Across Colorado, water availability is playing a key role in residential home development—from where new builds are planned to what yards look like. Cities, like Aurora and Castle Rock, have placed limits on the use of certain lawn grasses in new construction.
As you explore alternatives to traditional lawns, here are xeriscaping myths to avoid, so you can create vibrant outdoor spaces that appeal to homeowners.
Myth: The ideal xeriscape is a yard of rocks.
When Denver Water coined the term “xeriscape” in 1981, the vision was to blend low-water plants with water conservation techniques, like efficient irrigation and mulch.
Over time, residents in arid western states began replacing lawns with rocks. These “zeroscapes” (for their lack of vegetation and landscaping) took over.
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Here in Colorado, rock yards pose problems: Lack of curb appeal. Heat buildup. Limited stormwater absorption. Weed growth. Adverse impacts on pollinators, trees and soil health.
They’re also a disservice to future homeowners. Rock yards don’t offer engaging outdoor spaces to relax, spend time, or have children and dogs play. They don’t encourage human interaction with nature, which helps lower stress and create community.
“The thing that often gets lost with xeriscaping is you’re still landscaping,” says Deryn Davidson, sustainable landscape state specialist for Colorado State University Extension. “You’re using the same plant ratio. You’re just shifting the plant palette and planning for water conservation.”
Myth: You must plant cacti and yucca.
Yes, desert plants make sense in arid climates, like Arizona and Nevada. This doesn’t mean they’re the only or best options for Colorado.
There are beautiful, leafy plants that thrive with little water and create a strong sense of place for Colorado landscapes. Explore waterwise demonstration gardens and websites for plants with big curb appeal.
Myth: All lawn grass is banned.
Lawn restrictions often apply to “cool season” grasses. (Restrictions vary by city.) These grasses, such as traditional Kentucky bluegrass and fescue, need 40 to 50 percent more irrigation for optimum performance than trees, shrubs and groundcovers, per the University of California Extension.
But there are sun-loving, warm season grasses that can be used as waterwise alternatives for backyards and greenbelts. Native buffalo grasses, native blue grama grasses and some Bermuda grasses can feel like traditional lawns without the water burden.
Image provided by: The Green Fuse Landscape & Design