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37 Desert Landscape Ideas: Incorporating the Beauty of an Arid Region

When I moved to Southwest 13 years ago, one of my major worries was how well many of my beloved plant species would hold up to the dry heat and low humidity of the area. Although I quickly discovered most plants will thrive with the proper attention and care, there are certain types of landscape design and plant picks that are more conducive to the area that allows your landscape to prosper.

Minimal plantings, xeriscaping, and arid vegetative picks that require very little natural watering once established are commonplace as desert landscaping ideas. Don’t confuse simple with a lack of maintenance however. Regular weeding and watering may still need to continue, but the time and amount will often be much less. Plus, if you are looking for ways to help get water from one place to the next there are some simple tricks you can take advantage of.

1. Prickly Perfection

Xeriscaping, the art of minimalist vegetation amongst the use of a (usually) pebble foundation, is a popular way to landscape your lawn in more arid regions. The display is usually easy to upkeep with some simple weed control, and the use of desert loving plants, such as these cacti, need very little attention.

2. Perfect Detail

Minimal plantings doesn’t mean minimal creativity. Add in some eclectic pottery, rock formations, and a skull (or similar find) to your xeriscaping to create an artistic, and interesting appeal.

3. Waterscape

Rather that look for ways to fill your landscape with vegetation or creative xeriscaping placements, why not build a shallow pond? A waterfall feature helps keep the water circulating, and the mirror like surface will reflect the stunning desert sunrises and sunsets for double the experience.

4. Reflective Lighting

Lighter colors reflect sunlight and help keep surfaces feeling cool. Many homes are of a light brick or stucco and make for the perfect backdrop for the rich hues often found in desert loving vegetation.

5. Grass Scape

With proper irrigation, you can still have a well manicured, grassy green lawn. If you aren’t interested in the maintenance a vast lawn requires, then you can always consider an alternative in the form of high quality, artificial grass.

6. Vibrant Choices

As mentioned, stucco is a favorite choice of home siding, and also works as an excellent base for a variety of vibrant colors to help emphasis the other details used within your landscape that are wholly unique.

7. Bright Lights

Make your careful landscape choices come alive at night with one of a kind lighting that highlights the simplicity of both your architecture and xeriscape choices. This well manicured garden bed comes to life with the detailed lighting that has been chosen.

8. Desert Beds

Large yards require large garden beds. If landscaping a large area isn’t your thing, then consider one well placed garden bed that can embrace the concept of desert living. This perfectly placed oasis of vegetation provides a myriad of eclectic desert picks.

9. Creative Concepts

Simple patios and walkways dominate these courtyards highlighted by well placed, protected plants. These sparse picks makes your job keeping them watered and maintained easy, and the climbing choices makes their foliar coverage look even larger that it is, providing you with the touch of living greenery any landscape needs.

10. Wide Open Spaces

Xeriscaping is not only popular due to how it helps cut your maintenance time in half, but also because it leaves your yard open to the vast desert skylines. Sunsets and sunrises are often a spectacular occurrence due to the clarity of the sky, and without much to block your view you can take full advantage of it.

11. Topographical Phenomenon

Water sources are often found at the bottom of naturally occurring slopes and mountain foothills. Mimic that effect by taking advantage of any rocky outcrops, or natural topographical rises in elevation that you may have upon your property.

12. Dry Riverbeds

Deserts aren’t always dry, and dry riverbeds dot the natural landscaping ready to hold the runoff water from the next rainstorm. Incorporating those features that into your yard adds interest and appeal, and also saves you the money from not having to run a water pump for a water feature!

13. Big and Bold

Not sure what vegetation to pick, and feeling overwhelmed by the many choices presented to you? Choose a few larger plants and use them to make big and bold statements in your yard through the proper placement.

14. “Leafy” Picks

You don’t need many plants to fill a desert inspired garden bed. Pick a few larger varieties of desert plants that have thinner and wider vegetative branches to provide a sense of fullness and greenery. Many of these also provide colorful blooms throughout the growing season that are a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies.

15. Cottage Appeal

One thing desert scapes hava lot of is rocks. And it is often put to good use in landscaping design, as well as architectural decor. This rock siding provides a cottage like appeal, which is further supported by the multicolored vegetation and bright blooms of the arid loving trees and cacti choices on display.

16. Living Carpets

Don’t condemn the idea of a grassy area just because you have very little rainfall. Small, useful areas of grass can be easily grown if the proper amount of watering is applied. If the idea of a lawn, albeit a small one is appealing to you, then find a place where you can easily keep it thriving.

17. Defying Gravity

Never underestimate the power of a well placed sculpture. These natural looking stones blend well into the landscape design, despite being drastically out of place. This sculpture attempts to defy gravity, and is sure to be a topic of discussion at your next dinner party.

18. Soothing Waterfalls

Bring peace and tranquility to your yard with a waterscape feature that provides a trickling waterfall. Scarce in the desert, waterscapes will be an attraction to a bounty of beneficial birds and insects to help keep your garden thriving.

19. Simple Steps

Just like a vast green lawn that is easy to gaze upon, a well manicured xeriscape provides the same sense of peace and accomplishment. Small pebbles, mixed with stepping stones provides a simple pathway through the yard, as well as visual interest.

20. DIY a Cactus Patch

All you need is some cinder blocks and some succulent plant choices and small cactus and you have yourself a fun, and simple way to add greenery to an otherwise empty, starck area. This is a quick and easy project anyone can complete, which is just as easy to maintain as it is to make.

21. Rockscapes

High desert landscapes are naturally coid of most vegetation, and the beauty of the area is often found in the shapes, colors, and textures of the rocks. You can embrace this look with careful placement of varying rocks and simple planting, which can also come to life even further with careful nighttime lighting.

22. Zen Inspired

Zen gardens focus on simple contrasting colors and shapes for a peaceful, relaxing experience. This courtyard provides a relaxing retreat with calming beige and brown hues with a touch of vegetative texture.

23. Choose Two

Limiting your choices of plants to a scant few that you know will thrive in your climate can act as a the perfect yard filler. Allow the texture and color mixtures to provide the perfect foreground to the rest of your property.

24. Contemporary Angles

Contemporary design often incorporates varying straight lines, right angles, and minimal color- often highlighted by the surrounding landscape choices. These planters are incorporated into the housing architecture and provide a welcoming walkway up the front porch.

25. Embrace the Horizon

This fantastic hot tub and lap pool design is hedged by an embracement of the surrounding horizon as part of the property landscape design. By taking advantage of the stunning vista and cacti that dot the area, native plants have been incorporated into a rock garden, complete with nighttime lighting, to provide the assemblance of a desert oasis

26. Potted Gardens

Desert soils are notoriously devoid of nutrients and are also extremely hard to dig into. If you are in want of some garden life, but aren’t interested in the time it might take to try and break ground for your garden beds, consider creating a series of potted gardens.

27. Small Spaces

Another way to avoid having to put too much effort into digging into the ground and creating garden beds is to incorporate small, simple space where tough desert varieties, and potted plants, can make themselves a home.

28. Brick Walkways

Welcome your guests and keep desert dust away with intricate brick walkways and drives. Pick your favorite cactus to create an added interest and texture, combined with some well placed lighting, and you have a home to make people slow down to admire.

29. Defying Natural Laws

This waterscape seems to disappear into the surrounding desert inspired backyard. Incorporate your own shallow reflecting pool in awe inspiring ways to take advantage of the gentle trickle it provides as it disappears into the rocks below.

30. Creative Incorporation

Pools are a popular backyard feature in many arid regions to help alleviate the heat of the day. Incorporating them into your natural landscape in creative ways allows you to enjoy the natural beauty of the area without having any modern looking eyesores.

31. Tiered Elegance

Even small spaces deserve the elegance of a small garden plot. Build your garden into any area you have; with a little ingenuity you can provide a burst of color in an otherwise gray, urban setting.

32. Large Spaces

If you have a lot of space to fill in, consider using a combination of vast lawn and rock coverage within which it is much easier to create desert inspired garden beds. Texture and greenery are more easily added through the use of rocks to provide the height and background they add to the garden.

33. Going Up!

This unique walkway provides an easy hillside climb surrounded by well manicured xeriscaping. This type of ground coverage allows the water to seep to the soils beneath to get to where it needs to be without evaporative loss. These plants will eventually grow much taller as a privacy screen and area of shade.

34. Patio Perfection

Large patios are a popular pick for many Southwestern homes. They require very little maintenance and also serve as a dual outdoor living space. Add in a change of pace with raised garden fountains and small raised garden beds for an even more relaxing feel.

35. Rocky Retreat

If you build in an otherwise rocky area, don’t despair on your ideas of an elegant landscaping design. Use the surrounding landscape as inspiration and tie in the natural rock formations and locals plants to provide a rambling garden walkway. This type of design also makes it easy to include more delicate plants in pots so you can better care for them.

36. Best of Both Worlds

Who said rich green gardens couldn’t live side by side with the desert? This east meets west idea provides a well mulched (to help retain moisture), perennial planted garden bed, as well as a more desert inspired, rolling bed. Divided by a simple rock walkway, this front yard design provides a beautiful contrast between varying plant types.

37. Perfect Palms

This yard is definitely dominated by the palm trees planted amongst the entire landscape design. Popular hot weather trees, palms can survive some of the harshest bouts of drought and still provide shade beneath. As these trees continue to grow, their canopies will allow for the vegetation beneath to thrive and grow even more.

Conclusion

Desert landscaping depends much upon the uses of shapes, textures, and colors of varying materials and plants to provide a yard to be proud of. Even though many of these ideas require a bit less maintenance in the way of lawn care, they do require some specific attention to their watering needs- at least until any plants you have used are well established.

I love the ideas presented here, and since getting water to my front yard is quite a challenge, I have been looking for ways to get creative for a more enjoyable, and less of a hassle, landscape design. We’d love to hear which idea is your favorite, or see examples of how you have taken advantage of desert inspired landscapes below! And as always, please share!

About The Author

Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod cuts a tragic figure in the High School English classroom teaching literature by day, and moonlighting as a writer and graphic artist by night. Published in a variety of travel magazines, and now a blog, Danielle enjoys coming up with home and garden projects to complete with her two young boys. A native of Michigan, she resides in Southeastern New Mexico with her variety of horses, poultry, and variable mix of rescue dogs (there’s a cat or two in there as well). In her free time she enjoys travel, art, photography, and a good book!

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