The word "xeriscape" is derived from the Greek "xeros," meaning dry, and "scape," a kind of view or scene. Together, xeriscaping is landscaping with slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and establish a waste-efficient landscape.
Landscapes can be designed from the start to reduce the amount of resources needed to maintain them. By selecting the appropriate plants and efficient irrigation systems, a balance can be achieved to fit your aesthetic needs as well as reduce resource use. Benefits of xeriscaping include cost savings through lower water bills and a reduction in the labor needed to maintain your landscape.
In Florida, landscapes that are designed to conserve natural resources are called Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™. The Department of Environmental Protection has discontinued the use of xeriscaping in statute and adopted Florida Friendly Landscaping ™. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ program targets homeowners, builders, developers, and commercial horticulture professionals. This program helps one to identify and use low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable management practices that ultimately will save time, money, and energy. This program is operated through the University of Florida’s Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology. Through 9 principles, this program helps residential and commercial properties to become a Florida-Friendly yard; ultimately, these Florida-Friendly yards help urban environments to reduce their water and energy consumption, to reduce pollutants that enter waterways, and to conserve biodiversity.
Elements of Xeriscaping or Florida-Friendly Landscaping
Designing a resource-efficient landscape requires the incorporation of a few design elements.
• Zoning--grouping plants in the landscape according to their water requirements. For example, water-loving plants should be grouped separately from drought-tolerant plants. This allows for the proper amount of water to be distributed to the plants as they need it.
• Use of drought-tolerant plants--these plants require less water and are adapted to drought conditions and soils with low water-holding capacities.
• Drought-tolerant turf--Ask your local nurseries which grass varieties have excellent drought tolerance and will grow well in your yard's soil type. Centipede grass is appropriate for most of the Southeast. In Florida, bahiagrass, bermudagrass, and zoysiagrass all have excellent drought tolerance and may be suitable for your area as well. During dry periods, allow the turf to go dormant. When the rain comes, these grasses will turn green again.
• Mulch, mulch, mulch--because mulch reduces evaporation, it is used extensively in xeriscaping to replace areas that require extensive watering. Mulch can also be used to create paths or walkways throughout your landscape.