Your home’s roof is one of its most important protections from the elements. It absorbs heat energy, keeps you and your family safe from inclement weather, and protects the contents of your home. Without it, your home would be unlivable. But wouldn’t it be great if your roof could positively contribute to the environment in addition to keeping your home safe and sound?

Eco-roofs, also referred to as green roofs, are roofs covered in plants. These living roofs are not only aesthetically pleasing—they have numerous benefits for the environment, too. An eco-roof is filled with plants that help filter toxins in the air, provide extra insulation to help reduce energy use inside the building, and reduce urban heat islands in cities. Green roof systems are growing in popularity as word gets out about how wonderful they are. In the United States, most eco-roofs are found on commercial buildings, though more and more homeowners are turning to eco-roofs as an environmentally friendly option. Lest you worry that a living roof would be too much work, rest assured that green roofs are low maintenance and require little intervention once they’re installed. Read on for five easy tips to keep your eco-roof happy and beautiful.

  1. Photo of multicolored miniature succulent plantsStick to hardy, low-maintenance plants. Since the plants on an eco-roof will be subject to the same conditions as the shingles of a standard roof, they need to be tolerant of weather extremes, including droughts and floods. Sedums, a lightweight, hardy variety of succulent, work very well in residential living roofs because they can withstand tough weather conditions.

  2. Do a soil test once per year. A spring soil test, performed by either you or a green roof contractor, can tell you a lot about the health of your eco-roof. If the roof is lacking in nutrients, apply fertilizer to replenish the soil and keep the plants thriving.

  3. Apply fertilizer once per year or as needed. The ecosystem of a living roof is delicately balanced, so most sources recommend fertilizing only when a soil test shows a nutrient deficiency or imbalance. If your eco-roof does need fertilizer, perform this task in the spring, and be sure to use a slow-release, organic formula. Don’t use fertilizer made with horse manure or phosphorus—these formulations will leach too much nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil.

  4. Close-up photo of green sedum plantsWeed the roof periodically to remove tree seedlings and invasive grasses. While the roof is new and establishing itself, the sedums may still be growing to their full size, leaving a few open spaces for airborne (and bird-borne) seeds to land. To protect your green roof, it’s important that those seeds aren’t allowed to stick around and grow for very long—especially those that might grow into tree seedlings with deep roots that could damage the roofing membranes below the soil. Once the roof has settled in, you’ll only need to weed it—or hire someone to do so—a couple of times per year.

  5. Water your roof from time to time during the first year. An established, healthy eco-roof shouldn’t need much when it comes to irrigation, but when the roof is first installed and during extended drought conditions, it’s important to give your sedums a drink now and then. The soil should feel moist and cool, so if that’s not the case at any point, take that as your cue to water the roof. After the first year, only water the roof if your area experiences a month of high temperatures with less than an inch of rain.

Eco-roofs can do so much to improve our environment, especially in highly populated, urban areas. If it’s time to replace your home’s roof, consider an eco-roof instead of the usual asphalt shingles. Your beautiful green roof will benefit the environment and improve your home’s energy efficiency, and following our five tips will keep it healthy and thriving.

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