Trees or shrubs? Flowers or grass? Here’s how to prioritize home irrigation during a drought

Photo courtesy of USU Extension, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —Due to drought conditions throughout the state, Gov. Spencer Cox recently issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for Utah. To date, 100% of Utah is in the moderate drought category, and 90% of the state is experiencing extreme drought.

To help home and business owners conserve water in the landscape, experts suggest waiting until daytime temperatures are consistently in the 70s before irrigating. Once it’s time to irrigate, consider these tips to help prioritize which plants to water first.

Priority one: Trees

Trees provide shade, help cool your home and produce oxygen. They are the most valuable plants in your landscape and should be at the top of your priority list for irrigation.

Priority two: Shrubs

Shrubs in your landscape filter dust and pollution from the air and help dampen traffic noise. They should be your second priority for irrigation.

This Show Off forsythia signals early spring for many with its showy, bright yellow flowers and slight fragrance, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of, St. George News

Priority three: Perennials

Over time, perennial plant roots help improve the soil in your landscape. Irrigate them after trees and shrubs.

Priority four: Annuals

Annuals provide pollen for bees and other pollinators as well as food for hummingbirds. They also add bright colors and interest to your landscape and should be your fourth priority for irrigation this year.

Priority five: Turfgrass

Of all the plants in your landscape, grasses are the toughest. They will enter dormancy during times of drought and high temperatures and recover when conditions improve. Grasses should be your lowest priority for irrigation during drought conditions.

Additional resources

USU Extension provides multiple resources to assist home and business owners, agricultural producers and others with water conservation. A new website with drought-related information can be found online.

Also available is the Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping website, which contains specific information on water-wise and native plants, sustainable turfgrass research, urban water conservation and water use and drought.

Written by KELLY KOPP, Utah State University Extension water conservation and turfgrass specialist.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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