WaterWise Landscaping

Last Modified: February 26, 2013

WaterWise landscaping is an approach to landscaping that uses small amounts of water while utilizing native and drought tolerant plants to create an aesthetic and traditional landscape.

WaterWise Landscaping is the art of growing drought-tolerant and native plants to utilize water more efficiently. This method generally requires less fertilizer and pest control measures than traditional landscapes. Because pesticides and fertilizers can inadvertently harm beneficial organisms, as well as impact air and water quality, reducing their use is a good idea.

Example at 310 West Martin Street

Finished Garden

Winner of the 2011 Environmental Awards for WaterWise Landscaping and the 2010 Sir Walter Raleigh's Site Enhancement Award, the Dillon Building's WaterWise Demonstration Garden is located at 310 West Martin Street. The garden was constructed on Saturday April 24th, 2010 with the support of more than twenty volunteers from the community, and City Departments.

Volunteers included several local and foreign youth (two came as far as the United Kingdom and Argentina), the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department, the Raleigh Public Utilities Department, and Raleigh's AmeriCorps VISTAs.

Within three hours, the group transformed the site by planting more than 50 drought-resistant trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, and succulents, representing 17 species total.

All of the plants in this garden are perennials, which can store water and nutrients in their roots, stems, and/or leaves from year to year. The plants include:

  • Houseleeks (Sempervivum spp.), which have thick leaves to retain water and allow the plant to survive during times of drought. Additionally, they use a form of photosynthesis that opens their stomata (pores in the leaves) only at night. This is beneficial because keeping the stomata closed during the day helps to reduce water loss.
  • Wildflowers including: 'Goldsturm' (Black-Eyed Susan), Sage, Catmint, Daisy, 'White' Stoke's Aster, 'Mesa Yellow' Blanket flower, Moss Phlox, 'Twilight' Purple Coneflower, 'Moonbeam' Coreopsis, and Yarrow. The wildflowers planted in this garden are mostly native to dry, open North Carolina meadows. Others are found in similar conditions in the western United States, Asia, and Europe. Some have extensive root systems that can reach moisture deep in the soil.
    'Dallas Blues' Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) uses a distinctive form of photosynthesis which absorbs more carbon dioxide, and loses less water, through openings in the leaf's surface.
  • Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa) has thick, leathery leaves, and a root system which can store additional moisture. In times of extreme drought, the plant can drop its leaves to survive.
  • Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), has waxy needles which help retain water. This small, slow-growing cultivar (DeGroot's Spire) makes effective use of the small amount of space and moisture available to it.

Funding for this project came through generous donations from City employees and an Earth Day bake sale held by Raleigh's AmeriCorps VISTAs. We thank everyone who contributed for your hard work, donations, and support.

Please take some time out of your week to walk past 310 West Martin Street and see the transformation first hand. Or schedule a guided tour by contacting the Public Utilities Department.

Take Action

Want to do your part by designing, installing, or converting your landscape to be low maintenance and water efficient? Learn how with this WaterWise Landscaping & Watering Guide or come see WaterWise Landscaping in action at our WaterWise Demonstration Garden.

Is your garden WaterWise? If so, send us pictures of your garden and you may find them appearing on our website! Or consider submitting your garden for the next year's Environmental Awards for WaterWise Landscaping.


  • Conserves water.
  • Provides lots of attractive planting options.
  • Presents minimal pest and disease problems.
  • Thrives with little fertilization.
  • Requires low pruning and maintenance.
  • Saves valuable landfill space.
  • Provides habitat and/or repellants for native fauna.

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