your existing landscape. Give us a call for a free consultation at (360) 574-8979.