Desert Style Landscaping IDEAS
Photo by Tobias Aeppli from Pexels

Desert Style Landscaping IDEAS

Desert landscaping, or xeriscaping, is becoming increasingly popular across the country. Xeriscapes manage with what little natural precipitation is available, but they also have an aesthetic appeal of their own. They are easy to maintain, and plants mostly have neat, self-limiting growth habits, that thrive in poor soil. With four major deserts in the Southwestern states and many minor ones spread across the country, a desert landscape is very much at home in any American backyard.

Choose Garden Elements With Care

As in any landscape design, plants and hardscape elements should be chosen with care, keeping the desert theme in mind. You can find a host of interesting plants that provide structural and textural variations. Set aside a well-defined area for entertaining and viewing the landscape.


Select desert plants for drought tolerance, structural interest, and flower and foliage color. Consider a variety of shapes, heights, and textures so that you can add visual interest to your garden. In addition, if you choose flowering plants, check on the flowering times and add a variety of plants flowering at different times so that you always have color in your garden.

Hardscape Elements

Hardscape elements include natural rocks and boulders, concrete sculptures, and flagstone walkways. You wouldn’t see paved walkways in a natural desert landscape, but you can incorporate them into your garden. They make navigation through the desert garden much safer where many a prickly plant can cause serious injury to those who stray from well-defined paths.


There are a number of different seating types that do well in a desert garden. Consider benches made from stone or wood such as pinyon pine. In addition, you can set up a number of stone boulders of varying sizes for fun and interesting seating options. Old tree trunks laid on their side can also provide bench-like seating. Conventional outdoor furniture can be placed on pavers for more formal seating.

Container Options

To add additional interest to any of the landscape designs found below, consider adding containers and pots of different sizes and textures to your garden. Large ceramic pots in natural and earth tones work well in desert gardens as do rustic metal containers.

Depending on the space that you have in your garden, you may consider doing more pots and containers and fewer beds. When using pots and containers, be sure to use a potting mix appropriate for your choice of plants. Loamy mixes of soil generally work best. In addition, be sure your containers have plenty of drainage.

Nature Inspired Desert Landscape Designs

The foolproof way to design a desert landscape is to imitate nature. For instance, there’s nothing like a saguaro cactus to invoke the feel of the Sonoran desert. Its striking sculptural form is inarguably the dominant feature of the Southwestern landscape. You can have a single specimen to set the tone of your landscape and back it up with smaller shrubs. The large native American yucca (Yucca Americana) with its grayish silver leaves or its variegated version can be just as striking in a desert landscape. So would be, a Pachypodium or a tall, branching Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia).

Rocky Desert Garden


Rocky outcrops in deserts typically have more plants compared to the arid plains. That is because the plants get shade and shelter from the blazing sun. Their roots seek out moisture from the nooks and crannies. This is quite true in cultivated gardens where you often see a succulent growing much more vigorously from a crack in the wall or between pavement stones than where you planted it.

This is ideal if you have a natural rock face in your backyard. Otherwise, earthmoving equipment can help you create your own with boulders of different sizes.