12 Tips For Choosing Desert Landscapes

desert landscaping ideas

There’s something magical and fascinating about the desert that you cannot explain. Desert areas have become all the rage as full-time homes and seasonal/vacation residences.

Unfortunately, desert environments can be bland, uninspiring, and lackluster. However, homeowners can still achieve a stunning outdoor space with the right desert landscaping ideas.

The key to successful desert landscape design is working with the surrounding desert environment. If you need a glorious desert garden, the secret lies in DIY low-maintenance landscape design tips. 

By embracing the following creative garden ideas, you can transform the desert into a magnificent paradise.

1. Designing a Desert Garden

When landscaping in the desert, erase those grand visions of unending green lawns and conventional flower beds from your mind. Never force the desert to embrace the ‘traditional' concept of landscaping.

As stated earlier, the secret is partnering with the desert to develop a gorgeous garden design.

2. Know Your Region

By embracing the desert plants, weather, and soil, you’ll be halfway there! Some homes are in the arid Arizona desert, others in southern California, and some in the high desert of the southwestern region. All these areas have distinctive weather patterns and desert climates.

While some regions will have minus zero temperatures at night during some seasons, others never do. Some areas have sandy or rocky soil, while others have clay soil.

Subsequently, it pays to understand your desert area, especially native plants. For instance, palm trees may thrive in one desert area and flop in another. Also, succulents may do well outside in winter in one region and falter in another.

3. Hardscape Means a Lot

As much as desert plants are breathtakingly beautiful, hardscape is still necessary. For instance, a barrel cactus would seem lost in the corner of your front yard. However, plant it near your stucco wall, and the transformation is incredible. 

Hardscape such as patio pavers, water features, retaining walls, fire pits, and gazebos will always work wonders for your outdoor space.

Hardscape landscaping
Hardscape landscaping, source: Pinterest

4. Embrace Drought-Resistant Plants

No landscaping design aspect suits desert front yards better than drought-tolerant plants. Prickly landscaping usually takes time to mature, but ultimately, it's worth waiting. You can start with small cacti and any appropriate succulents.

To make your work easier, here are a few plants that can comfortably thrive in the harsh desert environment:

5. Agaves

Agaves are probably the most functional desert landscaping plants. They are famed for their esthetically-pleasing rosette patterns and resilient fleshy leaves.

You can pot them or scatter them around the yard, and they’re excellent alternatives to cacti or shrubs.

Agave plant
Agave plant, source: Gardenia Net

6. Aloes

Aloes somewhat resemble agaves but without the elegant rosette pattern. Aloes have sturdy and thick leaves, growing straight up or out.

They boast more volume than agaves, hence perfect if you have a large outdoor space.

7. Cacti

Cacti are among the most striking desert plants, and they come in an impressive array of varieties. These hardy plants can dominate your outdoor space while enhancing the curb appeal significantly.

For better understanding, check out these cacti types:

  • Saguaro

When desert cacti come to mind, most people visualize the saguaro. Saguaro are tall varieties of cacti that branch out splendidly. These plants take up lots of space, making them perfect if you need to dominate your yard.

They are also ideal for homeowners with massive outdoor spaces to landscape.

  • Columnar Cactus

The columnar cactus is a top choice as far as tailor-made desert landscaping design ideas go. This kind of cacti shoots straight up, cylinder-like, resulting in a well-sculpted landscape.

There are different types of columnar cacti. Some are very tall, while others develop branches. You can cut off the branches or retain them as per your landscaping preference.

  • Golden Barrel Cactus

Having golden barrel cactus plants is a dream come true for desert homeowners because of their ease of maintenance and control. They also grow into little balls, making them a cute addition to your landscaping. 

Given their versatility, you can plant them leading up to your porch or as ground covers. Additionally, they will effortlessly complement other desert vegetation, including grasses and shrubs.

8. Desert Palm Trees

Planting desert palm trees is the easiest method of filling your outdoors. If your yard is massive, well-spaced palm trees are excellent focal points to plant smaller trees, shrubs, or grass.

What if you don't have the patience to wait a few decades for your palm tree to mature? In that case, landscaping companies sell mature trees of different sizes.

Desert Palm Trees
Desert palm tree, source: Farm Food Family

9. Grass Scape

To achieve a heavenly desert look, your desert backyard needs a touch of greenery. A well-manicured, lush green lawn is within your reach with proper watering.

Some types of grass can thrive without regular watering, but if that's not an option, artificial grass can work just fine.

10. Lighting

The desert may look ordinary during the day, but it's when the lights come on that the magic begins. Still, you have to do your lighting right for the best results. Lighting worth writing home about should effortlessly highlight your xeriscape and architectural choices.

Spot and floodlights on focal point desert plants and hardscape mean the difference between a pro landscaping job and a mundane one. Adopting a variety of colors, especially light hues, reflects sunlight and keeps surfaces cool.

Lighting, source: Electrician Palm Desert

11. Xeriscape is Everything

Xeriscaping is landscaping using rocks, pebbles, and stones as the base element. Rocks are a large part of the desert environment, so they shouldn’t miss from your landscaping design.

You can use massive stones for dramatic effect and pebbles as mulch over the mundane sandy soil. Remember, you get an unmistakable Mexican vibe when you arrange pebbles in a specific pattern or clusters in your front yard.

Xeriscape landscaping
Xeriscape landscaping, source: Pinterest

12. Add Waterscape

Water features rank among simple desert landscape ideas, whose presence makes a tremendous difference. No desert home is ever truly complete without a waterscape. A calm and exquisite water fountain is the perfect neutralizer to the harsh desert environment.

Better yet, you can incorporate a shallow pond in your yard with a waterfall feature to keep the water flowing. The pond will be your favorite place, especially when its surface reflects the magnificent desert sunsets and sunrises.

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