New User and Questions about Multiple Vegetation Types/Lengthy Times

I just purchased an 8-zone Gen 2/installed it and I have a few questions. I’ve been reading countless threads trying to find answers for my issues below but have come up dry.

I have multiple zones that have a mix of rotors and sprayers and mixed vegetation type. I’m hesitant to move forward with the flexible weekly schedule because it’s recommending the times shown in the screenshot below. Any advice? I’ve looked through a decent amount of threads and support articles but can’t seem to find one that mentions mixed vegetation type. All of my grass is St. Augustine. Soil type is loam and clay I believe.

For instance, Zone 1 is mostly grass but has 3 trees in the middle of a 10ft diameter mulched garden with Begonias and Impatiens. 6 rotors at 5GPM and 1 spray head.

Likewise, Zone 3 is mostly grass but has a large kidney-shaped garden with large Texas sage bushes, 2 mature 7ft rose bushes, and a young rose bush. 4 rotors at 4 GPM and 3 spray heads.

Zone 2 is all sprayers but is half garden and half grass in two separate areas. The garden contains a long strip of boxwoods and 8 ligustrums. All spray heads.

Zone 4 is a flower bed with ligustrums, laurel pedulum, petunias, variegated gingers, foxtail ferns, and an oak tree. All spray heads.

Zone 5 is all grass and all 4.0 GPM rotors

Zone 6 and Zone 7 are all grass on a slight slope and all spray heads.

I have a total of 68 sprinkler heads over the 7 zones (I didn’t install, they came with the house).

Any suggestions on what I should look at changing?

Best Regards,


Here are thoughts.

  1. Since your irrigation system is not hydrozoned, you must water to the plants with the highest water requirement. For zones with impatiens and begonia and impatiens, set those zones to annuals.
  2. Where you have a mix of rotors and sprays, remove the spray nozxles and replace with Hunter MP Rotators or Rain Bird rotary nozzles. They have a similar output as rotors. Create a custom nozzle for rotors and give it a .6 inch/hour precipitation rate. It is a no-no to mix sprays and rotors.
  3. Next season plant annuals or perennials with a lower water requirement. Then, you can set those zones to turf.

When i have more time, i will give more tips. Buy the nozzles at an irrigation supply house. Most sell retail. These distributors will usually give good recommendations.

1 Like

For the zone with sage and rose, set that zone for rotors. However, do not use the default rotor setting. Rachio has 1 inch per hour. That is too high. Use a custom rotor setting of .5 inch per hour.

1 Like

Thank you @robertokc! That’s awesome insight. Truly, thank you.

I had a feeling it wasn’t the greatest idea to mix rotors and sprayers. I ran the system with a fixed day schedule last night just for the sake of figuring it out and there was definitely some excessive watering. The backyard had some standing water at the bottom of it and I was pretty shocked at the estimated 728 gallons of water used but that may be due to my ignorance of how much is used.

Here are the watering times recommended by the Rachio fixed day schedule I used:

Here’s a map of our lot and here are some pictures of it.
Black raindrops signify rotors. All other colors are variants of VAN nozzles based on color/range of nozzle.

Ignore the overspray on the fence. I plan on adjusting that when I get home today. Zone 1 has the mailbox in it and the 1 sprayer in that zone is at the corner of the driveway and mailbox. As you can see by the backyard, the installation of 2 zones parallel to each other the whole length of it, is pretty unnecessary. My guess is that the owner that installed it originally planned to plant a flower bed along the fence and installed pop-up spray heads until they got around to doing so.

The 3 blue rain drops in the bottom left corner of the map are sprays in Zone 3 that also has 4 rotors. I’ll drop by SiteOne tomorrow and pick up som Hunter MP Rotators.

Best Regards,


1 Like

Beautiful yard! Is this Houston?
I would remove all those VAN nozzles in the rotor zones. Did you know those nozzles apply up to 4 inches per hour, depending on the radius? Replace with Rain Bird rotary nozzles or MP Rotators.
Do you have VAN nozzles everywhere else in your yard? If you do and you need adjustable nozzles replace those with Rain Bird HE-VAN nozzles, high efficiency adjustable nozzles that use 35 percent less than standard VAN nozzles.


Thank you! Yes, in NW Houston. Wow! 4 inches per hour? I wish that Rachio allowed you to tell each zone how many nozzles are in it and which type are which within a zone. I was thinking about buying some of the HE nozzles but wasn’t sure if that would negatively affect the rest of the zone. I just purchased 7 spare VAN nozzles of varying types to replace some of the existing ones. Should I exchange them for HE? Is it okay to mix rotating heads and fixed/variable sprays? I would assume it wouldn’t be given that each zone asks you to specific which type is most prominent. It seems odd that the rotor zones suggest watering for such long times. Don’t those put down more water than the sprays?

I have VAN nozzles in most other areas of the yard. The ones along the fence in the backyard are 6-VAN at the ends and 15CST. The ones along the deck and backyard along the house are mostly 8H or 10H. I can update the map with labels later today.

Here’s a picture of the corner garden with the 5.5ft Texas sage.

Best Regards,


Also, I’m not sure how to properly configure the advanced settings. Should the defaults be tweaked?

Here’s the watering schedule as recommended by the app after setting the custom nozzle to .5 for zone 3 like you suggested.

I apologize for the barrage of questions. :sweat_smile:

Best Regards,



I replaced the 3, 10-VAN spray nozzles in Zone 3 with Hunter MP1000-90 and I replaced the 15-VAN in Zone 1 with a Hunter MP2000-90. Thanks for the tip!

When you get a chance, I’d love to get your thoughts on the updated run times! Eventually, I’ll have to split Zone 2 into 2 separate zones so I don’t have grass and a garden on the same zone.

Best Regards,


1 Like

Hey @Philmographer!

I would probably say stay away from the advanced settings for now, but curious to hear what @robertokc has to say. Your times seem reasonable, it’s a little trickier with the mixed vegetation like Robert mentioned. How were you watering previously? We don’t want to shock your system too much. Is this a pretty radical change from before, or not too bad?

McKynzee :rachio:

These run times look reasonable, but with the common gumbo clay around Houston you will have standing water and runoff. There are a lot of issues in your yard, but the plants in your yard with the highest water needs are St. Augustinegrass, begonias and impatiens. If you do a flex advanced cycle, turn off cycle and soak. Otherwise you will be cycling and soaking all day. Clay soil has an intake rate of 1/10th inch per hour. I hope this helps.

Hi McKynzee,

Good to know. The only setting I felt remotely confident changing was the sq ft. but I’ll hold off on that too. I can see where even a smaller home might use more than 8 zones if separating by vegetation type. Pretty crazy.

For a while, I was watering for 3 minutes per most zones every other night and sometimes nightly. However, I realize that isn’t necessarily the best practice to grow deep roots. My initial thought behind doing this was to bring back a number of Ligustrums that were hit hard in a freeze this winter. We also planted 4 new Ligustrums and I was a complete noob to Sprinkler systems…not that I’m by any means an expert now. :slight_smile: I’ve learned a lot but am excited to learn more.

I’ve slowly adjusted my watering over the past few months to be longer times less frequently. Before switching to Rachio, I was watering each zone around 10 minutes or more every couple of days.

What are your thoughts?

Best Regards,


Hey Robertokc,

Thanks for the reply! Good to know about the clay. I’ve been researching the soil types and trying to adjust accordingly. From what I’ve observed, the only area where water accumulates with the most recent watering schedule is at the bottom of the slight slope in the back yard zone 7. Unfortunately, that same spot doesn’t have grass because the dogs tear it up running back and forth. :frowning:

Based on the feedback you gave previously, I’ve been checking the zones after each watering and the MP Rotators have been working great! I also switched a few VAN nozzles to HE-VAN nozzles.

Given what you know about my yard, do you think it’s better to just stick with fixed interval? Plus, I don’t know enough to make accurate decisions about crop coefficient, allowed depletion, and efficiency. Thanks for the advice on the gumbo clay and turning off cycle and soak if I were to use a flex advanced cycle. I

If you have any recommendations on what I should plant instead of what’s shown in the picture below, I’d love the suggestions!

How do you account for a tree or trees in a zone that has St. Augustine and flowers?

I truly appreciate your time and expertise in helping me improve my yard and gardening abilities.

Best Regards,


1 Like

From your pic, the tree looks like a crepe myrtle. In my experience they are very hardy on their own. When I lived in Northern Virginia I had two that I never watered and they did great. Now I live in Charlotte, NC, and I have two about the size of yours that also get no added water, only what nature gives them. And they also are doing great. So you may not need to worry about the crepe myrtle.

1 Like

Hello Phil,
Yes, for now i suggest you stick with the fixed interval. I am glad things are better in your irrigation system.

As far as plants to consider, check out this A&M extension website:

You are so lucky to be able to have so many plant choices. I would plant two more crepe myrtles. “Three of a kind make a line of design.” The Houzz app can give you some great ideas on landscape design. Look around your area during July and August to see the plants that thrive.

1 Like

If a zone has St Augustine and flowers, i would mulch the flowers and concentrate on the grass. I have given up on impatiens and switched to sunpatiens. I like them so much more. Supplement with hand watering.

Hi Linn,

Thanks for the reply! I hadn’t really thought of the Crepe Myrtle. I was referring to the oak tree in that zone but you’re right, the Crepe Myrtle doesn’t take much of anything to thrive and has come back beautifully after the freeze. Here’s a picture of our garden when we moved in and a picture of it after the freeze. Lost some good plants but also killed off a lot of unwanted overgrowth.

Move in:

After the freeze and cutting back plants by the lawn man:

Best Regards,


1 Like

Hey Robert!

Thanks! That’s a nice rhyme to remember! I’ve seen that app but haven’t used it. I’ll have to check it out! Thanks for the link too!

I’ll make note of plants that do well in our area over the next two months. I have a friend at a nearby mall that works in Operations. Recently, I asked him what they do with all the plants they remove when they plant new ones. He said they toss them out. I wasn’t surprised but I asked if it’d be possible to pick up some of them next time they change them and he said yes. This includes 2ft Begonias, various types of ferns, and a number of other plants.

With Zone 2, it has the flagstone walkway with a Boxwood hedge and a row of 7 Ligustrums (3 old and healthy, 3 new and healthy, 2 old and coming back to life). Unfortunately, it also has an equally sized area of St. Augustine behind the fence. Will watering to the needs of the St. Augustine negatively impact the needs of the Ligustrums? There is a lot of unused area between the flagstones and the Ligustrums that we’d love to do something with but haven’t done much research into it yet. I’m sure the link you provided will help out with that too.

When Rachio refers to a zone with a tree, I gather it isn’t necessarily referring to a mature oak or elm. Is that correct?

Best Regards,


I don’t think you have a choice but to water to the needs of St. Augustine. The ligustrums have a much deeper root depth, and with the average rainfall of Houston those shrubs will ve happy.

So all you grass and plants are watered off a the sprinkler system? No drip?

Good to know. I was leveling a few heads this afternoon and thought it’d be a good idea to take a few pictures of the dirt. What’s crazy to me is the dirt was bone dry. This was a sprinkler head along the back fence of the backyard.

This is Zone 7 and this particular area gets trampled on by the dogs all the time. The soil shown in this picture is the same as the majority of the rest of the yard. The flower beds get a little darker and less clay for the first 3-4 inches. Would you classify this as gumbo clay?

Thanks for the advice!

Best Regards,