Maintaining Native Water-Wise Landscapes

January 23, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

  Prairie landscapes may need to be burned to maintain desired species mix.
Photo credit: lydanynom CC BY-NC_SA 2.0

Naturalistic native desert plantings reflect the surrounding desert landscape at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
Photo credit:  Susan Buffler

Native water wise landscapes include plants that have adapted over a long period of time to a local climate and conditions of the area or region where they will be used.  In other words, these plants were originally found growing in the landscape at the time of European settlement.  

Some of these plants may be adapted to very specialized locations with specific requirements for plant survival and growth. Other native plants may be broadly adapted to a larger region.  

In general, native landscapes require less maintenance than those using commonly introduced landscape plants.  Native turf grasses can replace areas of lawn that are not frequently used.

Advantages to Using Water Wise Native Plants

  • Have the ability to tolerate local soil conditions
  • Have the ability to tolerate local climate
  • Have fewer pest problems
  • Some species use little to no additional irrigation water
  • Need little or no additional fertilizer
  • Native shrubs and trees require little to no pruning
  • Saves money in the long term

Maintenance Tips for Water Wise Native Landscapes

  • Choose appropriate water wise plant species
  • Avoid species that tend to readily reseed or are aggressive
  • Use turf grasses for native low water plants that can be left un-mowed depending on the desired visual effect and use of the turf area
  • Provide extensive weed management for some native landscapes such as native prairies for effective establishment
  • Use mulch that can prevent annual weeds from germinating, and reduce evaporation from soil surfaces

Maintaining Native Prairie Landscapes


Iowa - References and Resources for Prairies and Native Plantings
Minnesota - Establishing and Maintaining a Prairie Garden
USDA NRCS - Native Grasses for Prairie Landscaping in the Northern Great Plain

Maintaining Native Desert Landscapes


Utah - Water-Wise Landscaping: Plant Maintenance

Maintaining Native Woodland Landscapes

Native woodland landscapes may be among the easiest native landscape to maintain. Occasional thinning and removal of dead tree branches and vines may be needed. Note, however, that dead material can provide nesting sites for birds and pollinator insects. Dead material also plays an important role in woodland nutrient cycling.

Additional Resources:


Oregon - Landscaping with Pacific Northwest Native Plants: Fact Sheets


New Hampshire - Landscaping Woodland Areas


Missouri - Low-Maintenance Landscaping


Tennessee - Planting and Maintaining Your Native Landscape
Low-Maintenance Landscape Plants for South Florida
Maintaining Your Florida Native Landscape

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.