Thursday, February 17, 2011

Selecting Low-Maintenance Plants

Are you aware of a recognized standard that identifies "low-maintenance/indigenous" plantings for sustainable landscaping in different geographies?

I don’t know of any guide that identifies native / adapted vegetation (low-maintenance) for the entire US and was always at a loss when asked by a design team. Plant selection changes a lot based on region and even local microclimate. For the most part, anything local is always a safe bet. For adapted plants, you want something that doesn’t require much water, fertilizer, or maintenance and won’t get out of control. The general rule is also to avoid turf grass as much as possible and use lots of mulch. If you are putting the landscaping out to bid, you could include a performance requirement that says plants must be native to the area or require minimal maintenance, etc. The attached documents might help you define xeriscaping or a process each site should employ when selecting plants. For example, you could emphasize the 7 principles found here:

This site is supposed to let you select water efficient plants, but I can’t get it to work:

There are a few good sites for specific regions. For example:
Austin, TX:

You might also want to check out one of these books:
“Landscape Plants for Western Regions: An Illustrated Guide to Plants for Water Conservation”
“Waterwise Landscaping with Trees, Shrubs, and Vines: A Xeriscape Guide for the Rocky Mountain Region, California, and the Desert Southwest”
“Plants for Natural Gardens: Southwestern Native & Adaptive Trees, Shrubs, Wildflowers & Grasses”

A good landscaper should be able to help you define this for your site (as should a good nursery):

Association of Professional Landscape Designers:

American Society of Landscape Architects:

I hope this helps and good luck,


  1. I am planning on taking the LEED Certification for exam. Can anyone recommend a site that specializes in LEED Certification information, exam study guides, and related material?

  2. This may be too late, but I had put together this site a s a free way to study: Haven't really updated it for the new exam.

    The company I work for now (Jones Lang LaSalle) recommends for their employees for study guides, sample exams, flash cards, etc.

    I've found the study material put out by the USGBC as more than sufficient to pass the exam if you go through it all. They don't offer flash cards and sample tests though.

    Hope this helps.