University of Wyoming Extension News

UW Extension offers resources, advice for creating water-wise landscapes during drought

Creeping penstemon

Ways to water more efficiently and plants in landscapes and gardens that weather and even flourish during drought are described in resources from the University of Wyoming Extension.

Last year’s record moisture amounts and this year’s drought may have homeowners considering switching plants.

“We never know what weather we will have to deal with in any season of the year in Wyoming,” said Donna Cuin, horticulturist in the UW Extension office in Natrona County. “We do know that our average precipitation is less than 15 inches in most places around the state and having a high water-consuming landscape means watering the plants with supplemental methods.”

Those could include using water from garden hoses or irrigation systems, which can be inefficient and expensive, she said.

The Barnyards & Backyards website includes resources that can help landowners design more water-efficient landscaping and choose plants that will grow better in Wyoming’s climate and conditions.

Go to and click on Resources then Landscaping; scroll down to the Water-wise Plantings section, which includes publications like:

·      Landscaping: Water-Wise Wyoming Gardens, by UW Horticulturist Karen Panter

·      The Right Plants in the Right Place from the Barnyards & Backyards Wyoming Rural Living Resources guide section

·      Laramie’s Water-wise Demonstration Garden booklet

·      WyoScape Xeric Demonstration Garden Guide

“The plants covered in these last two publications are suitable for most of the state,” said Cuin. “Note that these are large files due to the informative color photographs of each plant.”

Cuin recommends starting a new landscape slowly and replacing only plants that struggled or died in the heat of summer with plants that are known to handle drought conditions.

“If we get that record-high precipitation next year, the plants will be extremely showy even as they are establishing,” she said. “Then, begin to add plants to that area with similar needs so that the plants all have the similar care and resources they need and benefit from.”

The Barnyards & Backyards site contains other articles, publications and videos for Wyoming homeowners.

“However you decide to renovate your landscape, bear in mind you’ll need to water the new plants well for the first year or two until they are established,” said Cuin.

Cuin said communities across the state also offer many different sources for plants, including locally owned nurseries and greenhouses.

“They can often provide water-wise plants and will order for you if they aren’t already in inventory but ordering earlier in the season may accommodate this request a little easier,” she said. “Large box store garden centers also have water-wise plants available – you just have to do a little research in our suggested resources ahead of shopping and know what to look for.”