9 Drought-Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Colorado Springs

close-up of small green and purple plants with drops of water on them, next to a rock

Tumbleweeds needn’t haunt your drought-resistant landscape in Colorado Springs. Showy blossoms, attractive textures, and quality hardscapes can all exist in a beautiful drought-resistant yard. 

Need some creative pointers? Give your Little London landscape a makeover with these 9 drought-resistant landscaping ideas. 

What is a drought-resistant landscape?

A drought-resistant landscape can thrive with little to no supplemental water and can remain resilient throughout prolonged periods of drought. 

Drought-resistant landscaping means creating a landscape that conserves as much water as possible while keeping the vegetation alive and healthy.

When you grow a drought-resistant landscape, you won’t have to worry about your front yard turning to dust when a drought hits. 

9 drought-resistant landscaping ideas 

1. Xeriscape

A xeriscape is a type of drought-resistant landscape design that flourishes with little to no supplemental water. A well-designed xeriscape can survive off of the local rainfall levels, even in arid climates.

When you hear the term “xeriscape,” you might think of a barren, desert landscape. But xeriscapes can feature several kinds of plants and be visually appealing. Here’s what you might find in xeriscape: 

  • Drought-resistant, drought-tolerant, or xeric plants
  • ​Succulents and cacti
  • Mulch (organic and inorganic)
  • Sand
  • Rocks (big and small)
  • Hardscape features, such as patios and walkways

Cost: Transforming your yard into a xeriscape will vary in price depending on your yard’s size and the design’s complexity. On average, a professionally designed and installed landscape can cost anywhere between $3,600 and $22,349

2. Xeric plants

Who says a drought-resistant landscape can’t have beautiful plants? Xeric plants have low-water requirements, making them perfect for a xeriscape yard.

You can take it one step further and grow xeric native plants. Native plants occur naturally in an environment without human intervention. They’ve adapted to the local rainfall levels, soil fertility levels, pests, and diseases. They’re low-maintenance and attract local pollinators, including hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

Non-native plants are often high-maintenance because they’re not accustomed to the local environment. They usually require plenty of fertilizers, pesticides, and water to survive. 

If you need help finding plants for your drought-resistant landscape, visit the water-wise plant guide by Colorado Springs Utilities. You can check the habitat status to see if the plant is a Colorado native. 

Cost: Expect to pay between $5 and $10 per native flower, $20 to $100 per native shrub, and $60 to $800 per native tree. Price will depend on the plant’s size, species, and availability. 

3. Rock garden

Dragonhunter | Pixabay

Rocks are your best friend when it comes to designing your drought-resistant landscape. They don’t require any water, you can arrange them in various ways, and they’re easy on the eyes. 

If you’ve got the right rocks on hand, why not emphasize them in a rock garden? Rock gardens are a great way to show off your favorite boulders or smooth river rocks. You can accentuate the rocks with drought-resistant plants, mulch, garden ornaments, or small water features. 

Cost: Installing a rock garden can cost between $400 and $1,000. You can lower the price by finding the rocks yourself and creating a DIY project. Remember to transport heavy rocks with care. 

4. Drip irrigation

If you water your gardens with a sprinkler (or garden hose), the chances are good that you’re losing water in the process. Sprinklers are only 65% to 75% efficient at allowing plants to use the water applied, whereas drip irrigation is 90% efficient. 

Drip irrigation is an irrigation system that slowly delivers small amounts of water directly to the plants’ roots. It’s often installed underground, but it can also rest above the soil’s surface. 

A drip irrigation system won’t lose nearly as much water to evaporation or erosion as a sprinkler or garden hose. 

Cost: Professionally installed drip irrigation generally costs between $1.50 and $4.75 per square foot. Installing a drip irrigation system in a 500-square-foot zone may cost between $750 and $2,375. A DIY installation kit can cost as little as $20, although this will vary depending on your project’s size.

5. Rain barrel station

The more irrigation water your drought-resistant landscape can save, the better –– even if that means harvesting water from the sky. Build a rain barrel station into our landscape design so you can put the next storm’s rainwater to good use. 

Get the most out of your rain barrel by installing it beneath a downspout. You may need to cut your downspout in half to fit the rain barrel snug.

How much water can a rain barrel collect? For every inch of rain that falls on one square foot of your roof, you can harvest 0.6 gallons of water. 

For example, if the roof section that drains into the barrel is 100 square feet in size, your rain barrel can collect up to 30 gallons of rainwater after a half-inch of rain. After 1 inch of rain, the barrel can collect up to 60 gallons of rainwater. 

Pro Tip: Your rain barrel needn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Disguise it with attractive rocks and plants to blend it with the surrounding landscape. 

Cost: A 50-gallon rain barrel typically costs between $100 and $140, depending on the barrel’s design and material. 

6. Mulch 

Mulching your planting beds is an excellent way to retain moisture in the soil. Otherwise, your plants may lose water through evaporation. 

Mulch has many other advantages. It can: 

  • Prevent soil erosion
  • Stabilize soil temperatures
  • Add beauty and texture to the landscape
  • Add nutrients to the soil (if organic)

Cost: Mulch typically costs $15.30 to $74.80 per cubic yard or $1.80 to $6.05 per bag. 

7. Rain garden

infographic explaining how a rain garden works

When the rain finally falls from the clouds, we want our landscape to drink up every drop of water. But sometimes, the rushing rainwater spills out of the yard and into storm drains before the soil has a chance to absorb the moisture. 

You can help keep rainwater in your Colorado landscape by building a drought-resistant rain garden. Rain gardens exist in small depressions and typically contain perennial native plants. The perennial plants have deep roots that trap and filter the rainwater. 

After a nourishing storm, your rain garden will get all the moisture it needs, whereas other gardens may lose water to runoff or erosion. The key to a successful rain garden in Colorado Springs is to use drought-resistant native plants. 

Pro Tip: When choosing your rain garden plants, ensure their light requirements are suitable for the garden’s location. Some plants prefer full sun while others grow better in part shade.

Cost: Installing a rain garden yourself may cost between $3 and $5 per square foot. If you’re hiring a professional, expect to pay between $10 and $20 per square foot

8. Downsize the lawn

Turf is lovely in the landscape, but it requires a lot of water to maintain. If you have a large lawn, downsizing it will help you achieve a more water-wise landscape. 

You can replace sections of the lawn with just about anything, including gardens and rocks. Other replacement options include hardscapes and drought-resistant ground covers

Hardscapes are non-living areas of the yard crafted by humans. They can be made with various elements, including brick, stone, cement, and wood. Examples of hardscapes include brick patios, stone walkways, or wood decks. Have some fun with your new hardscape and turn it into an outdoor living space.

Ground covers are low-growing plants that spread over the ground (yep, turf is a ground cover, too). Water-wise ground covers include Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’ and Heuchera sanguinea ‘Snow Angel.’

Pro Tip: If you decide to downsize the lawn with hardscapes, keep in mind that permeable hardscapes are more eco-friendly than impervious ones. Rainwater can seep through permeable hardscapes into the ground. Impervious hardscapes block the soil from absorbing the rainwater and contribute to rainwater runoff. 

Cost: Hardscaping prices vary depending on many factors, including the project’s size and the materials used. Pathways typically cost between $7 and $24 per square foot. A patio can range from $576 to $8,000 and a deck can range from $4,000 to $11,000

9. Artificial turf

If you want to enjoy the perks of a lawn but don’t want to maintain it, consider installing artificial turf. A traditional lawn needs lots of water to survive, but an artificial lawn doesn’t need a drop. 

And unlike traditional turf, artificial turf requires zeros pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides. It’s mostly made of plastic, so once you install it, you can forget about lawn care. You don’t even have to mow it. 

Cost: Professional installation of artificial grass costs between $5 to $19 per square foot

Why practice drought-resistant landscaping?

Colorado Springs is no stranger to drought. When rain levels are low, we nurture our lawns and gardens with the local water supply. But an increased reliance on local freshwater may lead to water shortages and other problems.  

But with so much water covering the Earth, isn’t our water supply nearly infinite? Not exactly. Water conservation is necessary and here’s why: 

  • Although water covers 71% of the Earth, only 2.5% of water is freshwater. And a majority of total freshwater (about 68.7%) is trapped in glaciers and ice caps. 
  • Saltwater can be turned into freshwater, but this is not a sustainable solution. Turning saltwater into freshwater requires energy, exacerbates climate change, and is often unaffordable for communities that need freshwater the most. 
  • Conserving water also conserves energy. Why? Because it takes energy to move and pump water out of a sprinkler or garden hose. 
  • The Earth’s population is growing, which means less freshwater will be available in the future. 
  • Water conservation supports communities. Firefighters, hospitals, and restaurants need large amounts of water to serve the community. If your local water source is experiencing a shortage, this may prove detrimental. 

When you have a drought-resistant landscape, you won’t need to rely so much on the local water supply during a drought. And when it does finally rain, the landscape can put that rain to good use without wasting precious water. 

Pro Tip: Need to know Colorado Springs’ current drought status? You can find out here

FAQ about drought-resistant landscaping

1. What are the irrigation regulations in Colorado Springs?

Water-wise rules in Colorado Springs help keep every community member responsible for their water use. After all, the amount of water you use to irrigate your landscape affects the whole community. 

These six water-wise rules by Colorado Springs Utilities help conserve water and prevent runoff:  
You may water up to three days a week. You can choose which days. 
From May 1 to Oct. 15, water before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. This watering schedule helps reduce evaporation.
Don’t allow water to pool on hard surfaces (like a driveway or patio) or flow down gutters.
Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
When washing anything with a hose, you must use a shut-off nozzle.  
Wash hard surfaces with water only if there is a public health and safety concern.

2. How can I safely plant cacti in my xeriscape?

Getting pricked by a cactus takes all the fun out of building a drought-resistant landscape. Wear a thick pair of gardening gloves and wrap a piece of flat cardboard around the cactus. Holding the cactus and the cardboard steady, drop the root ball into the ground. 

Need a visual guide? Check out this handy video from This Old House. 

3. How can I make my drought-resistant landscape fire-safe?

Dry conditions will make your Colorado home vulnerable to wildfires. When designing your drought-resistant landscape, you might find it helpful to refer to our fire-resistant landscaping guide. 

4. What is the difference between a drought-resistant and drought-tolerant plant?

In the context of landscapes and plants, the terms drought-resistant and drought-tolerant are often used interchangeably, but they mean different things. 

Drought-resistant plants can survive without water for long periods. On the other hand, drought-tolerant plants can survive with minimal water for shorter periods. 

Need a helping hand?

Artificial turf is an excellent option for homeowners who enjoy a carpeted landscape without the maintenance of real grass. But what if you want to enjoy traditional turf without the hassle? Hire a local lawn care professional who can cross the yard chores of your to-do list. 

From cutting the grass to edging the planting beds, there’s plenty of lawn work to distract you from building your drought-resistant landscape. Help is on the way when you hire a lawn pro. 

Main Photo Credit: InTouchPhotography | Pixabay

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.