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Xeriscaping 101

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Arteriors Blog, Design | 0 comments


In Texas, where the sun beats down and water is scarce, landscaping can be quite a challenge, particularly caring for the living elements — flora. It can be hard to achieve a beautiful, lush, and vibrant yard given the harsh weather conditions and limited water for landscape irrigation.

Still, many residents of West Texas have managed to create rich, bright landscapes with minimal care, thanks to xeriscaping. This technique allows for efficient and sustainable landscaping using less water while still getting a yard that’s not only functional and flourishing but also eco-friendly.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start xeriscaping in West Texas. We’ll guide you in choosing plants, installing irrigation systems, and designing beautiful landscapes in the unique West Texas environment.

Grab your gardening gloves and turn your Texas landscape into a water-wise, attractive haven!

Understanding the West Texas Climate

If you’ve lived in West Texas, you’ll agree that the sun reigns supreme while rain can be limited to less than 10 inches throughout the year. The area is a predominantly arid climate and becomes more so in the far west area, with the majority of the agriculture happening here being done through irrigation.

Here’s the general outlook of West Texas climate.

  • Temperature Variations: West Texas has hot summers averaging 100°F, while the coldest months are usually January, February, and December, which receive average lows of 40°F. These extremes present landscaping issues and allow for plant selection that can thrive throughout the year.
  • Precipitation Patterns: The area has long dry spells with periodic downpours. West Texas region receives anaverage precipitation of 10 inches or less per year mostly in spring (March-May) and a few times in early fall (September-October). This unpredictable precipitation pattern predominantly made of short showers lasting for 1-2 days emphasizes the need for water-wise gardening to preserve green spaces.
  • Soil Types: While clay soil (the most common type of soil in North Texas), sand, and loam soil mixtures are found in the expansive Texas area, West Texas is mostly made up of sandy soils that drain faster.

Principles of Xeriscaping

Understanding the principles of xeriscaping will help you to turn West Texas landscapes into a sustainable oasis. Here is a list of ideas and how each of them contributes to water-wise landscaping:

1.    Plant Selection Guide

A successful West Texas xeriscape requires the proper selection of plants. Pick natural, drought-tolerant plants that need little water once established. You should create a diversified and attractive environment by considering bloom time, height, and growing habits.

Some options to consider include drought-tolerant trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses that will thrive in the arid and semi-arid Texas climate:

a.     Trees

Mesquite (Prosopis spp.): These make a great West Texas tree choice due to its drought tolerance and iconic appearance. They thrive well in full sun and well-drained soils like sandy and rocky soils.

Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis): Its early spring pink blooms brighten xeriscapes. Texas Redbud will appreciate full sunlight and partially shaded conditions. Also, they do well on loamy and slightly acidic soils

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis): Xeriscaping enthusiasts love this natural tree for its beautiful foliage and fragrant blossoms. Desert willows grow well in full light and well-drained soil. They thrive on alkaline soils and the arid conditions of West Texas.

b.    Shrubs

Texas Sage (Leucophyllum spp.): It is sometimes called “cenizo,” and is prized for its drought resistance and lush purple blossoms. These shrubs grow perfectly in full sun and well-drained, alkaline soils.

Esperanza (Tecoma stans): It’s beautiful yellow blooms and lengthy flowering season brighten xeriscapes. They survive in arid areas and bloom prolifically in hot, sunny conditions.

Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata): In spring, Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) produces beautiful yellow blooms and tasty berries, enticing bees and birds to your garden. Agarita grows well in full sun and well-drained, rocky soils.

C. Perennials

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum): This hardy perennial with beautiful white flowers thrives in hot, sunny areas. They are drought tolerant and will do amazing in full sun and well-drained, sandy soils.

Purple Coneflower: It is a drought-tolerant favorite that adds color and texture to xeriscape plantings and attracts pollinators. Purple coneflower prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained, loamy soils.

Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima): Its delicate, feathery foliage gives xeriscapes movement and dimension. Mexican feather grass grows amazingly in full sun and well-drained soils.

d.    Grasses

Buffalo Grass (Bouteloua dactyloides): This West Texas native grass needs little water and care. They are well suited to well-drained and sandy soils.

Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis): A perfect versatile xeriscape plant that has gorgeous seed heads and minimal water needs. Blue grama grass prefers full sun and well-drained, sandy soils.

Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula): The seed heads of this natural grass give a visual flair to your garden. Sideoats grama can withstand drought and thrives in full sun and well-drained, sandy soils.

Choose plants that flourish in your climate and soil to create a colorful and resilient xeriscape with low water input.

2.    Water-Efficient Irrigation Techniques

Xeriscaping in West Texas aims at using irrigation methods that utilize as little water as possible while achieving maximum benefits. Consider using West Texas-specific irrigation methods that maximize water efficiency, including drip irrigation, soaker hoses, or rainwater harvesting devices to irrigate plant roots directly and reduce evaporation and runoff.

Water-efficient irrigation is vital for xeriscape development in West Texas, where water is scarce. Let’s discuss ways to conserve water and hydrate plants efficiently:

a.     Drip Irrigation

This method entails efficiently distributing water to specific landscape sections with drip emitters or tubing. The plant roots receive water directly with drip irrigation, reducing evaporation and runoff. You may also use automatic drip irrigation systems that reduce water waste by delivering water at optimal periods.

b.    Soaker Hoses

Soaker hoses slowly and directly spray the soil surface, allowing deep root penetration and minimal runoff. These permeable hoses are great for watering densely vegetated flower beds, vegetable gardens, and other planting areas. You can easily install and adjust your soaker hoses to water different plant species, depending on their water needs and for improved efficiency.

c.     Rainwater Harvesting Systems

Water conversation is a vital aspect of xeriscaping in West Texas. Since the rain in West Texas is usually short and intense, lasting a few days, it’s advisable to have rainwater harvesting systems to store water for irrigation.

Installing rain barrels or cisterns to collect roof and gutter rainwater reduces municipal water use. Rainwater can also be harvested and stored to enhance xeriscape watering during dry periods.

d.    Smart Watering Systems

Smart irrigation controllers set watering schedules based on the weather and soil moisture.
The smart controllers prevent overwatering and alter watering frequency to maximize irrigation efficiency. This innovative irrigation technology saves water, lowers water bills, and improves xeriscape plant growth.

3.    Soil Improvement Strategies

Enhancing soil quality is essential for xeriscape performance in West Texas, where the soil is predominantly sandy and water retention is an issue. Here is a list of strategies you can employ to improve soil health and water retention:

a.     Soil Test

Start with a soil test to determine pH, nutrient content, and texture. Soil tests reveal soil composition, helping you choose the correct additives and fertilizers.

b.    Composting

Since most areas in West Texas contain sandy soils that drain fast, you should add compost to your soil to improve its structure and water retention. You can create nutrient-rich compost for your xeriscape by adding organic matter like kitchen scraps, yard waste, sewage effluent, and other materials.

c.     Including Organic Matter

Organic matter improves soil health and water retention. Add compost, aged manure, or other organic additions to the soil to boost fertility and plant development for a lush and vibrant xeriscape.

d.    Cover Cropping

Consider planting cover crops in the off-season to prevent erosion and improve soil structure.
Cover crops like clover, legumes, and annual grasses offer organic matter and shelter which is beneficial in preventing water loss due to evaporation.

e.     Vermicompost

Worm composting is another approach to adding organic matter and beneficial microbes to soil. Redworms will convert organic waste into nutrient-rich vermicompost for your xeriscape.

These soil management measures help provide a healthy and resilient soil environment for drought-tolerant plants.

4.    Turf Alternatives

In West Texas, where conserving water is of utmost importance, designing sustainable landscapes requires you to reconsider conventional grass lawns and invest in workable turf substitutes. You can replace thirsty grass lawns with various drought resistance turfs that can do well in West Texas’ arid climate, including:

a.     Native Ground Covers

Native ground coverings thrive in the local Texas climate as they require little water. Silver pony foot (Dichondra argentea) and woolly stemodia (Stemodia lanata) are lush, low-maintenance turfgrass alternatives you should consider.

b.    Grasses Ornamentals

Ornamental grasses require little water and care yet they give texture, movement, and visual interest to your xeriscape. Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) and blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) are perfect grass ornamentals for a hot and dry place like West Texas.

c.     Low-Maintenance Turf

Some turfgrass cultivars thrive in West Texas’ dry climate and require less water and care. Buffalo grass and Bermuda grass are drought-tolerant options that thrive in severe climates.

d.    Artificial Turf:

Artificial turf is a realistic-looking, water-saving alternative to natural grass for homeowners. For people who want to save water and lawn care, artificial turf is a great option that doesn’t require watering, mowing, or fertilizers.

e.     Moss Gardens

Moss gardens are eco-friendly options that thrive in gloomy, wet regions where grass fails to grow. They are a sustainable choice for shaded areas because they don’t need mowing, fertilizing, or watering.

These turf alternatives can save water usage and maintenance and create visually pleasing outdoor spaces that flourish in West Texas’ arid climate.

5.    Design Tips and Aesthetic Considerations

Creating a beautiful West Texas xeriscape goes beyond just choosing drought-tolerant plants and turf. Design and aesthetics are equally important considerations. You need to consider sun exposure, water sources, and other elements to create a balanced and effective design for a beautiful yet functional xeriscape.

Here are some design and aesthetic tips to help you create a beautiful and practical xeriscape:


Aim for balance in your xeriscape design by proportionately dividing the landscape’s visual weight. Plants, hardscapes, and focal points can be arranged symmetrically or asymmetrically to create balance. Scale and focus points are essential to ensure that elements anchor the design and complement one another in size and prominence.

Curved walkways increase visual interest by directing the eye and adding movement. By incorporating these ideas, West Texas xeriscape designs become harmonic and aesthetically pleasing, fusing sustainability with beauty.


Use coarse, fine, smooth, and rough textures to add visual interest to your xeriscape.
Mix plants with varied foliage textures and hardscape materials like stone, gravel, and wood to provide dimension.


You can mix colors intelligently to create focus points and inspire feelings. Ensure the colors of your plants, hardscapes, and accessories have a pleasing combination that blends in with the surroundings.

For instance, you can combine bright orange or yellow flowering plants with warm-toned hardscape materials to give a warm and cheerful feeling. Alternatively, choose plants with cooler hues like purples and blues to go with water elements to symbolize royalty. Using decorative accents, add splashes of contrasting colors, such as reds or greens to create visual interest.

Focal points

Set up focal points to add visual interest and give purpose to your landscape. You can use specialty plants, sculptures, water features, pergolas, and arbors as your focal areas.

Five Transition Zones

Smoothly transition from the grass to the garden beds or the patio to the planting sections in your xeriscape. Use plants of diverse heights and textures to soften lines and blur landscape zones.

Eco-Friendly Materials

Pathways, patios, and retaining walls should be made of sustainable materials. You can use permeable pavers, recycled materials, and local stone to make your xeriscape eco-friendlier.

These design techniques and aesthetic considerations will help you build a beautiful and functional xeriscape that thrives in West Texas’ arid climate and represents your personality.

6.    Maintenance Guidelines

Given the high temperatures and less water, Xeriscapes in West Texas will need regular care to stay healthy and beautiful all year round. Let’s look at some practical landscape management tips to maintain it healthy year-round:

      i.         Proper Pruning

Regular trimming keeps xeriscape plants healthy and improves aesthetic value. Dead, diseased, overgrown, and crossed branches should be removed to promote air circulation and reduce insect and disease risk. Even better, pruning helps to save water by reducing stand transpiration.

    ii.         Weed Control

Check and remove weeds from your xeriscape regularly. Mulching can reduce weed development, but pull them as they appear to prevent them from competing with your plants for water and nutrients.

  iii.         Seasonal Irrigation Schedule Changes

Seasonally adjust your irrigation program to match xeriscape water needs. Increase watering frequency during drought and hot days to keep plants hydrated and reduce watering in cooler months to avoid overwatering and runoff.

   iv.         Check Soil Moisture

Check soil moisture levels periodically with a soil moisture meter. Alternatively, you can dig a 2 to 4-inch hole and feel the soil with your hand. If most of the soil holds forming a ball and a little falls then it is perfectly moist.

If the soil is dry, you should water your xeriscape deeply, but be sure to allow the soil to dry between waterings to promote profound root growth and drought resistance.

     v.         Mulch Renewing

To keep mulch layers moist and weed-free, you need to replace them regularly. Ideally, add mulch annually in early spring to maintain soil moisture during the summer and to provide warmth during the growing season.

   vi.         Manage Pests and Diseases

Check your xeriscape for chewed leaves, discolored foliage, and strange growth patterns to detect pests or diseases. Handpick pests, use organic pesticides, or prune afflicted plant portions to control pests and diseases quickly.

Final Words

Xeriscaping is an essential practice in West Texas, not a trend. It helps in constructing drought-resistant yet functional landscapes while conserving water and lowering maintenance.

This method provides a holistic approach to sustainable landscaping in Texas, from understanding the climate of your area to choosing drought-tolerant species and efficient irrigation methods—every water-wise landscaping step counts, whether you’re gardening a backyard or a business.

Looking to create a lush and thriving yet sustainable xeriscape in Texas? Look no further than Arteriors. At Arteriors, we are expert landscapers in Texas. We’ll help you start your xeriscaping and give expert suggestions and inspiration for a sustainable and functional venture.

For more information about xeriscaping in San Angelo Texas and its environs, visit our website or contact us. Let’s collaborate for a greener, more sustainable future. Happy xeriscaping!

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