Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

It’s Xeriscape, not Zeroscape.

Over the last 20 years I’ve seen and heard my fare share of mispronunciations and misspellings of the word Xeriscape; and while it certainly doesn’t bother me, the lack of understanding what Xeriscape is, does. Xeric which is Latin for “xeros“, means dry, and scape, well obviously….it’s a view or scape, as it were. But, That does not necessarily mean rocks and spiky plants like cactus, it can also mean plants that are adapted to your environment and will require the least amount of water.

for clarity, here is a Zeroscape:


THIS is Xeriscape,

Xeriscape design is using native plants, trees, and rock in an artful fusion. The goal Is not to look like the moon, but to have plants that only require the typical annual rainfall (or runoff ) so you need to subsidize its watering as little as possible. The design needs to be functional, but can also be fantastically colorful and lush, stately and symmetrical, or clean and modern.

Be careful to remember that rock is a zeroscape because it is a no-water solution. It is NOT low maintenance however. Rock beds near weedy areas like green belts or common area can become weed beds themselves, so prepare to get out there and pull and/or treat with organic protocols as needed.

Never introduce chemicals into your landscape for weed control. Weed and feed in particular kills everything in its path (says right in the bag in small print), so anything you’re using in your rocks will filter off into your yard in the next rain.

Above, these are all great examples of using rocks in all sizes and colors to add interest and function as well as creating spaces that will not need watering. Walkways, patios and sitting areas are a great use of these materials, particularly when mixed with native and adapted plants and trees for your region.

Now for the fun part, plants! While most people think of these below as your typical Xerophytic plant pallet,

The truth is, in Central Texas, these are Xeriscape too!

The combination of all of these elements are what creates the stunning works of art we call The Hill Country landscape. Water collection should be a big part of this too. Cleverly disguised in our landscapes, or prominently displayed, this is a beautiful way to keep water on our property as a back up plan in times of drought, or as a fertility function for mixing with organic food.

Finally, as always, be creative. If you like cactus and rock, choose from a variety of textures and colors that complement one another and add architectural interest to the space. If you are choosing native and adaptive plants, be sure to use compatible plants with similar water needs so that none of the plants in your xeriscape garden need to be babied. This can be accomplished by adding prefered plants that like wet feet, like Ligularia, Almond verbena, or Louisiana iris to low points in the yard that may hold water longer.

Also, remember to choose deer resistant plants and trees if deers are an issue, or you may be planting an expensive buffet as a landscape.

Soil in Central Texas is typically grey/ beige dirt in a mix of rocks and hard clay. Soil for any garden in central Texas should be amended, and for cactus gardens you definitely want to loosen your soil and add amendments such as vermiculite, granite rock or even pea gravel to encourage proper drainage.

Cactus will not tolerate long periods of wet feet or even excess rain for that matter. So you need to accommodate them by allowing proper drainage around each plant which can be tough in large rocks and clay. In fact, some hyper natives in the Central Texas landscape cannot tolerate overly amended (fertilized) soil. So it’s also important to educate yourself on the needs of the plants you choose so you can create a symbiotic environment for them all. Wouldn’t it be a lovely world if we could do that for everyone, even the spiky ones?


Now go get your Xeriscape on, and email me at if you’re interested in a Xeriscape design to get you started!

Lisa LaPaso

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”


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