Xeriscaping the Right Way: No Rock Beds In Sight
Succulents for xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a popular trend in gardening. More and more homeowners, even ones in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are turning to xeriscaping as a way to conserve water. We’re all looking for ways to live greener and water conservation is part of that lifestyle.

However, there’s a large group of homeowners whose idea of xeriscaping conjures images of rock beds in the desert. Xeriscaping is much more than turning your flower gardens into rock beds. You can get rid of your in-ground sprinkler and still enjoy a beautifully landscaped yard. Let’s talk about how to do xeriscaping the right way and still have a beautiful yard.

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Xeriscaping in Lancaster Pennsylvania

Xeriscaping Conserves Water

When Lancaster County is in the middle of a drought, experienced gardeners turn to xeriscaping.  Xeriscaping is a minimal yet stylish way of gardening that is useful when water levels are low. You can have a great looking yard or garden, without having to water it very often, because you’re using drought-tolerant plants.

To some, xeriscaping is nothing more than having a yard that consists of a giant rock bed. But that’s actually “zero-scaping,” an entirely different concept. Xeriscaping started in Colorado during a particular bad drought in 1981. The Denver Colorado Water Department encouraged homeowners to turn to xeriscaping as a way to conserve water.

Xeriscaping is about three basic concepts:

  • Using drought-tolerant plants.
  • Group together plants that have similar watering needs.
  • Using xeriscaping instead of a lawn or a good portion of it.

You might be thinking that xeriscaping sounds like it would be difficult to implement. The theory essentially involves choosing plants that are low maintenance to begin with, then planting them in environments that are ideal.

Get Started

First, you need to choose the right drought-tolerant plants. That doesn’t mean you can only grow cacti in your yard. Native flowers and plants are a great place to start. Our Penn State garden extension has extensive resources on native plants that thrive in Lancaster. Some popular choices are:


  • Columbine
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Tall coreopsis
  • Wild bleeding heart
  • Joe-pye weed
  • Beebalm
  • Black-eye Susan

Plants to Attract Bees and Butterflies

  • Azalea
  • Cosmos
  • Lantana
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia


  • Christmas Fern
  • Spreading Sedge
  • Mountain Laurel
  • American Holly
  • Eastern White Pine

All of these plants require minimal watering. If you have established plants, try to replace really thirsty plants that you have to water frequently with a plant that’s drought-tolerant. Don’t plant anything too exotic, because those kinds of plants require a lot of water and care.

Choosing Locations

The second most important principle of xeriscaping is placing the plants in ideal areas. Place plants that have the same requirements together. You’ll end up using less water and spending less time caring for your gardens. Also try to place plants in areas where they will be protected from wind or damp soil.

Xeriscaping Saves Time

Xeriscaping is also a fantastic method of gardening for people who don’t have a lot of time to spend in the yard. You can enjoy the same benefits of having a beautiful flower garden, while spending far less time watering and caring for your plants than you would with a traditional flower bed.

More Tips for Xeriscaping

Know your zone. Across the country, different climates are assigned different landscaping and gardening zones. They’re called “hardiness zones” or “temperate zones.” Most zone maps divide the country into ten or eleven zones. Lancaster is located in Zone 6, so look for plants in that hardiness zone. (Native plants naturally fall into that category.)

Native grasses. If you like the look of grass for at least a portion of your yard, look into native grasses. Grasses that are Native to Pennsylvania will be hardier in our region and may not need as much water or soil conditioning.

Mulch. One of the best ways to conserve water is mulching. Mulch helps keep water in the ground rather than letting it evaporate.

Composting. Each spring you can add last year’s compost to your soil. Pull back the mulch and integrate the compost into your soil. It gives your plants the nutrients they need to thrive. Plus, you’re making another contribution to the environment by keeping compostable waste out of landfills.

Xeriscaping can be a beautiful way to create a yard that is environmentally friendly, budget friendly and inviting. There are an abundance of xeriscape or water-friendly plants to choose for any zone you might live in. While keeping maintenance at a minimum, it is still possibly to have a beautiful yard that’s good for the planet.

Xeriscaping the Right Way: No Rock Beds In Sight
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