5 desert landscaping essentials to consider

The desert is a harsh climate for landscapes. Its hot, windy and dry conditions can be a challenge for any gardener. However, the desert can also present opportunities to forego the traditional garden designs and instead embrace native plants and materials appropriate for the region.

If your garden has seen better days, don’t be deflated. Instead, take inspiration from your surroundings and keep these 5 tips in mind:

1. Choose native varieties 

If you’re sick of hauling the hose around your garden, planting native varieties will reduce your work load and help your garden thrive. Incorporate drought-tolerant plants that don’t rely on watering often. Striped rush (Baumea rubiginosa ‘v. variegata’) for example, will grow anywhere from full shade to total shade and require very little watering. Cape Blanco sedum (Sedum spathulifolium Cape Blanco) is another drought-tolerant varitity that can be used as an effective ground cover. These sedums will also add interest to your garden throughout the seasons as they change colour in response to the temperature.

Check out these California Natives for a fuss-free desert garden.

2. Create shade

To improve the usability of your garden, consider how you can create shade through your plantings. Willow acacia (Acacia salicina) is an Australian imported tree that can withstand long periods of drought and creates refreshing shade with its weeping appearance. Desert ironwood, Arizona ash and honey mesquite are species that are successful at providing shade in desert conditions.

3. Plant on mass

Mass planting of the same variety will provide structure and create a strong visual impact, regardless of whether you are in the desert or a lush coastal region. Think, wispy grasses like Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima) clumped together or clusters of the striking New Zealand Iris (Libertia peregrinans). Consider how you shape your garden beds so that you can create movement and work with the scale of your plant varieties.

4. Incorporate seasonal color

A desert garden need not be planted with soley greys and browns. Seasonal colour can be incorporated into the garden strategically to offer interest and contrast. Aloe vera or ice plants (Delosperma) can inject some warmth and viberancy with their red and yellow seasonal flowers. Salvia clevelandii sage, fern leaf lavender (Lavandula multifida) and other wildflowers can break up your color palette throughout the year as well as attract local wildlife and bees to your garden.

5. Ditch the lawn 

While it might be tempting to replace your browning lawn for synthetic grass, consider planting desert-suited plants or laying down a surface that complements your garden and architecture such as natural stone. Growing clusters of a drought-tolerant ground cover will require less maintenance and add more visual interest to your space. If it’s a usable surface you’re after, consider paving such as Beauford sandstone or Tortoise granite. Not only is stone highly durable, it’s also versatile, allowing you to use it within the garden, on a driveway, around a pool or to flow it indoors.