Lush green lawns are gradually being edged out in favor of xeriscaping, the planting of drought-tolerant trees, shrubs, plants and ground cover that are comfortable in their natural environment and need little if any water or fertilizer.

Xeriscaping also includes using environmentally-friendly practices such as mulching around plants and trees, decorating with stones or pavers, building decks in areas that may traditionally be planted in turfgrass.  Also, planting species with similar water requirements together in water-use zones allows for irrigation based on plants’ needs during times of severe drought.

When water is scarce, experts suggest using water-soluble fertilizers with a very low concentration of nitrogen, and apply less frequently.  It is always good to remove cross-over branches, suckers and dead wood.  When trees, shrubs and flowers are in their best environment, outside water use can be reduced by as much as 54 percent, according to one study.

Xeriscaping does not mean eliminating lawns, but designing landscapes that use turfgrass in an environmentally responsible way.  Turfgrass serves many useful purposes such as erosion control, heat dissipation and noise reduction.

North Carolina has a variety of grasses that do well in hot, dry weather such as Centipedegrass, Zoysiagrass, and Bermudagrass.  Once established, these warm-season grasses need less water than cool season grasses and typically do not die even in times of drought.  Turfgrass must become well established before it will become drought tolerant.

North Carolina also has a wide variety of plants from which to choose, more native plant species than possibly any other state, according to one report.  Like warm-season turfgrasses, once new plants have become established, they will be more tolerant of dry conditions.  Keep in mind that a young tree with a two-inch trunk takes two years to become established.

By using drought-tolerant plants and natural materials, yards can adapt perfectly to the environment, whether wet or dry.  Xeriscaping means less mowing, less yardwork, and a yard with plants that naturally fit.  By using xeriscaping methods in landscaping, homeowners can help keep North Carolina’s lakes, reservoirs and aquifers full during wet and dry times.

For additional information about landscaping and watering efficiently, visit the WaterWise Principles of Xeriscape Design Web site.