Four winning plant strategies

OK, so we all know drought-tolerant plants are a sustainability winner. But do you know three other winners?  These four distinctive strategies combine to optimize plant types and quantities, setting the course for water efficiency:

  1. Drought-tolerant plants
  2. Plant placement
  3. Water/square foot
  4. Plant removal

It’s a mystery why only one of these four – drought-tolerant plants – is championed in printed, online, and professional resources. Especially when plant placement and water/square foot impact sustainability as much or more as drought-tolerant plants do, and plant removal‘s lesser impact multiplies over time. This post reveals the value of these untold consumption-fighting heroes.

Let’s first explore plant placement. Correlation between number of plants and amount of water is direct and inarguable. More plants = more water. Yet, time and again, homeowners, landscapers, and landscape architects plant too many plants too close together for their mature sizes. That wastes installation, maintenance, and water.

Next is water/square foot. This breakthrough metric takes into account both a plant’s water use and number of plants to fill an area. As detailed in Gauge water/square foot, an area with wide low-water-use plants consumes the least, and an area with a few wide regular-irrigation plants consumes less than it would with many narrow low-water users. Again, more plants = more water.

Finally, let’s consider plant removal. If a plant perpetually struggles, grows to encroach on others, or doesn’t serve a purpose (such as beauty, privacy, joy, birds, butterflies), move on and stop the flow. Save scarce water for worthy uses.

A garden is the sum of its parts, and water use is the sum of its plants. Perhaps that insight can help counter the allure of an instant garden, misleading initial plant sizes, inattention to the cumulative effect on consumption, and/or increased revenue from selling and installing more material.

The lesson learned is to ensure all four plant strategies guide design of new gardens or rework of old ones. Consumption will be the lesser for it.

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