Native to Southern California and other southern states of North America, as well as Central and South America, Agave plants are a unique plant that can provide many benefits with its existence, whether naturally occurring or newly planted.
One of the Agave's best characteristics is its ability to grow in dry conditions, making it perfect for xeriscape landscaping. 'Xeric' means drought tolerant and agaves are a welcome addition to any landscape in the arid conditions of Southern California.
Part of the monocot genus, agaves are distinctive with their succulent leaves forming rosette shapes. While they can look similar to aloe, which are also monocots, they are not closely related. Growing much larger and with more substantial thorns than aloe, agaves can be bright green to grey and silvery in color. They store water in their leaves and the leaves are fibrous with thorny teeth to protect them from being eaten. When they flower, they send off a tall, singular shoot, up to forty feet, with tubular blooms, pictured to the left.
Easy to take care of, agaves are super low maintenance. Their roots require air and water so they need good drainage, and can even do well in pots with a cactus or succulent soil mixture that has organic porous materials that helps trap air and keep the soil from suffocating the roots. They grow slowly, but once established, they are very hardy.
In addition to growing from seeds, most agaves produce 'pups' or young plants from runners. They are easy to propagate making them fun to grow.
Agave is edible and is used to make tequila, which is made from blue agave. Also harvested from agave is the syrup, a sweetener which is sweeter than sugar, requiring less for the same sweetness.
Adding agave is a natural choice for a Southern California garden. Having a variety of shapes and textures can make a xeriscape garden more visibly appealing and agave certainly delivers!
If you want help to plan your landscape project, let us help. We have experts in all areas of landscaping, and can handle projects any size. We also offer maintenance programs for commercial and private properties. Contact us today!
The term comes from the Greek word 'xeros' which means 'dry' combined with 'scape' meaning 'dry landscape' but really it means landscaping with plants that need minimal water. Since about 70 percent of the water consumed by an average single-family home is used outdoors, the best place to start conserving water is in your garden. However, xeriscaping with plants that do not need a lot of water does not mean your garden has to look desolate! Southwestern states have been xeriscaping the longest due to the fact that they have dry climates and it makes sense to not fight mother nature by growing high maintenance gardens and lawns. But with water becoming a diminishing resource everywhere, other states throughout the U.S. are now xeriscaping too.
Luckily, in Southern California, we have many drought resistant native plants and a climate that allows us to use low water plants from other similar dry climates like Australia, South Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean areas. Many of these plants are lush and beautiful and visually completely different than a typical southwest garden of cacti and rocks. There are many wonderful options and we live in the perfect place for xeriscaping! Water is still necessary with xeriscapes, especially when plants are new. However they become more drought resistant once established. Many drought tolerant native plants in the wild naturally have deep roots as part of their survival. New, nursery bought plants in pots will take a couple years at minimum to achieve the same deeper root systems as their counterparts in the wild.
Xeriscapes work well with low-pressure systems that deliver water right to the roots of the plants but don't go everywhere. A sub-surface water source not only feeds the roots without wasting it on the surface where it can evaporate, it encourages the roots to grow deeper beyond the root ball which ultimately makes it hardier and more drought resistant in the future. Once roots are established, they will require even less supplemental water. Another important component to xeriscaping is using a ground cover like gravel or mulch. Mulch can be made from organic materials including leaves, grass clippings, straw, shredded bark, sawdust, wood chips, and cardboard. There is also rubber mulch made from recycled tires which does not decompose quickly. Ground cover does a multiple of jobs when it comes to xeriscaping. Most importantly, it helps keep the moisture in the soil and keeps the ground cooler in the summer. It also keeps weeds from competing with plants for water and nutrients.
Xeriscapes are most stunning when designed with a combination of softscapes and hardscapes. Softscape refers to trees, bushes, plants, ground cover, and the living aspects of the garden. Hardscape is the addition of pathways, planters, and outdoor living areas that can make your garden more inviting, accessible, and visually interesting. Hardscapes also mean less softscapes, and less water. The key is to design a layout that is a balance of the two so that your garden complements your home and is low maintenance; saving you water and money!
There are rebates being offered in Southern California to replace lawns, find out more here. We are also certified experts installing smart-water irrigation systems that are efficient and cost effective and are rebate worthy too!
Our team at Pacific Vista Landscape Services are experts when it comes to xeriscaping and knowing the vast variety of drought resistant plant options. We can work with you to design incredible soft and hardscapes to enhance your property which not only look great but will save you money too. Having a beautiful, low maintenance garden makes sense now and in the future!
Even though we are now considered out of severe drought conditions in California, getting rid of their lawns is a choice still being made by many Californians. This one measure can trim your water usage by 25%!
Choosing to ditch your lawn does not mean your garden has to be brown or drab. Many drought tolerant plants and ground cover are colorful and, mixed with hardscapes, can bring new dimensions to your landscape while saving water and money! Some even look grass-like, as seen in the photo above.
How Do I Get Rid of My Lawn?
One way to get rid of your lawn is to apply a spray-on grass killer which may take a while to work and need to be used several times before they are completely effective. Make sure, if you use this method, that the product is safe for pets and is eco-friendly, as many are not. These products contain chemicals that are required by law to break down in the soil within 14 days so, depending on what you use, you might need to wait to plant new plants if you want to give them their best chance of survival. Another way is the “lasagna method”, which is done by alternating layers of compost and cardboard or newspaper with layers of mulch. This causes the grass to die because it receives no sunlight, but another benefit of this method is that it feeds the soil underneath and prepares it for the new plants with lower water requirements. (Source:http://www.mercurynews.com/our-community-garden/ci_28014099/compost-and-mulch-will-help-lower-water-use) Another way is to hire a professional landscaper to remove the lawn and replace it with materials and plants that use much less water.
Can Proper Soil Preparation Reduce the Amount of Water Needed? Yes, the generous use of compost and mulch is very important. They will not only enrich the soil which in turn feeds the plants, but mulch and compost help to retain water, which in turn reduces the amount of watering needed for your yard.
What should I Plant?
Lawns can be replaced with a variety of plants and materials that don’t use much water.
Native plants that attract birds and butterflies are a popular option. Drought tolerant herbs and ornamental shrubs are another idea. Succulents can be beautiful also as well as an occasional cactus can be used to add interest to a garden.
There are also low-maintenance ground covers that look good and don’t require a lot of water. The need to water will drop even further when roots grow deep and are established. Hardscaping, using rocks, pathways, ornaments, gravel and patio areas is a great way to utilize a minimum of plants and shrubs and still have an attractive looking garden!
Let Pacific Vista Landscape Services come and assess your landscape needs! Our professionals are experts with drought tolerant plants and smart irrigation systems, as well as creating hardscapes to transform your garden into a low-water oasis saving water AND money for years to come!