How to Xeriscape on a Budget

how to xeriscape on a budget front yard backyard

Water is a precious resource. With droughts becoming more frequent and temperatures rising, more homeowners are converting their traditional lawned gardens into xeriscapes.

A professionally designed and installed xeriscape can come at a steep price, but xeriscaping does not have to be an expensive endeavor.

Reduce the cost of xeriscaping by doing the physical work yourself. Choose native, non-invasive plants that spread quickly.

Instead of buying hardscaping elements, like concrete slabs or flagstone, find cost-free alternatives, like gathered shells, pebbles, or sea glass, and make your own mulch.

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Once the plants have established strong roots, a xeriscape garden does not need irrigation, as the native plants are already adapted to growing in your area. Xeriscapes are cheaper and easier to maintain.

Here is how to xeriscape your yard and cut costs along the way.

The Principles of Xeriscaping

beautiful xeriscape landscape
By following the 7 principles of xeriscaping, you can design a beautiful, water-efficient garden even in periods of severe drought.

The concept of xeriscaping was developed in Colorado during a prolonged drought that forced people to consider a more water-efficient style of landscaping.

With the high cost of water and its innate value, it is just not feasible to be using water to irrigate lawns.

The following 7 principles of xeriscaping were developed:

  1. Efficient planning and design.
  2. Minimize the area of the lawn.
  3. Plant native, water-efficient species.
  4. Irrigate water-efficiently.
  5. Amend the soil.
  6. Use plenty of mulch to cover the soil surface.
  7. Maintain the xeriscape appropriately.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1604697091?tag=outdoorhapp0e-20

I’ve included more of my favorite xeriscaping and water-wise gardening books below!

Cost Factors of Xeriscaping

arizona xeriscape front yard and backyard
This house in Arizona has truly taken xeriscaping to the next level. Notice the extremely limited use of plants and extensive use of materials that require no water to look great all year round.

These are the factors to consider when determining the cost of xeriscaping your yard:

  • Size of the landscape. The larger your yard, the higher the cost of converting it to a xeric landscape. Xeriscaping costs $5 to $20 per square foot, including the plants, tools and equipment, supplies, and labor.
  • Size of the plants bought. The cost of mature shrubs and trees is high. It is more cost-effective to buy smaller, younger plants from the nursery and to grow them from seeds or from cuttings.
  • The cost of labor. Having a xeriscape designed by a landscape planner costs around $200. It costs between $50 and $100 per hour to hire a landscaper. One of the simplest ways to reduce the cost of xeriscaping your yard is to take on the physical work yourself.
  • Hardscaping elements. Using natural hardscaping elements is less expensive than buying concrete slabs or artificial rocks. Some materials are available for free, like shells, pebbles, driftwood, recycled scrap metal objects, and felled trees.
  • The type of irrigation system. A xeriscape will need irrigation for the first year or two until all the plants have established strong root systems. Surface irrigation ($0.38-$0.46 per square foot) is cheaper than drip irrigation ($2.50 to $4.50 per square foot), but they are far less water efficient.
  • Additional features, like outdoor lighting, concrete paving and rainwater harvesting systems, will all add to the cost of your xeriscape.

Ideas for Lowering the Cost of Xeriscaping

ice plant xeriscaping
Ice plants are fantastic for xeriscaping and rock gardens. Not only are they incredibly drought-proof, but you can also easily take cuttings and grow additional plants for free!
  • Only xeriscape a part of the yard, or just xeriscape the front or back yard.
  • Take the work into your own hands. The simplest way to reduce the price of xeriscaping is to do the physical labor yourself.
  • Minimize the hardscaping elements. Creating a dramatic rock garden with large boulders is only feasible if you do not have to buy them. Look for things that are freely available, like collected pebbles and seashells, sea glass, driftwood, or fallen trees. Flagtones and natural boulders are extremely expensive to buy and install.
  • Instead of buying mature trees and shrubs, buy smaller plants from the nursery and grow plants from seed and from cuttings. Although it takes longer, this saves a significant amount of money.
  • Choose native plant species that self-seed and spread quickly. This way, they will quickly fill up the space, and you can divide them, making more plants for other areas in the landscape.
  • Instead of buying bags of mulch, make your own. It is easy to do this using a lawnmower to shred garden waste like lawn clippings, leaves, twigs, and weeds.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L9VZZC4?tag=outdoorhapp0e-20

How to Xeriscape on a Budget FAQs

The 9 Best Xeriscaping Books

Xeriscape your own yard on a budget with these best books to help you on your way! These are my top recommendations:

  1. The Drought-Defying California Garden: 230 Native Plants for a Lush, Low-Water Landscape
  2. The Drought-Defying California Garden: 230 Native Plants for a Lush, Low-Water Landscape
    $16.29

    This book is a must-have for every gardener in California looking for a new way to garden in a changing climate. All plants in this book are native to California, making them perfect for managing the harsh climate, including perennials, annuals, shrubs, trees, and succulents.

    Get More Info
  3. Hot Color, Dry Garden: Inspiring Designs and Vibrant Plants for the Waterwise Gardener
  4. Hot Color, Dry Garden: Inspiring Designs and Vibrant Plants for the Waterwise Gardener
    $21.55

    This is a must-have guide for gardeners in the Southwest and other areas affected by drought and low water conditions, or anyone interested in a more water-wise method of gardening.

    It provides home gardeners with a joyful, color-filled way to exuberantly garden in low-water conditions.

    Get More Info
  5. The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden
  6. The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden
    $28.49

    This book has everything you need to create a garden that is lush, water-wise, and welcoming. Ruth Bancroft is a dry gardening pioneer and her love of plants led to the creation of The Ruth Bancroft Public Garden in California.

    Get More Info
  7. Xeriscape Plant Guide: 100 Water-Wise Plants for Gardens and Landscapes
  8. Xeriscape Plant Guide: 100 Water-Wise Plants for Gardens and Landscapes
    $39.15

    The Xeriscape Plant Guide is a full-color, comprehensive resource for more than 100 low-water-use plants that bring color, beauty, and utility to your landscape. This is the Bible on plants for water-wise gardens!

    Get More Info
  9. Xeriscape Colorado: The Complete Guide
  10. Xeriscape Colorado: The Complete Guide
    $15.17

    With continuing water problems and costs, xeriscaping in Colorado is always a hot topic. Whether you want new ideas for your existing xeriscape lawn and garden or are looking to make big changes, you will need this bestselling book.

    Get More Info
  11. Southeast Home Landscaping - 54 Landscape Designs
  12. Southeast Home Landscaping - 54 Landscape Designs
    $16.99

    Inside this book, you'll find inspiring ideas for making your home landscape more attractive and functional. The 54 featured designs are created by landscape professionals from the region and use more than 200 dependable plants that thrive in the southeast.

    States included are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

    Get More Info
  13. Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for all Climates
  14. Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for all Climates
    $29.95

    A practical guide to the best 200 plants guaranteed to thrive in low-water gardens. This practical and inspiring guide includes a variety of plants, from trees to succulents, perennials to bulbs, all selected for their wide adaptability and ornamental value.

    Get More Info
  15. Sunset Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings: The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Gardens
  16. Sunset Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings: The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Gardens
    $2.34

    This book illustrates that intricate, fragrant, and well-designed gardens don't need to be time-consuming to tend. Gardeners of all levels will learn about the types of plants that make their gardens as easy to care for as they are easy on the eyes.

    Get More Info
  17. The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water
  18. The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water
    $12.44

    The Water-Saving Garden provides gardeners and homeowners with a diverse array of techniques and plentiful inspiration for creating sustainable gardens that are so beautiful and inviting, it’s hard to believe they are water-thrifty.

    Get More Info

Final Thoughts

Xeriscape gardens are not only attractive, giving your home curb appeal, but they are also water-saving and can save you a lot of money in the long term.

Do not be put off by the fact that the average xeriscaping project costs around $15,000. There are many ways to xeriscape on a budget.

  • A major way to reduce the cost is to do the physical labor yourself.
  • Purchase younger plants from the garden center and grow them from cuttings and from seed.
  • Minimize hardscaping elements that you have to buy.
  • Choose plants that grow and spread quickly.

Have you xeriscaped your yard? Planning to do so? Let us know your thoughts, ideas, and comments below!

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