Rental properties must look nice and be inviting to current and potential residents. Of course, that means landscape designs must be attractive, well planned, and well-maintained. This draws those who might wish to make the property home. Update the outdoors with new, attractive plantings that catch attention, making it something that people will remember.

Updating the Landscape

The weather and climate in Bexar County are perfect for installing a desert landscape design. This design sets the mood of the property, adding excellent curb appeal and drawing the eyes of potential residents. Little care is required to keep the landscape looking its best once it is established. Low maintenance design is important to always busy property managers in Bexar County, saving time and consequently money.

Desert landscaping may include removal of the lawn or use of an area where the grass was planted and did not survive. This landscape design will likely include rocks, ornamental grasses, succulents, and pavement. One scenario may include mounding clumps of ornamental grasses surrounded by gravel. No need to mow grass here.

Native Plants and Trees

Native plants are most appropriate for a low-maintenance, water-wise landscape. There are a wealth of attractive specimens from which to choose in this group of plants. If you wish to include trees in your design, there are numerous maple varieties, Texas red oak, cedar elm, and the flowering dogwood, with springtime blooms that are always a welcome sight. Many trees are available for planting here.

This type of design is also known as Xeriscape. Using the right plants and their proper placement in the landscape can reduce water usage by 50% and sometimes as much as 75%. This design means much less work for those who care for the landscape, possibly allowing more time to concentrate on other repairs and upkeep of the properties.

Ask the Professionals

Perhaps it is prudent to hire a professional landscape company for the design, installation, and maintenance of the Xeriscape. Unless there is someone on the payroll who is experienced with design and installation, the professionals are most likely the best choice to install the landscape and, in the long run, the most cost effective. Take a look at previous work and check references for the quality of plants, planting, maintenance and hardscape features. Most landscapers have a website that includes a portfolio of past work.

Get the Soil Ready

Healthy plants are a must for a long-lasting desert design in the landscape. To keep the plants healthy, the soil will likely need amendments before it is ready for planting. The landscape professional will be familiar with local soils and can explain what is necessary for each property.

While native plants can often survive in existing soil, adding organic material to the area increases the size and allows those that bloom to do so sooner and more abundantly with blossoms that last longer. Good soil helps plants absorb water better and more quickly, another water-wise move.

Plan for the use of the area ahead of time and before any consultations. Often installation of hardscape features and pavement come before the plants. Will it be an outdoor dining area where residents can use a grill and enjoy a meal outside? If so, picnic tables with benches or other seating would be appropriate, and of course, add some grills.

Maybe there will be a play area for children of residents or visiting grandchildren. Install a wooden swing set or some sturdy slides. Or the new outdoor design might include shady spots so residents can read or just sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. These are questions to ask and perhaps present to property owners or the board who controls such improvements.


Mulch is an easy and inexpensive way to add continuity to outdoor designs. Use a bark or straw based mulch that breaks down to nourish your new plants. Mulch helps retain water in the soil and keeps plant roots cool. Cool roots benefit many plants, such as Oriental and Asiatic lilies.

Do not allow anyone to put down plastic mulch. Further, do not allow anyone to use the technique of volcano mulching where mulch is piled high against tree trunks or plant stems. Plants and trees are alive and as such need air circulating to the roots, provided by a space between the tree and the mulch.

Mulch also should not be piled up against the buildings’ foundation. Apply mulch as needed to keep a fresh look to the landscape. You will surely be able to afford it with the money you are saving on water and manpower.

Take Advantage of Local Resources

The Native Plant Society of Texas, San Antonio is an excellent source of information on native plants of the area. Become familiar with some of the plants, list the ones that are possibilities and prepare for the initial meeting with the professional landscaper.

The more information retained by the property manager, the better to communicate desires and wishes for the new Xeriscape (sp is correct). The Bexar County Master Gardeners have a booklet, ‘Xeriscape Conversion Guide’ that might be helpful.

Keep in mind that a drought tolerant landscape needs care until plants become established, which may take the better part of a season. If planting in spring, provide water and in some cases fertilizer throughout the summer to have the healthiest plants possible. A water-wise landscape looks best in the long term if plants are well established in the beginning.