Xeriscape gardening and House Bill 22-1151

By Mary Harris

Gardening is a personal passion of mine. As a sign business owner, I have a special interest in the way monument signs are landscaped. It has been a long-time pet peeve of mine when the wrong plants are placed in front of signage. Planting that are too tall at maturity can block your beautiful (and sometimes costly) monuments. That’s just one factor to consider. Our dwindling water supply is another. As of August 2021, 99 percent of the United States west of the Rockies is in drought, as severe a measurement as any in the historical record. The Denver metro area is in slightly better shape, but still has troubling drought concerns.

The term Xeriscaping first began appearing in landscaping circles in the early 1980s around Denver when the area was experiencing a severe drought and water was being rationed. The idea revolved around using as little water as possible and still maintain interesting and attractive landscapes. Fast forward to 2022. In early February of this year, the bi-partisan bill HB 22-1151 was introduced to the Colorado State House that would create a fund to pay residents statewide to tear out their lawns and replace it with more drought-friendly, also known as xeriscape alternatives.

Common area landscaping is expensive to maintain. Plant, weed, feed, water, mow repeat. Let’s focus on the cost of irrigation. Across the Denver metro area, water bills are getting larger and larger. As a resident of Castle Rock, I’ve seen the water rates climb year after year. Here are the average percent of usage that Castle Rock Water attributes to each resident:

• 54% outdoor use
• 13% toilets
• 10% clothes washer
• 10% showers
• 7% faucets
• 5% leaks
• 1% dishwasher and cleaning

Just imaging the impact it would have if you could reduce the outdoor water usage in your community by 10, 20, or even 50%! Less water (and water bill) and less maintenance. That, itself, is a big win. Add in the aforementioned bill, and now you have a win-win scenario! The bill would be just what a community would need for motivation to ditch the grass and plant water friendly, low maintenance foliage. Although the bill does not outline how it would disburse the funds, be it a one-time payment or tax credit, or an ongoing, yearly incentive, in my opinion, any financial help would be well received.

Some might imagine a xeriscape garden as a harsh, rock laden, cacti profuse desert island, but it doesn’t have to be. Xeriscape landscapes can be eye-popping beautiful! Trees, bushes, and perennials all have species that are considered xeriscape friendly. The right combination of height, color, and bloom time can offer a lush and appealing backdrop to any community.

We have compiled an extensive list of water-wise, xeriscape plants. The plants on our list are zone 5 or lower (Metro Denver is zone 5 on average). This means that the plants should be able to withstand the average weather conditions in our area. Other factors can influence the zone. The amount of sunlight the area receives and the close proximity to surrounding buildings or man-made structures such as monument signs to name a couple. I suggest consulting a horticulturist about what is best for your area before embarking on your project.  We have also included vital information such as color and plant height at maturity. Additionally, we have noted bloom time; spring, summer or fall and any special features such as Hummingbird friendly, deer resistant, etc. To download this list click here.

Here are some additional helpful attachments to aid in your upcoming xeriscape projects. Happy planting!

Colorado HB 22-1151


Colorado State University xeriscape Tree and Shrub listing


Colorado State University xeriscape ground cover listing


Colorado Native Plant Society Low-Water Plant Listing