Part of the enjoyment of creating a desert landscape, or any backyard design, is that you can finish it little by little, starting new projects as your time and budget allow. As the years go by, you will find your design evolves as you become more knowledgeable about the functionality and versatility of desert plants. As you acquire knowledge about low-water usage plants and hone your design skill, you can make your property into a small scale desert botanical garden, with plants of great beauty, seasonal color and variety, in a composition that is visually striking.
Plants for Privacy
Depending on the slope of your property, the backyard fence may not be high enough to ensure privacy. Plants such as oleanders can serve as an effective screen when planted close together so their foliage almost overlaps. Oleanders grow 12 feet high and spread out 4 feet. They are a relatively low-water usage plant that grow well in full sun. The Brazilian pepper tree also has a dense enough canopy to screen your property from the neighbors. This tree grows quickly and exceeds 15 feet in height and width.
Clusters of Cactus and Succulents
Rather than dotting your desert backyard with cactus plants, try clustering them for maximum visual effect and contrast. Your many choices include the dramatic vertical reach of the saguaro, the paddle shaped stems of the beavertail prickly pear, the globe-shaped golden barrel with its rows of golden thorns and the sausage link branches of the staghorn cholla. The agave plant family of succulents comes in a variety of forms and flower colors. Gentry's agave looks like a huge artichoke plant. The twin-flowered agave has dense clusters of slender, spiky leaves.
Improve Irrigation System Efficiency
A drip irrigation system with emitters attached to flexible tubing is the preferred method for desert gardeners to deliver water to plants. Emitters come in different water flow increments, so you can provide each plant with the right amount of water and not waste any. Make sure you understand the water requirements of each plant before you put it in the ground. Overwatering of desert vegetation can be harmful to the plants. The minerals in municipal water can cause these small emitters to clog over time. At least twice a year, in the spring before blooms appear on the plants, and then again in the fall, check each emitter to see that the water is flowing correctly.
Mask Unsightly Areas
Take a critical look at your yard from various angles, from both inside the house looking out the windows, and outside. You may find unsightly things such as utility boxes, garbage cans, garden tools and supplies that detract from the natural desert look you are aiming for. You can use desert plants to hide these from view while adding style and color to your yard. The Texas sage plant reaches heights of up to 6 feet, as can the green feathery senna plant, which features clusters of yellow flowers in the spring.