Plant Selection for Water-Wise Shrub Beds

Appropriate plant selection for water-wise shrub beds can help reduce water needs in the landscape.

Shrubs can provide a more natural look, screen unsightly objects, create strong seasonal interest in the landscape, and provide a backdrop for showy perennials. Shrubs can also meet habitat and food requirements for a variety of wildlife species.

ground hugging and sprawling horizontal juniper plants
Horizontal juniper (Juniperis horizontalis). A low growing type good for use as a groundcover. Photo credit: Cass County
Juniper shrub growing over a fence
Juniper draped over a fence. Water-Wise junipers (Juniperis, spp.) are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and colors and are native to many parts of the world. Photo credit: Susan Buffler


a Rocky mountain juniper tree along a trail with two people standing next to the trail and underneath and to the side of the tree
Rocky Mountain juniper in its native landscape (Juniperis scopulorum). Photo credit: brewbooks Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0








  • Look for native or species adapted to the local climate, soil type, and sun exposure
  • Choose flowering and fruiting shrubs for seasonal interest and food for wildlife, if desired
  • Mix evergreens and deciduous shrubs to create interesting texture combinations, seasonal interest (color, texture, form), and wildlife habitat
  • Combine different size shrubs for visual interest
  • Perform a soil test to assess soil conditions such as type, drainage, and fertility
  • Apply enough water during the first two years to ensure strong root establishment
  • Choose shrubs that require 2 or fewer irrigations per month
  • Group shrubs with similar water needs together
  • Group plants in a bed to create a more natural look. This will reduce maintenance, water use and lawn area
  • Use appropriate spacing based on mature plant size. Some overlap can help create a more natural look
  • For a more formal look, create bold, symmetrical patterns by spacing shrubs farther apart to showcase shrub bed shape
  • Many shrubs can be clipped or trimmed to create interesting geometric or ‘neat’ shapes

Additional Resources:



Xeriscaping: Trees and Shrubs
Woody Plant Management During Drought with Limited Water Availability


Xeriscaping in the High Desert


Shrub Selection for Utah Landscapes
Water-Wise Plants for Utah
Designing Shrub Bed Areas



Selecting Shrubs



Shrubs for Texas

Additional Examples of Water-Wise Shrubs

A creeping shrub
A variety of cotoneaster (Cotoneaster species) cultivars are available at plant nurseries. Cotoneaster species are native to temperate Asia, Europe, N. Africa, China and Himalaya mountains. Photo credit: Leonora Enking Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Light purple lilac blossoms
Common lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are available in white and purple and are native to southern Europe. They are somewhat drought tolerant depending on where they are grown. Photo credit: Chris Devers Flickr CC  BY-NC-ND 2.0
Shrub with wispy blossoms
Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) is available in green or purple leaved types and is native from southern Europe to central China. Photo credit: Susan Buffler
Small shrub with yellow flowers
Rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosus) flowering in October.  Native to the Intermountain West U.S., this plant was formerly known as Chrysothamnus nauseosus. Photo credit: Susan Buffler
White flowering shrub
Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria millefolium) is native to the Intermountain West, U.S.  Photo credit: Colorado State University Extension