7 water-wise trees to use in a Xeriscape garden this National Water Week

09

MARCH, 2017

Guest post by Life Green Group

Having just come out of a massive El Nino drought, South Africans need to re-look at how we use water, one way to conserve water is in the garden.

The arrival of National Water Week (13 – 19 March) is timeous with the water crisis still rife in parts of the country.  National Water Week aims to re-iterate the value of water and the need to manage our water resource carefully and sustainably.

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How Xeriscaping saves water in the garden

Xeriscaping is a form of landscaping that focuses on drought-tolerant plants. These plants are known as xerophytes and they do not require any additional irrigation.  This is a method of landscaping was developed in arid climates and utilises water-conserving techniques such as mulching and efficient drip irrigation if need be. Xeriscapes also use a lot of stone, rocks and gravel to reduce the number of plants. Environmentally-minded landscapers are resorting to xeriscaping across South Africa and it has become an increasingly popular gardening trend.

The definition of water-wise and drought tolerant trees

Water-wise and drought tolerant trees

Water-wise trees survive long periods without water because of their root structure and leaf composition. A water-wise tree will flourish when there is a lot of water but it can also survive long periods of drought. Water-wise and drought tolerant trees are the same.

Desert-adapted and xerophytic trees

Desert-adapted plants are known as xerophytes and have adapted in an environment with very little water, such as the desert. An example of a desert adapted plant would be cactuses. Unlike drought tolerant plants xerophytes do not survive in high rainfall areas.

A water-wise tree will flourish when there is a lot of water but it can also survive long periods of drought.

A list of indigenous trees to add to a Xeriscape garden

The horticulturists at Life Landscapes have put together a list of trees and shrubs, one for every day of Water Week, you may want to include in your xeriscape.  

1. Cape Ebony (Euclea pseudebenus)

The Cape Ebony is 2017’s rare tree of the year as it is not that common. Hopefully, as people start planting water-wise gardens the Cape ebony will become a more commonly seen garden subject.

2. Chinese lantern (Nymania capensis)  

You won’t wait for raindrops in the drought if you include a Nymania capensis in your xeriscapes design. The giant seed puffs make this xerophyte an interesting garden subject. But remember, the Nymania capensis only grows in desert-like conditions.

3. Dikvoet (Pachypodium succulentum)  

The dikvoet works magic in a dry spell with its lovely pink flowers and tumultuous trunk. The Pachypodium succulentum makes for a wonderful addition to a succulent garden, collector garden, water-wise garden and rockery. It is both drought and frost resistant and endemic to South Africa.

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4. Karoo Rhigozum (Rhigozum obovatum)

The Karoo rhigozum is a very rewarding garden subject, that requires very little attention and absolutely no irrigation. This Karoo specimen is a must have for a xeriscape garden and it has wonderful sunshine yellow flowers that look beautifully out of place in its arid setting.  

5. Spekboom (Portulacaria afra)

The spekboom is regarded as the miracle plant for its oxygen-giving properties, so as a gardener you can reduce your water usage and carbon footprint by growing a spekboom. It is a very important water-wise shrub for naturescaping.

6. Wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus)

As South Africa heads for troubled waters this desert-dweller comes to the rescue! With leaves that smell like Vicks, it is well adapted to the life in arid areas. The entire shrub is covered in white flowers making it, not only a good xeriscape garden addition but good moon garden subject as well. 

7. Quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma Masson)

This Namibian beauty is commonly seen in xeriscapes across South Africa. It is an important tree for sugarbirds and sunbirds in the winter, attracting them with its yellow flowers. The fibrous tissue of a dead Quiver tree can be used as a natural fridge, keeping water and food cool in the desert. 

If you would like to provide an indigenous tree to a forest that needs it in South Africa, you can do so here.

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