Designing the landscape for desert homes should consider both appearance and water requirements of plants. Native plants make a good choice because they adapt to the lack of humidity, sandy soil and extreme sunlight. Many plant varieties offer seasonal color, flowers, and textures to enhance visual appeal and interest. Group plants with similar water needs together and take advantage of slopes with runoff by placing plants with greater water needs at the bottom.
Adding colorful stones creates contrast and texture to desert landscapes that ties an area together. Place large rocks as a focal point in a grouping that includes sedum varieties such as Daphne Stonecrop (Sedum sieboldii) and Angelina (Sedum rupestre). Daphne has gray green leaves and pink blooms. Angelina has semi-evergreen, golden yellow needle-like foliage that forms a low-growing mat. The plant flowers in early summer on 6- to 8-inch stalks. The leaves turn reddish-brown in late fall. Rocks, stones and desert plants offer a natural landscape design.
Create paths with small dark red or brown stones to contrast with light-colored soils. Curved paths direct the eye toward landscape features such as fountains, statues or large plants. Add flowering plants such as chuparosa (Justicia californica) or rough menodora (Menodora scabra) along the path to enhance the natural look of the landscape.
Native plants that grow comfortably in desert conditions include grasses, cacti and other succulents, wildflowers, trees and shrubs. In designing your desert landscape, select native plants that offer a variety of colors and textures so you can enjoy attractive plants all year. For example, the common wildflower, Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa), provides round white flowers from April through June with feathery pinkish plumes. Complement this 6-foot tall shrub with prickly-poppy (Argemone platyceras), which has showy white flowers with yellow centers almost all year, or bahia (Bahia absinthifolia) with its daisy like blooms in spring and fall and its grey-green foliage.
Local nurseries and arboretums usually identify native plants to help you select ones that can thrive in your area. Landscapes designed using native plants should emulate nature by integrating plants with other natural features and topography.
Integrate containers into desert landscapes for color spots from both the container and the plants it holds. Use traditional plant containers made from terra cotta or decorated pots with bright colors. Containers do not need to be pots; many interesting and attractive objects can serve as plant holders if they have room for the plant's roots and adequate drainage. Use containers selectively to enhance landscape areas. Too many pots distract from the unity of a landscaped area by segmenting the visual experience.
Remember that plants in containers dry out quickly and require more frequent watering than plants placed in the soil and protected with mulch.