Tips for Water-Wise Landscaping in Colorado


Drought-tolerant plants can still pack some serious flower power!
Source: Denver Botanic Gardens, Roads Water-Smart Garden

Now that spring has officially begun, many homeowners get excited about making their yards beautiful. We eagerly thumb through magazines, spend hours poring over Pinterest, and lurk in the local garden center. How do I know? I’m guilty of it myself ;-).

I want to offer two important pieces of advice about gardening in Colorado. These are especially important if you aren’t a Colorado native or have recently moved here from somewhere else.

First, no matter how tempting it may be (and it *will* be tempting), don’t plant anything before Mother’s Day. You’re just asking for heartbreak if you do. According to heirloom seed company Victory Seeds, the average last frost date for Denver is May 20.  (Click here for a handy listing of average last and first frost dates for more than 25 locations across Colorado.)

Second, in our high plains desert and grasslands environment, we all have a responsibility to be water-wise. The Extension Office at Colorado State University tells us that the average home landscape uses as much as half of the home’s total water consumption. That shocked me! The good news is that there are several ways to reduce your water usage:

  • Consider xeriscape for areas that are hard to water and maintain. These can include areas along fences; steep slopes; corners of the yard; narrow strips of grass between the house and the sidewalk or driveway; and any irregularly-shaped areas of lawn that fall outside the reach of your sprinklers. These areas are great candidates for xeriscape, a style of landscape design requiring little or no irrigation or other maintenance. A word to the wise: if you live in a community governed by a homeowners’ association, be sure to check with your HOA for requirements before you start making changes. The good news is that many homeowners’ associations in Colorado are updating their covenants to allow more xeriscape.
  • Use or update an irrigation controller for cycle and soak irrigation to minimize runoff from slopes and compacted soils. This approach may solve the problem on gentle slopes. Another idea is to convert these areas to perennials or ground covers that tolerate the exposure and thrive on little water. They have the added benefit of allowing you to eliminate unsafe mowing on steep. We purchased the Rachio Smart WiFi Sprinkler for our home and have seen a savings of around $20 per month. Plus, the water company gave us a 50% rebate on the system.
  • Modify sprinkler systems to water only turf areas, not hardscapes. Kind of a no-brainer, right? But anything that involves moving or modifying an underground sprinkler system can quickly become complicated. Contact me for referrals to trusted vendors for sprinkler system design, installation, or repair.
  • A low pressure, micro-irrigation (drip) system can save water. Because it slowly applies water over longer periods of time, it may further minimize runoff. Another option to consider is terracing. Note that landscape berms where soil is deliberately mounded also waste water from sprinkler runoff. Drip (micro-irrigation) is a better way to irrigate berms.

See more detail on these tips and how to implement them on the Extension Office’s web page. The page also offers lists of many plant species to consider, from low ground covers for hot, steep slopes to plants for narrow planting strips.

Have you implemented water-wise landscaping for your home? What successes (or challenges) have you had? Share by leaving a comment on this blog. You can also share your experience and your pictures on our Facebook page.

As always, we appreciate your trust and your referrals. Reach out any time to or 303-204-6494.

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