We all want a beautiful landscape, but what can you do if you live somewhere with parched soil that’s desperate for water? Whether you’re facing minimal rain, extreme heat, watering restrictions in your city—or you’re just trying to avoid wasting water—you can still enjoy a lush backyard with water-wise, drought-tolerant landscaping techniques.
A drought-tolerant landscape design is created to survive and thrive in areas that have minimal rainfall. They cut down on grass and other temperamental greenery with high water needs, and instead focus on combining hardy, drought-tolerant plants with thoughtful hardscaping. Native plants are especially well adapted to their area’s climate, making them ideal candidates for water-wise designs. These designs allow you to conserve water and spend less time soaking your thirsty yard with the hose each weekend!
Drought-tolerant landscaping also overlaps with xeriscaping and drought-resistant landscaping. Xeriscaping is simply another name for drought-resistant landscaping—and you can read all about it in Tilly’s guide to xeriscape ideas and techniques.
Drought-resistant landscaping takes things a step further. While drought-tolerant plants can weather short stretches with little water, drought-resistant plants are highly specialized to go weeks or even months without any water at all. If you live in the harshest desert climates, drought-resistant plants will make your life much easier.
Here at Tilly, we want to show people that you can create a beautiful oasis in your landscaping no matter your climate or your design style. Our team of landscape designers have a wealth of experience working in every zone across North America, meaning that we can find a perfect match for you. Whether you want to dive into a desert-style rock garden or keep your xeriscaped front yard full of lush greenery, we’ve got you covered!
Let’s take a look at three drought-tolerant landscape designs we’ve created. They’ll help you understand the diversity in water-wise landscaping—and get the drought-tolerant landscaping ideas flowing for your own dream landscape renovation.
Design 1: Las Vegas, NV
Our client wanted a low-maintenance, drought-resistant landscape design that would flourish in his hot and dry climate. It had to match the mid-century modern style of his home and interior design and be a perfect site for entertaining, allowing the party to flow from the home into the backyard.
Landscape designer Sarah created a minimalistic design in a clean, neutral color palette to match the aesthetics of the client’s home. Large, water-efficient plants specialized for California’s climate make stunning focal points throughout the landscape and create gentle shade for the multiple seating areas in the backyard. Sleek concrete pavers lead people through the outdoor living space while multiple sizes and textures of gravel help to distinguish different zones in the landscaping—and no grass means a huge reduction in water usage. Minimal doesn’t have to mean boring, and Sarah used corten steel edging, a sleek accent wall, pops of color in the plants, and thoughtful lighting to make this landscape design stylish and inviting for all of the client’s guests.
Our Top Plant Selections:
- Blue hesper palm (Brahea armata)
- Spoon yucca (Dasylirion wheeleri)
- White-striped century plant (Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’)
- Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
Design 2: San Antonio, TX
Our client asked for a bold landscape design around their front drive that would feel lush and incorporate their grove of existing oak trees while also conserving water in the Texas heat. They wanted to reduce lawn space and were looking to have year-round curb appeal in a design that felt fresh, contemporary, and full of life.
Bold, lush, and colorful are the name of the game in this xeriscape front yard design created by Diana. She showed off the bold shapes and colors of modern design in the flower beds framing the front door. She brought in naturalistic elements including a dry riverbed of various stones flowing alongside the driveway. This fusion of styles works together to create a welcoming entrance to the home. A variety of grasses, flowering shrubs, and hardy groundcover plants are resistant to deer and the intense Texas climate while adding lush, tropical texture and color to the space. The flowering plants have staggered bloom times and the ornamental grasses and evergreens will add color and movement even in the winter, creating visual interest in every season.
Our Top Plant Selections:
- Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)
- Regal Mist pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’)
- Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
- Cherry skullcap (Scutellaria suffrutescens)
Design 3: Cheyenne, WY
Our client wanted to create a welcoming homestead that incorporated permaculture garden beds and cozy outdoor living spaces into a beautiful, natural space—all in Wyoming’s intense weather. She needed a planting plan that would grow in her heavy clay soil and stand up to intense wind, late frosts, violent summer hailstorms, and scorching full sun all summer long.
Designer Lisa created a lush, meadow-style landscape that provided space for everything the client wanted in their homestead with plenty of room to grow. It replaced grass area and the plan includes a wide variety of native plants that are drought-resistant and hardy for the climate as well as strategically placed trees, shrubs, and vines to screen the living spaces from the wind. Edible plants are placed throughout the xeriscaped yard from the garden beds to fruiting vines and trees. They’re complemented by a wealth of drought-tolerant perennials that will draw in pollinators for the whole landscape. Rainwater catchment will keep all those plants lush even during dry spells. A raised deck and a shaded dining area are nestled among all the plant life, creating a cozy oasis for outdoor living.
Our Top Plant Selections:
- Purple leaf sand cherry (Prunus × cistena)
- Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’)
- Colorado four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora)
- Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)
No matter your region, your style, or your expertise, drought-tolerant landscaping isn’t out of reach. You can start small by reducing the amount of grass in your yard, adding drought-tolerant plants into your existing landscape, and thinking about retaining site water. You can also go big and get expert help with our talented designers for a full xeriscape landscape renovation. Either way, you’ll have a hardy, water-wise landscape for years to come.