Xeriscape Gardening on a Slope


Starting a xeriscape garden is wonderful if you live in a arid to semi-arid climate, but it can also be a good option for gardening on a slope. Anyone who has experienced the frustration of trying to make things grow on a hill or a slope will most likely tell you there are ways it can be done. There are tips and tricks you can use to have beauty in even the most inhospitable areas.

Tools and Materials

  • 1, 2, 5 gallon buckets
  • Landscaping cinder blocks, timbers, bricks, or stones
  • Ornamental rocks
  • A list of native plants, flowers, shrubs, and grasses
  • General gardening tools

Step 1- Observe the Area and Choose the Best Solution

If you can, spend some time watching the area during the rainy season and discover where the natural flow of run-off goes. Use stakes or flags to mark the paths, because it is unlikely that you will remember their exact route come planting time. Also pay attention to where the gathering point of the water is at the end of the slope, because this will make a good spot for plants that like wetter conditions. You can also discover what part of the area has the most natural erosion, and plant things to reinforce the ground in those spots. Based on your specific slope, you can proceed with any of the following solutions.

Step 2- Stabilize the Area

Where the ground is eroding away due to water run-off, plant perennials that have deep root systems to help hold the ground in place. Ground cover with stems that spread can also work. For perennials that reseed each year, it is best to plant toward the top of the slope so that their seeds work their way down the hill. Some that work well are Sun Drops, Blue Flax, Prairie Coneflower, and Big Leaf Periwinkle. Shrubs that have deep root systems and work well on slopes include Apache Plume, Autumn Amber, and Select Spreader. Check to see which are native to your area and will have the best chance of success.

Step 3- Plant in the Zone

Plant near the run-off zones and in the water accumulation zone. This way you can water toward the top of the slope and know that your plants will get the moisture.

Step 4- Make Wells for Your Plants

If you cut the tops off of large circular containers, like 1, 2, and 5 gallon buckets, you can pushe them into the ground around your plants to create a well that will retain moisture longer and give the plants more time to gather water.

Step 5- Make Terraces

If you don't mind the work, you can terrace a slope. Good barriers include brick, treated lumber, stone, and landscaping cinder block. Once the barriers are in place, you can start moving dirt to a more level and workable angle.

Step 6- Make a Rock Garden

Create a rock garden using any variety of decorative rocks. You can plant numerous flowers, ground covers, shrubs, and ornamental grasses that do well in rock gardens. This works especially well on slopes that are already rocky.