As the saying goes, spring showers bring May flowers. In Colorado, we could add another line to that verse: Dry summer conditions bring water restrictions. Okay, I’m not a poet. I also don’t have a green thumb, which is one reason I’m a fan of X-rated landscaping. And, no, I’m not talking about risqué roses. This “X” rating refers to a plant’s ability to tolerate xeric, or dry habitat, conditions.
Colorado homeowners who want their flowers and other landscaping to survive the high desert and alpine summers—without breaking the bank on water costs—may consider Xeriscape options as part of their overall landscape plans. Colorado law ensures that homeowners who live in community associations can use drought-tolerant plants, including buffalo and blue grama grasses, in their landscaping. This does not mean that owners in HOAs can turn their yards into rock gardens. Xeriscaping is not "zero-scaping." It does mean that Colorado community associations cannot require owners to install landscaping that consists primarily of turf grass on their lots.

We’re in the season of landscape planning and planting, when community association architectural committees receive numerous requests for approvals from homeowners. Before tackling the seasonal landscape requests, association boards and architectural committees should see what type of X-rating their guidelines and practices receive. Associations can check their X-ratings in the following ways:

  • Determine whether landscape guidelines incorporate the controlling provisions of Colorado statutes pertaining to drought-tolerant landscaping.
  • Remove or revise any landscape guidelines that contain more restrictive requirements than what the statutes permit.
  • Work with a landscape architect to include plants and sample design plans in the landscape guidelines to encourage owners to Xeriscape.
  • Consider incorporating Xeriscape into common area landscaping as a means of reducing community water usage.

If your association would like a review of its landscape guidelines to ensure compliance with Colorado statutes that allow drought-tolerant plants, contact one of our attorneys today.