Search For The Answer
Click here to access our database of
Plant Answers

Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Two exits west of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Drought StrategiesMulchTo Water or Not To Water
Water Saver Rebate
Q&A Weekly Article and Archives

Xeriscape Landscaping

Xeriscape is lush and colorful, it can include rock and cactus, but in a climate like San Antonio we have a large pallette of plants from which to choose. Xeriscape requires less maintenance than a traditional landscape and, of course, less water, at least 50% and usually 75% less. You will have more time to enjoy your landscape and spend less money on water. Even if you do not convert your whole yard to xeriscape immediately, you can save water and have a better yard if you adopt the xeriscape principles.


Xeriscape principles include good planning, incorporating organic material into the soil, reducing turf area, watering efficiently, and using mulch.


Planning a xeriscape involves figuring out what your family wants from the yard. Is it a playground for the children? Is it a place to relax and enjoy the area birds? Is it the place that you get exercise and spend considerable time gardening? One of the best ways to plan a xeriscape is to obtain the Xeriscape Conversion Guide from your favorite nursery or by mail from the Bexar County Master Gardeners. Send a check for $7.40 (includes postage) to Xeriscape Conversion Guide, 3355 Cherry Ridge Dr., Suite 208, San Antonio, TX 78230. The guide will walk you through the planning process step by step plus has a great plant list.


There are lots of native and other well-adapted plants that will perform acceptably in your xeriscape with only the native soil, but all plants benefit with organic material, and lawns should not even be planted unless there is six inches of soil including two inches of compost.


Organic material (compost) incorporated into a planting area will make the plant stronger and make more water available to the root system.


Grass is fine as long as it is needed, but if you are going to try and keep it green in the summertime it requires lots of water. Most people also like their grass to have a manicured look. That is where the huge amount of labor required for a lawn-dominated landscape comes in. Mowing the lawn is an every-week thing. If you replace lawn with groundcovers (dwarf Ruellia, Asiatic jasmine, English ivy, monkey grass, Texas Gold columbine, etc.) or pervious hardscape, less water and less labor is required.


When selecting grasses choose from zoysia, Bermuda or buffalo when you can. All three grasses can go dormant when there is a shortage of water. When the rains return, the grass greens up just like there never was a drought. St. Augustine does not have the same capability. It will fight the good fight, but when it browns in the summer it is dying. If St. Augustine is your favorite grass and you insist on using it, seek out Floratam; the variety seems to have the most drought tolerance.


If you have a huge lawn now and want to reduce its size, use products like Round-up® or Finale® to kill the grass. Plant groundcovers or blooming perennials (iris, daylilies, allium, salvia, lantana, Turk’s cap, shrimp plant and others) right into the killed sod. The sod acts as a mulch.


Mulch is an insulating layer of material, usually organic, that reduces evaporation from the soil, reduces weeds, and keeps the soil cool. Plants grow better and use less water with mulch. A four-inch layer of shredded brush applied over the roots of a newly planted tree will increase the growth rate greatly. Even leaves make good mulch. Instead of bagging your live oak leaves, place them as mulch around your shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Shredded brush mulch is available free of charge to San Antonio residents at the City of San Antonio Brush Management Site located at 1800 Bitters Road. You have to load it yourself but the material is excellent. For more information call the City Solid Waste Department at 522-8831


There is a huge list of excellent xeriscape plants including those I have listed so far in this article. Also consider old-fashioned roses, Texas mountain laurel, hollies, nandina, Texas red oak, cedar elm, desert willow, live oak, lantana, redbud, Monterrey oak, Mexican plum, firebush, esperanza, and poinciana.


The easiest way to save water is to water effectively. Follow the ET recommendation for lawns. Call the ET hotline at 281-1478 for watering recommendations based on your grass type. ET recommendations are based on the water that grass actually uses in relation to weather. The rates were determined experimentally and tested right here in San Antonio. Use drip irrigation for vegetable gardens and flowerbeds. Drip systems are easy to construct and put the water right on the root system. Your favorite nursery or mulch supplier has drip irrigation kits.


Established trees and shrubs do not need supplemental watering except in the driest months when one deep watering per month will be plenty.


For more information on xeriscape and other water conservation ideas contact SAWS at 704-7527 or the Bexar County Master Gardeners at 467-6575. SAWS has a Watersaver Landscape Rebate Program available to customers who convert their traditional landscape to xeriscape or who select a xeriscape for their new home.  Customers can receive up to a $500 rebate towards their water bill ($.10 per sq. ft. if less than 50% turf, $.05 per sq. ft. if over 50% turf).