Skip to main content



With the semi-arid climate and unique soil conditions in our region, xeriscape is a way to save water, time and money in your landscape. Xeriscape as an attractive, sustainable landscape that conserves water, is based on sound horticultural practices, and shows evidence of care.

Xeriscape provides a diversity of seasonal colors and textures, lowers outdoor water use 30-50% and reduces yard maintenance.

Seven Principles of Xeriscapehighlight_off

Xeriscape - Based on Sound Horticultural Practices

Follow these steps for a low water-using, yet beautiful, landscape.

1- Plan Ahead

  • Create a scaled drawing of the lot, including buildings and walks. Identify sunny and shady areas, slopes and views.
  • Evaluate the needs of people using the landscape. Do kids and pets need a big open area? Is a large deck for entertaining important?
  • Group plants with similar water needs to make watering easier.
  • Phase in the landscape plan as money and time allow.

2- Improve the Soil

  • Good soil absorbs and retains water better than poor soil.
  • Send a soil sample to a soil lab to determine nutrient content.
  • Most Colorado soils benefit from adding two to three cubic yards of organic matter, such as commercial compost or aged manure, for every 1,000 square feet of landscape area.

3- Irrigate Efficiently

  • Grass: use low-volume, low-angle sprinklers.
  • Trees, shrubs, flowers and ground covers: use drip, spray or bubbler emitters.
  • Adjust your watering times monthly to meet seasonal needs.
  • Install a rain shutoff device.
  • Efficient hose-end sprinklers throw large drops of water, not a mist, close to the ground.
  • Water deeply and infrequently to develop deep roots.
  • Water between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. to reduce water loss due to evaporation.
  • Read about water-efficient sprinkler systems.

4- Limit Turf Areas

  • Confine the lawn to high traffic areas and areas where it will be used.
  • Kentucky bluegrass requires 24-26 inches of supplemental irrigation in a normal precipitation year, compared to Fine Fescue which requires 18-20 inches and Buffalograss which requires 8-10 inches.
  • Wildflowers and native grasses are excellent lawn substitutes.
  • Shrubs, perennials and ground covers use less water and provide a cool, green appearance.
  • Place mulch around driveways or as paths.
  • Expand outdoor-living areas by installing decks, patios and walkways.

5- Select Appropriate Plants

  • Zone together plants with similar water and sunlight needs.
  • Nurseries carry trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers that are low water-using.
  • Install a variety of plants with different heights, colors and textures.
  • Choose plants for their seasonal interest, including fall color and/or interesting berries, bark or seed heads.
  • Check out Utilities' Xeriscape Plant List.

6- Use Mulch

  • Cover planting areas with 2-4 inches of mulch to conserve soil moisture, control weeds and add interest to the landscape.
  • Bark chips, shredded wood chips or pole peelings decompose and improve soil texture but need to be restored from time to time.
  • Rock and gravel mulches are practical in windy spots and unplanted areas.
  • Apply mulch directly to the soil surface or over a landscape fabric.
  • Do not use black plastic; it prevents air and water from reaching plant roots.

7- Maintain It

  • Check trees and shrubs for pruning needs once a year.
  • Frequently prune flowering perennials to stimulate blooming.
  • Mow grass when it is about 1/3 higher than the desired height.
  • Leave clippings to recycle nutrients into the soil.
Plant Selectionhighlight_off

Before selecting plants, understand your site conditions such as soil type and drainage, sun exposure and proximity to supplemental water like irrigation, downspouts or hose bibs. Given this information, select the right plant for the right place by using local plant list resources such as our XIP-Approved Plant List (You can also view this interactive plant list with photos and filter options). All plants listed are suitable for our USDA plant hardiness zone (5b in Fort Collins), which relates to average freezing temperatures for our area.

Always group together plants with a similar water requirement to avoid under- or over-watering plants.

Demonstration Gardens

Xeriscape demonstration gardens showcase the methods, plants and materials for low-water gardening.

Learn More

xeriscape incentive program graphic

Xeriscape Incentive Program (XIP)

A comprehensive, education-based program offering Fort Collins Utilities residential water customers a rebate for transforming a pre-approved high-water use area to a water-wise landscape.

Learn More

Xeriscape Incentive Program (XIP) for HOA and Commercial Properties

XIP promotes projects that convert high-water use landscapes to regionally adapted water-wise landscapes on commercial properties.

Learn More

Xeriscape Resources

Find resources about turf removal/selection, soil amendment, mulch, irrigation, native plants, landscape design and more!

Learn More

Garden In A Box

Do-it-yourself kits from Resource Central come with 15 to 30 starter plants, a comprehensive Plant and Care Guide, and one to three plant-by-number maps.

Learn more

Garden Party

Learn from experts about improving your sprinkler system, selecting low-water use plants, composting, recycling, rain barrels and more.

Learn More


Sprinkler Checkups

A free sprinkler checkup helps you save water by using your sprinkler system more effectively.

Learn More

Professional Services

These designers and contractors have learned the ins and outs of the Xeriscape Incentive Program and are ready to help you achieve a water-saving landscape.

Learn More

Plant List

Find a plant using this interactive City database of over 1,300 plants with photos. A third of the plants on the list are native to Fort Collins.

Learn More