Landscapes in the desert are frequently breathtaking to see; their distinct colors and local flora produce a visual experience particular to their environment. Desert locals frequently extol the tranquil beauty of their environment. And a lot of people who live in deserts love to plant! However, the desert environment does pose some unique gardening difficulties. You can use the inspiration we’ve gathered to come up with design ideas for your desert landscape.
Desert Landscaping Considerations
The fundamentals of gardening still hold true, despite certain specific considerations for desert areas. You must be familiar with your hardiness zones, your soil, and spend some time researching where the sun shines and where the greatest winds occur. Extreme heat during the day and cold temperatures at night are other characteristics of the desert. Think of ways to relax in your area comfortably at various times of the day or night (a shade pergola for sunny days, or a fire pit for colder nights, for example). By getting a sense of the terrain, you can select the ideal plants and accents for your desert garden.
Although desert gardens lack the lush greenery of cottage or forest gardens, they do feature appealing color schemes that are exclusive to their environment. Beautiful muted colors are cast upon a garden by the desert sunrise and sunset. Bright or muted colors can be incorporated in many different ways. Investigate the many colors of succulents that are offered, and make sure to take the color of the stones and containers into account while designing. Warm terra cotta and sandy tones, as well as the cool blues, grays, greens, and purples found in succulents, cactus, and desert wildflowers, make up the traditional desert landscape color scheme. To pull the eye, you can add bold accents of yellow or red, or perhaps cobalt-blue glazed pots for a striking pop of color.
Cacti vs Succulents
The most typical plants seen in desert environments, in the minds of most people, are cacti and succulents. A succulent is not always a cactus, but a cactus is a succulent. A succulent is essentially a plant that can store water in its stems and leaves, allowing it to go for extended periods of time without water. Although they do not have leaves and instead have cushiony growths called areoles, cacti can be distinguished from other plants by the “hairs” that grow from them. Cacti sometimes have spiky hairs sprouting on them! The areoles of cacti can also produce flowers. There are many different sizes and shapes of cacti.
Drought-Tolerant Flowering Perennials
Many plants that can withstand drought grow well in arid climates. These include Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and lavender as well as numerous salvias, sedums, agastache, fountain grass, and agastache.
You can decide to opt for container gardening instead of traditional gardening if your soil is extremely sandy, dry, or rocky in a desert environment. This can be a terrific option for desert landscaping and allows you a lot of creative design freedom. Warm-toned terra cotta pots complement the greens, grays, and blues of succulents for a natural appearance; glazed ceramic pots offer additional color options and better water conservation than unglazed ones. Clay pots are suggested for keeping soil at a more constant temperature because metal pots may retain too much heat in the desert sun or become too cold at night. For optimum vitality and water conservation, water container plants in the late afternoon.
Dry Stream Beds
Dry creek beds are not only a beautiful sight but also aid in water conservation by reducing runoff. They can be drilled into the ground, but they also function well for slopes or gullies that are present in nature.
These succulents with fleshy blue foliage are striking due to their size and thick leaves. They are a traditional choice for the desert garden with their soft blue and silvery tones. They can withstand extreme heat and drought.
To Mulch or Not to Mulch
Although utilizing gravel or stone as a substitute for conventional mulch is fairly prevalent in desert gardens, there are instances when natural mulch is a preferable option. This is valid if your garden has little trees whose roots would profit from the insulation-enhancing properties of organic cedar or pine mulch. Mulch also maintains soil moisture for your plantings. Mulch costs less than stone as well.
Desert soils are typically arid and sandy. Although changes might be made, the dry climate must still be considered. Find plants with shallow root systems that thrive in sandy soil by doing some research. The gopher spurge, also known as the chartreuse and blue Euphorbia rigida, is a vibrant ground cover that can withstand heat and dryness.
Gravel and Stone
In the desert terrain, using gravel or stone for walkways and in place of mulch in beds makes sense. Stone and gravel prevent runoff by allowing rainwater to soak into the ground. Larger stone makes for an attractive look next to the pointed and spiky shapes of succulents; the rounded river rock in this bed provides an attractive textural contrast.
Due to their extensive water requirements, traditional lawns are exceedingly difficult to maintain in the arid environment. Consider artificial turf, a common landscaping option in desert areas, if you desire a lush, green lawn. This feature is the focus of numerous landscaping businesses in the Southwest.
Add Color with Native Wildflowers
You can purchase wildflowers to plant in your garden because many of them thrive in the desert. The coral plant, often called a fountain bush or firework plant, blooms for weeks with beautiful red lacy sprays. Other vibrantly colored natives of the Southwest include desert lupine, desert mallow, and Mexican gold poppies. These all sprout from seeds that can be purchased from suppliers who focus on heirloom and indigenous plants.
Dramatic Yet Simple Shapes
The drama of a desert garden is unmatched. Design inspiration can be drawn from the distinctive forms of cactus and succulents, the hues and rays of desert light, as well as the presence of stone and sand. This home in Palm Springs, California has a stunning landscape thanks to a straightforward design that uses just three different plant species with contrasting shapes and textures and a tasteful combination of smooth river rock and small boulders.
Plant Closely to Save Water
Due to the desert heat’s rapid evaporation of water and the poor moisture retention of sandy desert soils, desert gardens should be planned to preserve water. It is wise to choose native plants because they typically thrive in the available rainfall. However, another useful tip is to plant things close together so that they shade each other and aid in preventing soil moisture evaporation.
In desert gardens, which often appear somewhat monochromatic to gardeners used to colorful temperate zone gardens and have such dramatic light at dawn and dusk, a combination of warm and cool colors works well. Many Mediterranean plants thrive in arid climates and can produce a wide range of hues.
Raised Beds for Veggies
Gardening vegetables in the desert? It is made possible by raised beds! Of course they will require water, but you can water by hand as needed and skip irrigation. This confined, slightly shaded garden is primarily constructed of gravel and stone, yet these raised beds offer a beautiful assortment of delectable greens and give a verdant haven.
An appealing option to provide shade in your garden is with a pergola. Pergolas are typically made of wood, but they can also be made of metal, bamboo, deadfall wood, or driftwood. A pergola provides a comfortable outdoor seating area and offers a patio or other open area structure. You should pick vines that can withstand drought in desert climates, including crossvine, Carolina jessamine, pink trumpet vine, or a Lady Banks’ rose.
On a chilly desert evening, a firepit or fire dish is excellent to have when the temperature drops. Although a firepit requires more maintenance and is a more permanent installation, there are now several alternatives for portable fire dishes. Others, like this stone fire bowl, use propane instead of wood, which some people prefer as a cleaner heat source.
Although yucca only flower every few years, they are a good choice for desert landscaping because of their eye-catching, spiky foliage and range of sizes and colors. The desert garden will look great with variegated plants like the gold and green “Color Guard.”
Use the Landscape
Use big boulders and sloping hills if your desert landscape has them in your design. The most innovative designs for desert gardens frequently come from the earth and are influenced by their local surroundings. Use discarded materials for sculptured accents and edging, such as rocks and desert driftwood.