Dangers of Excess Water on Xeric Landscapes

Over time, excess water on xeric landscapes can affect the health of drought tolerant plants.  It is estimated that up to 80% of plant death is due to over-watering. Symptoms of drought stress can be similar to those of overwatering.

Drought tolerant plants tend to reduce their growth under low water conditions. This may affect the aesthetics of the plant tricking homeowners into applying more water¬†than necessary in order to “correct” what is seen as symptoms of lack of water.

Garden with retaining walls and low water plants
This landscape includes retaining walls and a xeric (low water use) landscape. KnappLandscapeArchitecture

Soil Type Affects Soil Moisture Retention

Soil texture and structure influences water retention in the soil. Water wise plants in well drained soils will thrive but water logged soils limit oxygen to plant roots causing root death and eventual plant death. Soils high in clay retain the most moisture.

When to Water

  • Observe plants for water stress
  • Water plants when needed, not on a timer
Garden with a paved pathway, rocks, and trees
San Angelo xericscape. Thebikegarden.com

Symptoms of Overwatering Xeric Landscape Plants

  • Wilting leaves
  • Rotting at the base of the plant
  • Leaf drop
  • Chlorosis or yellowing of leaves on trees
  • Poor growth
  • Plants become floppy and fall over if over-watered

Note that all plants need more water during the first year or two of establishment. Xeric plants are no exception.

Additional Resources:


Colorado – Environmental Disorders of Woody Plants