When we think of the desert landscape, we think of sand as far as the eye can see with some cacti here and there. But there is so much more to the desert than just sand and dry heat; with a wide variety of drought-resistant plants and natural stone formations, desert landscaping might be the best option for your backyard.

However, this landscape design takes a lot more consideration, knowledge, and experience to put together compared to other styles like country or modern landscape. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re working with expert designers and contractors who know what they’re doing if desert landscape design is what you’re looking for.

One of the most common misconceptions about the desert is that it’s just barren sand dunes, pale cacti, and the occasional tumbleweed rolling across the endless yellow. But there is so much more to it. With the right irrigation installation, you can have a desert garden that is full of vibrant colors and various plants and trees.

Desert landscaping can be most commonly seen in southern and southwestern states like California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.

Hardscape and Softscape

For the hardscape of a desert landscape design, it is very common to use traditional building materials like gravel pathways, Arizona flagstone, stacked stone, red clay pavers, plaster. Dry-stacked stone or adobe-mud walls are also a very popular choice in building accent buildings and structures in this type of landscape, giving it a more natural and rustic look. Traditional elements can also be combined with modern materials like steel or concrete for a more accentuating effect. Warm sandstones and sun-bleached wood can also be added in to create a wider variety of colors in your palette.


Accent walls are a very popular choice in this landscape type, as they can create shade for your sitting area and be painted to add a dash of vibrancy and color to the profile. They can also be utilized as backdrops for your plants, and space for your wall hangings, decals, or even lighting.


Desert landscape designs are more suitable for smaller water features like recirculating fountains rather than large pools and artificial waterfalls. Small fountains will not require as much maintenance as pools and waterfalls, and will be more sustainable as they will lose less water to evaporation and won’t require much work to keep them algae free.


As staying outside in the dry heat and direct sunlight of the southwest desert can be hard, pergolas and shade screens are widely used in this type of landscape design. Wooden pergolas, shade screens, shade sails made out of durable outdoor fabric, and patio umbrellas are much needed elements to protect yourself, your family, and guests from the intense heat of the midday sun.


One of the most beautiful and comfortable time of the day to be outside in the Southwest is twilight. Watching the sun set in the distance can be very enjoyable, but it also means that the hard drop in temperature is upon you. This is where fire pits and outdoor fireplaces can come in handy as they provide a source of heat and create a warm and welcoming gathering space.


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