24 Tips to Building a Drought-Tolerant Yard

Drought-Tolerant Yard

You don’t know what to do with your brown grass because of the long-lasting dry season? Find a relief that will improve your yard and make it drought-tolerant to keep your outside looking amazing while reducing water waste.

Xeriscaping refers to creating a landscape that necessitates less water. This method requires enhancing the quality of the soil, an efficient irrigation system, applying mulching for root insulation, and using drought-tolerant plants and grasses.

It’s also recommended to prune the plants and trees and remove weeds to keep your plants good-looking. Cultivate small plants in your yard instead of buying expensive and developed plants.

In this article, we’ll discuss the cost of drought-tolerant landscaping, the factors that contribute to its value, and other enhancement and improvement costs. We will also offer propitious tips and ideas in xeriscaping, and more considerations regarding the cost.


How Much Does It Cost to Put in Drought-Tolerant Landscaping?

It cost $10,000-30,000 to install drought-tolerant landscaping or xeriscaping. This technique uses plants, shrubs, flower beds, and trees that need very little water to grow and provides a vibrant environment in your garden while conserving water.

Average Xeriscaping Cost

The cost of xeriscaping a yard ranges from $15,000 to $20,000, and the average homeowner usually spends around $18,000 in xeriscaping a 1,200-sq.-ft. yard. This amount includes plants, shrubs, groundcovers, and the installation of rocks in key locations to boost water conservation.

While the national average cost is around $17,000, it costs at least $6,000 and at most around $25,000 to xeriscape your backyard, depending on the size of your yard and the landscape installations.

These are the average xeriscaping costs by place:

Place Average Cost
Bloomington, Illinois $500-$1,500
Springfield, Massachusetts $700-$2,200
Cleveland, Ohio $900-$3,700
Birmingham, Alabama $900-$4,000
Charlotte, North Carolina $1,000-$4,200
Tulsa, Oklahoma $1,200-$4,200
Woodbridge, New Jersey $1,400-$4,700
Austin, Texas $1,500-$5,900
Albuquerque, New Mexico $2,700-$6,900
Los Angeles, California $3,000-$9,900

Cost to Plant Shrubs

On average, a standard landscaper charges between $25 and $50 for purchasing and planting shrubs. The price is based on two to three times the cost of shrubs, plus an additional $50-100 per hour. The shrubs that only need minimal care are perfect for xeriscaping any yard.

Shrubs provide shade and add beauty to landscapes. If they grow well in shade, plant them near trees and in any corners to cool the soil as they serve as a ground cover.

Types of Shrubs Cost
Russian sage $6-7 per 5-inch pot
Siberian pea shrub $24-25 per gallon
Sand cherry $39-40 per 3 gallons
Yucca $60-70 per gallon
Sumac $85-89 per 2.5 gallons

Cost to Plant a Tree

The cost of planting one tree ranges from $150 to $300, but you can save money if you plant more trees at once. Indeed, five young trees cost between $300 and $700. Choose smaller trees to plant about 5 to 15 feet tall because it’s easier to transport and install.

If you prefer mature trees that are over 15 feet tall, it will cost you $1,500 to $3,000 per tree. Such trees require large machinery to dig, transfer, and lift into the area. Bigger trees also need extra space, time, and workers.

Although there are various drought-tolerant trees, many of them need adequate watering for the first few years of growth to boost a sturdy root system. Once established, trees survive with very little water.

Cost to Install Flower Bed

The cost of installing a flower garden ranges from $300 to $3,000 depending on its dimensions. A flower bed with borders, for instance, may reach $1,000 to $3,000.

However, most homeowners sow their plants after a year. So you better set up a space that suits your flowers or vegetables.

Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Cost

Drought-tolerant landscaping costs range from $3,000 to $30,000. This project is common in many parts of the country to conserve water. Synthetic turf and xeriscaping save you money by conserving water and labor.

  • Synthetic turf: It costs $3,000-7,000. Artificial grass stays green without watering it. Synthetic grasses are softer and more natural-looking than living grass.
  • Indigenous planting: It considers mixing hardscaping and indigenous plants in your area. These plants survive harsh climates without help.


Preparing your yard for xeriscaping is easier than it sounds. By thoroughly planning your project, preparing your soil and grading, designing your garden, installing irrigation options, maintaining the xeriscape, and putting up the finishing touches, you can be sure that you’ll have a lovely yard in no time. To help you get started with this project, here are 6 steps to prepare your yard for xeriscaping


5 Factors that Affect the Cost of Xeriscaping

The factors to consider in terms of price when xeriscaping include the number of hardscaping elements, size of your yard and plants, irrigation system, and other custom additions, like rainwater collection systems. Cutting some corners saves money and xeriscaping costs vary depending on your location.

1. The number of hardscaping elements

Natural hardscaping options, like rocks and boulders, save you money since you already have some of them. Other items, such as driftwood, seashells, pebbles, old metal objects, and fallen trees are usually free or available at a very small cost. Meanwhile, artificial rocks or concrete slabs increase the total cost.

2. The size of your yard

Xeriscaping a wider land area increases the cost of a project.

3. The size of your plants

Wait for plants to grow to save a bunch of money. However, various types of drought-tolerant plants take years to grow, and so, long to fill out the landscape.

4. The irrigation system

Drip or spray irrigation systems are more costly than any other irrigation option.

5. Custom additions

Custom inclusions like lighting, concrete slabs, and rainwater collection systems add to the cost of xeriscaping projects. The average outdoor lighting ranges from $3,500 to $4,500, concrete slabs able to cover 1,200-sq.-ft. yards cost $1,200, and rainwater systems cost $2,500.


Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Great enhancement on xeriscapes costs about $25,000. It features the installation of a pergola, deck, arbor, and fire pit. It could also include putting up outdoor lights, an arbor, a water spigot, a mosquito misting system, and a rainwater collection system.

Read on for more installation projects that can improve your drought-tolerant yard and provide an extraordinary design.

  • Pergola cost

    Creating a pergola costs $2,500 to $6,000 depending on its size and design. A pergola offers shade to yards and relieves you from the heat of the sun.

  • Deck installation cost

    The average cost in installing a deck is between $16,000 and $19,000. A deck can be attached to the house or freestanding in the yard. It’s the best spot to enjoy outdoor hours.

  • Arbor installation cost

    Building an arbor costs around $2,000. It’s an optimal form of vines and other climbing plants that creates the best transition from the landscape to the walkway.

  • Fire pit cost

    Building a fire pit costs about $300 to $1,300. It creates ambiance in landscapes and is perfect for a cool night or in cooking s’mores with family and friends.

  • Outdoor light installation cost

    Installing outdoor light ranges from $3,400 to $4,500. It helps enjoy the dark hours outside while showcasing the landscape with ideal positions of lights.

  • Outdoor water spigot cost

    Building an outdoor water spigot costs $225. It provides an area for washing hands and supplies water to your plants by attaching a hose to it.

  • Patio cost

    Creating a 12’x13’ brick paver patio costs around $4,900. A patio is a great spot to relish outdoor activities, especially in the summer.

  • Porch cost

    Installing a 16’x20′ porch with a table costs about $21,400 good. A porch offers relaxation while gazing into the xeriscape. It also adds quality and beauty to your house.

  • Mosquito misting system cost

    The average cost of a mosquito misting system is about $2,500 for a drum system with 30 nozzles. It kills mosquitoes and other outdoor insects.

  • Rainwater collection system cost

    Building a rainwater collection system costs about $2,500. It’s essential to manage dry areas as it collects water and irrigates the plants.


24 Tips to Building a Drought-Tolerant Yard

Building a drought-tolerant yard requires concrete planning of your landscape’s design before you start, as well as the improvement of the quality of the soil. Use small, ornamental plants and add cacti or succulents. It’s also important to develop an efficient irrigation system.

Doing physical labor saves a great amount of money. Asking for pro’s advice is ideal, but not always realistic. Just follow these simple tips and ideas to lessen the waste and maintain a stunning outdoor view.

1. Plan and design

Use natural rainfall to lessen the need for irrigation, and plan your yard’s design before you begin building landscapes. Choose an area that receives both sunlight and shade.

2. Improve soil

Boost your soil’s consistency in holding water during the dry season by putting compost into the soil. It helps increase water-holding capacities. If the soil is very firm, loosen it up to allow the plant to reach water and air.

3. Apply mulch

Apply mulch to help prevent soil erosion and reduce weed growth. It preserves the moisture so plants won’t dry out during drought times. Make DIY mulch instead of buying some to save money. DIY mulch is also environmentally friendly.

Mulch also acts as an insulator to the plants, reduces heat, and slows down evaporation.

4. Apply organic compost

Apply organic compost to boost the health of your plants. Doing so will help maintain the moisture of your soil and deliver moisture to the roots. It absorbs the water and stays efficient rather than standalone soil.

Since it’s packed with moisture and nutrients, it’s a big help, especially during the dry season.

5. Cover the ground

Cover the soil with mulch or with a drought-tolerant ground cover, like sedum. It holds the moisture longer than bare soil and prevents very firm soil in case of too much exposure to the hot sun.

6. Smart use of turf

Limit the use of turf and choose a drought-tolerant type of grass instead. Since grass usually requires tons of moisture, especially during the hot-weather months of July and August, bluegrass is ideal as it requires very little amount of water.

7. Create a smart structure of a garden bed

Group those plants with similar water requirements to ensure their constant growth and save water while dampening. Also, install outdoor light as it offers security to the landscape. Finally, add hardscape elements, like oversize boulders, which fill the gaps in drought-tolerant yards.

8. Add fountain

Fountain recycles the water in your yard and offers a nice outdoor design. It dresses up a drought-tolerant yard.

9. Develop efficient irrigation

Develop efficient irrigation to set up the plant’s root system. Use drip irrigation or micro-spray systems to water the plants that need the most water.

10. Develop good drainage

Develop good drainage to ensure the smart use of water and to make sure that soil is boosted properly with ample compost, since plants that need more water usually need good drainage.

11. Water your yard in the morning

It’s important to water your yard in the morning while it’s cool, rather than in the afternoon, when water evaporates before it reaches the roots. It’s an easy way to lessen water waste and create a drought-tolerant yard.

12. Choose native plants

Choose low water-use plants in xeriscaping your yard. Indigenous or native plants are ideal because they can grow to rely on rainfall alone.

13. Color with gray plants

Coat your xeriscape with gray plants or silver, like Santolina. They are good for drought-tolerant landscaping and usually come in gray.

14. Prefer ornamental plants

Most ornamental plants are ideal for drought-tolerant landscaping. They are tall, short, upright, and spread out. Although some are large and attractive, most of them look great in groups. Plus, you can pair them with rocks for an extra natural effect.

15. Place cacti

Add drought-tolerant plants, such as cacti. They are known for their firmness, regardless of the dry conditions. They only need a very small amount of water and are visually stunning. They work best with drought-tolerant landscaping. However, make sure to protect them in the winter.

Be creative and invigorate your yard. You can also incorporate decorative stones and sand.

16. Place succulents

Placing succulents in your xeriscape is ideal as these plants are thick and smooth. Plus, their fleshy leaves hold moisture and use it when drought comes. Sedum acres are a great example of succulents.

17. Add garden art

Consider adding art to your garden. It’s a great way to introduce color and character into a landscape. Make colorful xeriscaping using thin and gentle plants that require less water.

18. Maintain your xeriscape

Prune your plants and trees, remove weeds, and irrigate your yard for the first few years. Always focus on any pest to maintain your plants’ good appearance.

19. Minimize hardscaping

Lessen the hardscaping to save money. It’s one of the most expensive aspects of xeriscaping.

20. Create pathways

Create pathways in xeriscaping a yard using porous materials, like gravel. With such materials, instead of using non-permeable concrete, the soil will absorb water before it runs off.

21. Add checkerboard patio

Patios paved with crushed stones and gravel provide a permeable surface that prevents water from running off.

22. Cultivate small plants

Favor planting seeds or cuttings over purchasing costly, fully-developed plants.

23. Choose non-invasive plants

Pick non-invasive plants that spread through self-seeding. It saves you from buying more plants to fill the area. You can also dig up small plants and move them around the landscape.

24. Familiarize with drought-tolerant grass varieties

Discover the varieties of grass that don’t need much water to maintain classic green yards and grow, even when the dry climate comes.

Here are common grass varieties to consider:

  • Hybrid Bermuda grass
  • Zoysia grass
  • Common Bermuda grass
  • Seashore paspalum
  • Augustine grass
  • Kikuyu grass
  • Tall and red fescues
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Ryegrass
  • Bentgrass
  • Buffalo grass


Having a good drainage for your yard prevents your lawn from being a soggy and muddy mess. If you live somewhere with a dry climate and frequent water shortages, a good drainage in your yard will allow you to use your water smartly and more efficiently. If you want to learn more about this topic, read our complete yard drainage guide


Additional Considerations on Xeriscaping Costing

While xeriscaping, you need to consider the costs of the landscape designer, mulch, and concrete slabs. Also, determine the value of drought-tolerant plants, hardscaping, and how much you will spend on irrigation systems.

  • Planning and Design

    Landscape designers charge up to $200 per hour for planning, consultation, and design work. Careful planning is necessary for xeriscaping to preserve water.

  • Mulch

    The average cost of mulch ranges from $200 to $500 for 500 sq. ft., while the delivery of a cubic yard of medium-grade hemlock mulch costs between $145 and $185.

  • Concrete slabs

    Installing concrete slabs costs $1,200 for 1,200 sq. ft. yards. Concrete slabs are perfect for walking across as possible pathways.

  • Native and drought-tolerant plants

    Placing native and drought-tolerant plants costs $3,000, but the price varies according to the sizes and types of plants you pick. Indigenous plants need less water and usually don’t require sufficient irrigation.

  • Soil and rock/stone

    Soil ranges from $100 to $2,000, while river rocks cost $600 to $1,000 for 20 sq. ft. They are necessary because the landscape is usually uneven and lacks topsoil.

  • Artificial turf

    Installing 400 sq. ft. of artificial turf costs $4,000 good for 1,200 sq. ft yard. Replacing grass with synthetic turf allows you to preserve water.

  • Irrigation

    Drip irrigation systems range from around $3,000 to $5,000 for a professional installation. You’ll need such a system, especially during the excessively hot season.



Sometimes, having a lush and green lawn is just not possible because of your location or the climate that you live in. If you live somewhere with extremely hot weather or constant water shortages, having a lawn that requires constant watering is probably not the best idea. But, this does not mean that you can’t have a beautiful yard. You just need to have a yard that will survive a long-lasting dry season. 

Once you’ve learned how to build a drought-tolerant yard, you’ll realize that there’s no concrete cost nor solution, but rather, diverse reasons that affect the differences in cost, such as the location, size of the yard to xeriscape, and types of installations. But, if you follow and apply the ideas and recommendations we summarized above, you’ll successfully design a drought-tolerant garden and maintain a stunning outdoor area.

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