The 7 Features of a Water-wise Garden

How to Save a Precious Resource

Whether you live in a region that is a desert, has a Mediterranean climate, or is seriously affected by drought, it's a smart idea to practice water-wise gardening. A practical design should use native plants, requires less maintenance, and will lower your water bills.

We share seven important landscape features that will help serve as a blueprint for reassessing your front and back yards, and possibly redesigning these outdoor spaces to rethink the hardscape and softscape areas of your property.

  • 01 of 08

    Planning and Design

    drought tolerant garden


    Jennifer Cheung / Getty Images

    Working on your own or with a landscape pro, it's best to design your landscape so that it can use water as efficiently as possible. This includes grouping plants with similar water needs together.

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  • 02 of 08

    Lose the Lawn

    Sprinklers on lawn. Getty Images

    It's a well-known fact that turf grass requires lots of water—something that is obviously scarce in drought-stricken regions. Dig it up, or have a pro tackle the chore, and replace with one of these drought-tolerant turf alternatives.

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  • 03 of 08

    Choosing the Right Plants

    Waterwise garden. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Did you know that the best time to plant natives is in the fall or early spring? Native trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, annuals, ornamental grasses, and succulents will be available at local nurseries, garden centers, or through local university botanical programs. When choosing a plant, consider its ultimate height and width, preference for shade or sun, and watering needs. Group together plants with similar requirements.

    15 Top Water-wise Plants

    Gardening with Cacti

  • 04 of 08

    Improving Soil

    Digging up a front lawn. Getty Images

    If you have a love affair with the soil on your property, don't let it end with a water-wise landscape. Regularly cultivating it and adding organic matter will increase the soil's ability to conserve water.

    Zones and Maps for Gardens and Drought

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Smart Irrigation

    Drip irrigation. Getty Images

    If it's been a long time since you have taken a good, hard look at your garden's irrigation system, it may be time to assess and change-out a few things. Like, are you one of those people who waters a thirsty lawn and the sidewalk every other night (or more)? 

    A well-designed and -planned irrigation system can help you avoid overwatering. Besides wasting precious water, it can cause plant diseases and kill them. Take a look at efficient systems your local water supply company or gardening center recommend—likely something with a drip irrigation, moisture sensor, or irrigation controller. In the long run, investing in a better irrigation system will save you money.

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  • 06 of 08

    Adding Mulch

    mulch with lavender
    Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' (Hidcote lavender), lavender plants along the edge of a garden path. Peter Anderson/Getty Images

    Adding organic or mineral materials on top of soil will help reduce moisture loss that occurs through evaporation. Mulches will also cut back on unwanted weeds and can assist in slowing erosion.

    Besides being good for the soil and environment, mulches can add interest to a landscape. Good ones to consider are shredded bark, peat moss, and prepared composts. Inorganic mulches include pea gravel and rocks.

  • 07 of 08


    Woman planting a fig tree in her garden. © Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

    Careless maintenance in your garden can result in the loss of millions of gallons of water per year. 

    Get smart. Here's how:

    • Check faucets regularly for drips.
    • Weeds require water to grow; pulling them by hand will help. Apply mulch to keep them from coming back.
    • Fertilize and prune plants for health and better appearance.

    Checking Outdoors for Leaks

  • 08 of 08

    More About Waterwise Landscaping

    Agave americana. Lisa H. Taylor

    Learn more about waterwise gardens and dealing with the drought.

    The Drought and What You Can do About it

    20 Surprising Facts About Water Use at Home

    Succulent Garden Design Ideas: A Gallery

    Get Paid for Saving Water: Rebates and Smart Irrigation Programs