Indigenous Nursery News Blog

Drought tolerant landscaping & garden designs with indigenous plants

What is an Arid Garden?

An arid garden uses drought tolerant plants or desert plants when landscaping in an environment that receives very little rainfall, intense sunlight, and experiences fluctuating temperatures. Indigenous South African water wise plants lend themselves well to arid garden design.

Help your home garden adapt to Climate Change

It is a well-documented fact that 2016 saw global temperatures at their highest on record.

Future climate change predictions for South Africa include a temperature rise of 5 to 80C, with increased dry spell duration as well as increased intensity of rainfall events.

Along with increased costs of water this makes it a necessity to look at how one can help the garden to cope with a scarcity of water. This can be done very effectively through plant choice and water wise garden design.

How to plan a dry (arid) garden

This arid garden at Random Harvest Indigenous Plant Nursery inspires with interesting combinations of indigenous water wise plants that will keep looking good through long, hot periods without rain. A little water will keep it looking great, but it won’t need nearly as much as a regular garden.

Landscaping ideas using arid/desert plants

Landscaping ideas for an arid garden

The colours and shapes in the hard landscaping enhance the beauty of the indigenous plant species chosen for this garden.

Strong, straight lines and muted colours of the metal framework, corrugated iron, wood and cement paving used contrast with the organic plant shapes and accentuate them.

Garden designs and landscaping using succulents and indigenous plants

Gravel is included to give a textural contrast as well as creating surface area for rainwater to soak into the ground.

A small raised patio area gives horizontal interest as well as being strategically placed to borrow shade from the surrounding landscape.

The drought resistant plant palette

Landscaping using water wise plants

The South African indigenous plants used have been selected not only for their beauty, but also for their vigour, toughness and reliability despite unreliable water availability and fluctuating temperatures.

Indigenous succulents are ideal to use in a drought tolerant garden. They are generally neat, compact plants that do not drop lots of leaves. The foliage of many species provides permanent and striking colour in the garden. However, not all drought tolerant plants are succulents.

Most grasses and some bulbs, shrubs and trees are very well adapted to long dry, hot periods.

For smaller spaces such as an urban arid garden, we suggest choosing species that are less messy and are either slow growing or very easy to prune and keep in shape.

A list of the plants used in our inspirational arid garden is included below the labelled photograph.

Landscaping using water wise indigenous plants

Plants used in the Arid Garden at Random Harvest Indigenous Plant Nursery

  • Adenium multiflorum
  • Aloe arborescens “Orange”
  • Aloe brevifolia
  • Aloe perfoliata
  • Aristida congesta
  • Aristida junciformis
  • Boophone disticha
  • Bulbine abyssinica
  • Cenchrus cilliaris
  • Crassula capitella “Campfire”
  • Crassula muscosa
  • Crassula perforata
  • Crassula sarcocaulis
  • Crassula sarcocaulis subsp. fragilis
  • Crassula swaziensis
  • Ebracteola species “Pink”
  • Euphorbia mauritanica
  • Euphorbia prostrata
  • Euphorbia tirucalli “Firesticks”
  • Gasteria X Aloe hybrid
  • Kalanchoe sexangularis
  • Kalanchoe thyrsiflora
  • Kleinia fulgens
  • Kleinia galpinii
  • Malephora purpureo-crocea
  • Melinis repens
  • Othonna capensis
  • Senecio haworthii
  • Senecio rowleyanus
  • Senecio serpens
  • Sesamothamnus lugardii

Tips to get the best from a drought tolerant, arid garden

  • Do not irrigate as one would a regular garden. These plants will not do well with too much water.
  • Soil must drain well. Roots will rot with too much moisture around them.
  • The garden needs to receive min 5 hours of direct sunshine a day. If this is not possible, there are some arid species that will thrive in semi-shade. Ask our staff for some suggestions.
  • Contrast foliage colour and texture, whilst still taking into consideration mature height and similar requirements.
  • Some succulents will not turn the beautiful reds, oranges and pinks if they do not get enough sun and if they receive too much water.

Please see the following articles for further reading:

For more information about arid gardens, succulents or water wise indigenous plants, please contact us.


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