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Xeriscape your garden

Xeriscaping is all about smart, waterwise planning, where plants are chosen for their suitability to the local climate and the garden is designed to avoid losing water to evaporation and run-off. By practising its principles, you will become accustomed to the natural cycles of your selected plants in your garden. 


Consider the existing plants and buildings, your lifestyle, what you want to use different areas of your garden for, the soil type, wind, sun direction in the morning and afternoon and shade areas.


“What is critical is your zoning. Select appropriate plants and group them according to their water needs. This will be determined by your site characteristics such as shade, sun, wind, damp and low-lying areas,” says nurseryman Marc Dawson, who, together with a colleague, has been working on the problem of how to handle the Western Cape’s water shortage through their trademarked Xericape concept, based on xeriscaping.

“But this does not mean we are limited to aloes, succulents, cactii and stonechip,” he explains. You don’t necessarily have to shy away from plants that require more water; simply place them in a zone closer to the water source to avoid wastage. The further away you move from your water source, the less water the plants should need. So, the plants on the edges of the property should be the hardiest varieties.

For more suggestions on what to plant in spring, click here.


Closely linked to your zoning plan, a well-designed irrigation system with a controller, soil moisture sensor and rain sensor will save water, time and money. “The result will be that the plants will only get water when they need it, rather than according to a rigid timed schedule,” he says. In addition, be generous with mulch.  “It helps retain water, slows erosion and stabilises the soil temperature.”


The first reaction when going for a more waterwise garden is to rip out water-guzzling lawn. But xeriscaping doesn’t necessarily exclude grass. “Create practical lawn areas for a specific use. You may need a play area, somewhere for your pets, or a cool space for relaxing. Then, select the correct grass species for shade or sun and the appropriate growth forms, whether it’s long, short, tuft forming or matting,” Marc says.

Click here for more waterwise alternatives to lawn.


Monitor your watering, weeding regularly, apply fertiliser when required and prune when needed.

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