What is “Xeriscape” and why is it important?

I am amazed at the number of people who are either unaware (my choice) or don’t care about water conservation.  Even those who recognize their well water pressure has dropped tremendously over the past decade and those who lament about water levels in lakes and ponds do not associate water conservation with these issues.  Daily I watch individuals and city utility companies watering their yards (including the streets) and planting grass that requires water, chemicals and maintenance.  People don’t seem to complain until their wallets “speak out”, i.e. gas reaching $4 per gallon seems to have opened some eyes…how much will the water we use have to cost before we open our eyes?

As my friend in Jacksonville continues his “challenge” with the Homeowners’ Association (HOA) Board of Directors and Architectural committees more of his neighbors are becoming aware of his dilemma, which is the positive effect so far. He has created a beautiful backyard and has been diligently working on his front yard when he received a certified letter last week ordering him to “cease and desist”.   The HOA provided him a copy of their “revised” Florida Friendly Yard guidelines, which is against Florida Statutes.  Here is a man who is eliminating chemicals from his lakefront yard and reducing his water needs, who has already received the Florida Friendly Yards’ Gold certificate (first one in Duval County and also required by the HOA) and he now receives a cease and desist order from the HOA?  Something is very wrong with this scenario and until more residents become aware of their landscape options this type of “bullying” will continue.  Learn about xeriscapes in this segment from the Green Construction series and PLEASE…add your comments to this post about your “roadblock” in conserving water .

Landscapes that thrive without water

In a nutshell, xeriscape is an approach to landscaping and gardening that conserves water and otherwise uses site resources appropriately. The phrase, coined by Denver’s municipal water department, combines the Greek word for “dry” with landscape.

Among other things, xeriscape encourages careful planning, efficient irrigation, soil improvements, the use of mulches and choosing appropriate plants for the site. Native plants need less watering and less chemical intervention to remain healthy.

Xeriscape is really about going to a site and finding exactly what you’d expect to find had humans not intervened. Suppose you bought a house lot in the desert. The last thing you’d find on the site was a lush, green lawn. But that’s exactly what our culture has encouraged, at the collective cost of millions of gallons of water and millions of pounds of chemical fertilizers and insecticides.

The issue is especially sensitive in parts of the western U.S. where water is in short supply. It’s hard to justify the flagrant waste of water when there is so little of it to go around. In Las Vegas, Nevada, these concerns have prompted city officials to pay residents to tear up turf and replace it with plants that don’t need as much water. Since the program began, six square miles of lawn have been removed. Each square foot of removed turf saves about 55 gallons of water per year.

Choosing appropriate plants is one of many ways that site development and landscaping can become more sustainable. Choosing permeable driveway and sidewalk materials, establishing rain gardens to control runoff and preserving deciduous shade trees to keep the house cooler in summer all are logical companions to xeriscape design.

Source: The GreenBuildingAdvisor

5 thoughts on “What is “Xeriscape” and why is it important?

  1. The language of the statue actually removes the word “Xeriscape” and replaces it with “Florida Friendly Landscapes.” This is more appropriate since, for better or worse, people associate the word “xeriscape” with rocks and cacti. In Florida, we don’t have a xeric climate; it is subtropical. All the more reason we need to match plants with our ouwn individual landscape situation. Jeannette is right! We need to create landscapes that will THRIVE and not “tolerate” any given condition. You will have dry areas and wet areas. Plant accordingly. Contact your local County Extension Office for more information about Florida Friendly landscapes or, visit solutionsforyourlife.com.


  2. Here is one issue where HOA boards love to interfere — but can’t. That doesn’t mean they are not trying. But the law is pretty clear — and explains in uncertain terms: FS 373.185(3)(b)(b) A deed restriction or covenant may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping on his or her land or create any requirement or limitation in conflict with any provision of part II of this chapter or a water shortage order, other order, consumptive use permit, or rule adopted or issued pursuant to part II of this chapter.

    Go here for complete wording and some more explanations:


    1. Thanks for the feedback, Jan. Unfortunately this HOA Board appears to be focusing on this property owner since they are on the main road and the Board/ARC committee doesn’t want others in the neighborhood to adopt this type of landscaping. Another homeowner on a cul de sac did a FFY yard over a year ago and there was no problem, obviously because very few residents would even see this yard. The homeowner under fire is now looking for an attorney who may have had some FFY dealings already. Hopefully someone will know an attorney versed in FFY and reply.


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