Plant ideas that use little, if any, water not a big list

We have an area in our yard that we’d like to landscape with perennial flowers. The problem is that we don’t have any water in this area. Any suggestions on what we could plant there?

— Marilynn

The best solution, if possible, is to get some water into that area for irrigation. You may not need it all that often, but having the ability to water that area will make your life easier and greatly expand the plant palette available.

There are a number of native or adapted perennials to choose from that would take little, if any supplemental water after they’re established. Here’s a list of a few: sulfur buckwheat, Angelita daisy, desert four o’clock, globemallow, paper flower, prince’s plume, sundrops, prairie zinnia, broom snakeweed and golden aster.

A few that MIGHT need a bit of water occasionally that are great additions are: blanket flower, hummingbird trumpet, chocolate flower, shimmer evening primrose, sunset foxglove, fringed sage, wine cups, whirling butterflies, penstemon, yarrow, sunset hyssop, double bubblemint, Mohave sage, Maxmillian daisy, butterfly weed and autumn sage.

Understand that this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are a bunch of other plants that could work great. In addition, there’s a whole group of woody plants that would work for you such as sage, saltbrush, Mormon tea, rabbitbrush, mountain mahogany, New Mexico privet, pinyon pine, Apache plume, sumac, fernbush, yucca and more.

The first thing to remember is that you can’t just plant these things in the ground and walk away. You’ll have to water the plants occasionally for two to four months to get them established before you wean them off of the water.

The second thing is to make sure you employ good xeriscape principles when you are preparing the area and planting. That means doing a good job amending the soil to improve drainage since some of these plants are not happy growing in a poorly drained soil. It also means mulching the area to help reduce evaporative water loss from the soil. I’d recommend using a granite material or perhaps some washed river rock.

I’m wondering about what care I should give plants in our xeriscaped yard. The plants have been in two years now, and I trim them in the spring as needed and watch for pests. Everything is growing well. We love the xeriscaped simplicity and reduced water use. However, I’m wondering if these plants need to be occasionally fertilized. If so, what is recommended?

— Bev

One of the benefits of a xeriscaped yard, besides the reduced water use, is reduced maintenance. Not maintenance free, just less maintenance than a traditional yard.

Fertilizing is rarely recommended for a xeriscape because the types of plants we usually use are adapted to grow in poor soils without a lot of fertility. In fact, too much fertilizer can cause loose, floppy and leggy growth making the plant unattractive and requiring more pruning to keep them looking good.

The exception to this general recommendation would be if a plant was showing nutrient deficiency symptoms or that is just not growing well. In a case such as that, I’d first check the watering to make sure everything was OK since watering problems will often mimic deficiency symptoms.

If the watering was fine then I’d reach for the fertilizer and use a light hand when applying it.

I like using a high nitrogen fertilizer that’s in a slow release form. Sprinkle it lightly out around the plant (don’t pile it up at the base of the plant) and immediately water it in to wash any fertilizer off of the plant and to take it down into the soil.

The time to do this would be mid- to late April when the plants first start growing.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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