Shade Xeriscape Plants: Xeriscaping Ideas For Creating Shade

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By Bonnie L. Grant

Water wise gardening is all the rage, especially in areas without consistent rainfall. Xeriscape garden ideas are the perfect way to conserve water and still create a spectacular landscape. Hot and sunny locations are the usual target for xeriscape and it can be a challenge to try to bring some shade to the area to further enhance the water conservation goals. The objective is to keep water usage down and save native vegetation where possible. Creating shade in the area is one of the tips on saving water and developing a beautiful space.

Benefits of Xeriscape Garden Shading

Xeriscape shade gardens may seem a novelty at first but consider the properties of shade. Shade helps reduce moisture evaporation, it provides shelter from scorching sun and it can often protect lower story plants from the leeching and damage that occurs from wind. In its simplest form, shade comes from trees and larger bushes. Construction options also exist such as trellises, pergolas, rockeries, and other man made shade producing alternatives.

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Shade has a host of benefits, not least of which its ability to give the gardener a cool resting place. Shade provided by barriers, trees or rocks helps prevent wind desiccation which sucks moisture out of the soil. It also minimizes evaporation. If you have ever watered the garden in the morning and then looked for moist soil a few hours later, the shady spots are still wet. The heat of the sun can’t penetrate to shady areas and evaporate the precious moisture.

Another benefit to xeriscape garden shading is the types of plants used. Shade xeriscape plants are unusual in that they thrive in low light areas which many gardens lack. This provides the opportunity to investigate different types of plants that wouldn’t usually thrive in the landscape.

Xeriscaping Ideas for Creating Shade

Trees are the most obvious choice to provide shade. It is important to choose a tree with water needs that match the rest of the xeriscape. Xeriscape shade gardens with plants still require moisture but you can be water savvy by using emitters and drip systems.

Consider the mature size of the plant when you purchase a specimen. It has to fit the landscape and shouldn’t compete with wires, passersby or impinge upon the home. Native species are often a good choice. They are tough and hardy to your region and generally adaptable to the natural moisture available.

Some shade xeriscape plants might be:

  • New Mexico Olive
  • Mesquite
  • Netleaf Hackberry
  • Oak
  • Golden Raintree
  • Vitex
  • Lacebark Elm
  • Pinyon Pines

Evergreen shrubs like Cliff Fendlerbush or Curlleaf Mountain Mahogany are also good ways to produce a shady area.

Xeriscape Garden Ideas for Non-Organic Shade

Some of the most beautiful xeriscaping ideas for creating shade show up in desert landscaping. Adobe walls enclosing a smaller garden space or patio cast shadows at different parts of the day. This allows for low light situations for at least part of the day and gives you a place to nestle a retreat.

A pergola built over outdoor seating dapples the light and helps diffuse the harsh rays of midday sun. Of course, patio umbrellas can also provide shade but, generally, only over a small area. A larger option for a big shady area is an arbor with xeric vines trained over it. Just a single wisteria can shade an entire arbor or trellis. Trumpet vine and Coral Honeysuckle are two other vigorous vines that will also bloom all summer long and are attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

As you plan your xeriscape garden, don’t forget to consider your soil type and the size of the plants as you install them. It can take more water to develop an overly stocked garden at infancy than it would to simply wait for plants to fill in, which is counterproductive to the goals of xeriscaping.

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