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A Basic Introduction to Xeriscape

xeriscape plant 2

Xeriscaping is the environmental design of residential and park land using methods that minimize water use.

Because an estimated 50 percent of water consumption in the average single-family home is used outdoors, xeriscaping offers an ideal way to minimize water waste while maintaining the beautiful landscapes of our island. Outdoor water use in a xeriscape can save anywhere from 30 to 80 percent in water consumption. This means comparable savings in water and sewer charges, as well.


Seven Principles of Xeriscaping

plant blue dazeXeriscaping is based on seven fundamental principles that serve as guidelines on how to plan, plant, and maintain a garden that takes advantage of natural climate conditions to make efficient use of irrigation. Although you may never convert your entire yard to a xeriscape, incorporating some of these principles may help it look beautiful and be more water efficient.

1. Planning & Design

Start with a good design plan and work in phases. It allows for good budgeting and time management, which can lead to a more attractive landscape and better water conservation.

2. Soil Improvement

Use organic material to improve the soil’s ability to retain suitable moisture, provide plant nutrients and promote optimum plant growth. Soil testing may be available through local university for a small fee. Soil enhancement is best done prior to installation of irrigation systems.

3. Plant Selection

Choosing appropriate plants is key to a thriving landscape. Select plants that do well in your environment and group them according to their needs for water and sun. Native plants typically do well on natural rainfall and can be better choices.

4. Limited Turf Areas

Grass lawn areas frequently require greater amounts of water and maintenance. Turf is best separated from other plantings (trees, shrubs, and groundcovers) so it may be irrigated separately. Replace turf with other less waterdemanding materials such as mulch or permeable hardscape.

5. Mulching

Mulches cover and cool soil, allow water absorption, minimize evaporation, reduce weed growth, and slow erosion. Mulches also add landscape aesthetics and interest.

6. Efficient Irrigation

Maximize water conservation by watering according to plant and turf needs. Customize irrigation system to provide best watering method (i.e. drip irrigation, bubblers, or sprinklers). Rain barrel catchment systems can help decrease potable water use.

7. Good Maintenance

A well-planned xeriscape garden can be easy to care for, resulting in less maintenance and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and watering requirements.


What Makes a Good Xeriscape Plant?

There are many different plants that you can choose to grow in your landscape. Here are some examples of a few characteristics that can help identify plants as "less-thirsty."

aloe akia

1. Aloe: Thick and waxy leaves store water and reduce transpiration.
2. Akia: Tiny leaves reduce transpiration.

cacti bromeliads

3. Cacti: Thorny succulents store water in plant core and roots.
4. Bromeliads: Waxy leaves and flowers store water.

rosemary crown flower

5. Rosemary: Needle-like leaves have reduced surface area, limiting evaporation.
6. Crown Flower: White, milky sap reduces need for water as a survival mechanism.

false oregano halawa xeriscape garden

7. False Oregano: Hairy/fuzzy leaves act as a physical barrier to reduce transpiration.
8. Halawa Xeriscape Garden: Get more tips by stopping by our demonstration garden open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., unless otherwise posted.


Tours of Halawa Xeriscape Garden

Visit the Halawa Xeriscape Garden in Halawa Valley, just outside Honolulu. Free tours are offered by appointment. Self-guided tours and visits to the garden are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.


Workshops at the Garden

Sponsored by the Board of Water Supply and the Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden, workshops are offered from September through May at the Halawa Xeriscape Garden. These are generally scheduled on Saturdays, and include instruction on topics such as how to xeriscape, efficient irrigation, propagating native plants that save water, soil improvement/mulching, and eco-crafts such as paper pots, reusable planters, lei-making with xeriscape plants, and wreath-making with xeriscape plants.

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For More Information

Call (808) 748-5041 or send an e-mail to contactus@hbws.org.