Gainan's Flowers & Garden Center

Gainan's Flowers & Garden Center

Posted by gainans on April 18, 2009 | Last Updated: September 29, 2020 Gardening Today

Water-Wise Gardening

Native landscaping is a great way to reduce water use and to promote an eco-friendly garden! Xeriscape your yard today!

The word Xeriscape is derived from the Greek word “xeros” meaning “dry”. In many parts of the West, rainfall is scarce. In Billings, we average approximately 10-12 inches of moisture a year. This classifies us as a semi-arid to an arid desert climate. It is time we began educating ourselves on how to be efficient water-wise gardeners. With over half of all home water consumption is used on our lawns, plants, and trees, it’s time to rethink your yard.

For more plant tips, check out our other guides, or stop by the garden center.

6 simple steps that can help with water conservation

  1. Plan and design comprehensively. Really think about your future needs.
  2. Improve your soil with compost and organic matter to assist with moisture retention.
  3. Reduce the size of your lawn area.
  4. Plan ahead and group plants with similar water requirements together.
  5. Irrigate efficiently. Set sprinkler heads to ensure water goes to plants and lawn only.
  6. Use 2-3” of bark or rock mulch along with landscape fabric underneath the mulch to slow water evaporation. Use caution with rocks as they can absorb and reflect heat.

Water Management Tips

Remember the frequency of irrigation is dependent on the moisture requirements of the plants and the water holding capacity of the soil. Monitoring soil moisture to determine when to irrigate is far better than using a pre-set schedule. Soil water holding capacity varies due to soil types, the amount of organic matter that has been worked into the soil, and climatic changes such as wind, sun, and cloud cover. Improper water use and poor irrigation scheduling waste millions of gallons a year.

  1. Use mulches around all plantings to a depth of 2-3”.
  2. Thoroughly wet soils to the depth of the root systems. Use the top growth as a measurement to water the same area underneath.
  3. Sprinklers, soaker hoses, and drip irrigation are more efficient than flood irrigating.
  4. Prioritize which area needs water the most in severe drought or during water restrictions. Ex: vegetable gardens vs an established perennial garden.

Soil and its water holding capacity

  1. Soils with slow penetration can only take brief watering, otherwise, run-off occurs.
  2. Sandy soils dry out faster and hold less water.
  3. Don’t apply water faster than the soil can absorb.

How can I measure the amount of water applied?

It’s simple. Just use a spade to turn up a soil sample and check the amount of moisture present.

Shrubs, trees, perennials, and annuals with low water requirements

When we think desert or drought-tolerant sometimes all we can envision is cactus and yuccas. Not so. Here are some of my personal favorites. Experiment and enjoy while benefiting from the rewards of water-wise gardening.


  • Amelanchier – Juneberries
  • Caragana – Peashrub
  • Caryopteris – Blue mist spirea
  • Cercocarpus montanus – little leaf mountain mahogany
  • Diervillea – Bush honeysuckle
  • Eleagnus – Russian Olive
  • Euonymus – Burning bush
  • Hippophae – Sea Buckthorn
  • Juniperus – Columnar and spreading junipers
  • Lonicera – Honeysuckle all varieties
  • Prunus – All varieties

From trees to shrubs

  • Amur chokecherry
  • Chokecherry
  • Princeses Kay plum
  • American plum
  • Sour cherry
  • Sandcherry
  • Flowering Almond
  • Rhus – All varieties of Sumac.
  • Rosa rugosa – groundcover shrub roses
  • Shepherdia – Buffaloberry
  • Syringa – All lilacs
  • Viburnum – Wayfaring tree.


  • Alliums – All varieties
  • Achillea – Yarrow all varieties
  • Aurinia – Basket of gold allysum
  • Arabis – white rockcress.
  • Armeria – Sea thrift
  • Artemesia – All varieties
  • Cerastium – Snow in the summer
  • Coreopsis – Threadleaf varietiescoreopsis
  • Coronilla – Crown vetch groundcover
  • Centranthus – Valerian
  • Chives – chives
  • Chrysothamnus – Rabbitbrush
  • Dianthus – all varieties
  • Echinacea – coneflower
  • Euphorbia – euphorbia
  • Gaillardia – blanketflower
  • Geranium – groundcover varieties
  • Gypsophilia – all varieties of baby’s breath
  • Helianthemum – Rockrose
  • Holodiscus – Ocean spray
  • Iris – german/bearded iris
  • Limonium – statice
  • Linum – Blue flax
  • Lychnis – all varieties
  • Origanum – oregano
  • Oenethera – evening primrose
  • Papaver – poppies
  • Penstemon – all varieties
  • Perovskia – Russian sage
  • Salvias – Meadowsage and edible sages
  • Sedum – all varieties
  • Stachys – Lambs ear
  • Thymus – all varieties (makes great small lawn substitute or between walkways)

Annuals: to add all summer color

  • African daisies
  • Amaranthus
  • Annual statices
  • Babys breath
  • Calendula
  • Calibrachoa – Million bells
  • Chrysanthemum multicaule
  • Dianthus – all varieties
  • Dusty miller – silver brocade
  • Gazania
  • Gomphrena
  • Helichrysum.
  • Herbs – most varieties
  • Papaver – California poppies
  • Petunia
  • Portulaca-moss roses

Ornamental Grasses: clump forming

  • Big blue stem
  • Blue fescue
  • Blue lyme
  • Blue oat.
  • Little blue stem
  • Praire dropseed

Prairieland grasses: or alternative ideas to the typical water-thirsty bluegrass lawns

  • Blue grama
  • Buffalograss
  • Crested wheat
  • Side oats gram
  • Try Nebraska Blend or Low Profile Prairie Mix
  • All of the above in mixes work the best for a dryland native grass look and these grasses can be mowed monthly.

Trees: typically trees will need more moisture

  • Amelanchier Autumn Brilliance
  • Amur maple
  • Ash
  • Catalpa.
  • Hawthorne
  • Hackberry
  • Pines.
  • Plum varieties
  • Russian olive
  • Catalpa
  • Hawthorn
  • Hackberry
  • Pines
  • Plum varieties
  • Russian Olive


  • American Bittersweet
  • Silver Lace Vine
  • Dropmore Honeysuckle
  • Virginia Creeper

For more plant tips, check out our other guides, or stop by the garden center.