Amy Tsuneyoshi
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Wednesday, June 21 marked this year’s summer solstice, the longest day, shortest night and the start of summer. Even though daylight hours are slowly decreasing, the temperatures will continue to remain high for months. The hot weather may cause your plants to droop more during the heat of the day and require additional irrigation unless you have a drought tolerant landscape. Xeriscape is a term first coined in Denver, Colorado in the early 1980s to promote water conservation when they were experiencing extreme drought conditions. The term combines “xeros,” Greek for dry and “scape” or scenery/landscape. Don’t be fooled by the name. This doesn’t mean landscaping with only cactus and rocks, rather it utilizes seven principles that will help reduce water needs in the landscape.

The following are the seven principles of xeriscaping:

  1. Planning and design: This is the foundation to a successful landscape! Know where your underground and overhead utilities are and plant accordingly.
  2. Soil improvement: Know your soil type and add organic matter to improve sandy or clayey soils.
  3. Plant selection: Plant the right plant in the right place. Know the growth form and mature size of the plant and their water/sun needs.
  4. Limited turf areas: Grass typically requires a lot of water to look nice.
  5. Mulch: This keeps the soil moist, minimizes evaporation, reduces weed growth and slows erosion. Be sure to leave space around the base of the plant.
  6. Efficient irrigation: Group plants by water requirements and water only as much as it needs. There are a variety of smart automatic irrigation methods to choose from (i.e., drip irrigation, bubblers, or sprinklers) and the use of rain barrel catchments can reduce the need for potable water.
  7. Good maintenance: A well-planned landscape will not require a lot of maintenance and resources, but some periodic general maintenance like pruning and weeding is still needed.
The Hālawa Xeriscape Garden walkway. (Photo by Amy Tsuneyoshi)
The Hālawa Xeriscape Garden walkway. (Photo by Amy Tsuneyoshi)

This concept made its way to Hawai‘i thanks to a handful of dedicated people that saw the need for water conservation in the landscape. They envisioned a demonstration garden for the public to learn how to reduce their outdoor water needs and the result was the Hālawa Xeriscape Garden. A plaque at the garden commemorates the people and companies that were instrumental to building the garden. To learn more about xeriscaping and the seven principles, you can visit the links below or go to the Hālawa Xeriscape Garden (99-1268 Iwaena St.) on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also, their annual “unthirsty” plant sale is resuming this year at the garden! The sale will be held on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023.



2023 Unthirsty Plant Sale Announcement:

O‘ahu Planting Guide:


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