Scottsdale Desert Landscape Ideas

Desert landscape designs are becoming more and more popular in Scottsdale, Arizona, in recent years, as water conservation in this rapidly growing area has become an important issue. Scottsdale residents have also come to better appreciate the beauty of the natural Sonoran desert that surrounds them and choose to incorporate native plants in their yards along with non-native varieties that can tolerate the heat. Native plants grow extremely well in the alkaline, low-nutrient soils found in much of Scottsdale.

Terraced Gardens

Scottsdale homes have varied terrain from predominantly flat to rugged lots nestled against hillsides. A sloped property provides the opportunity to put in retaining walls and create visually appealing terraced gardens or raised backyard patios. Raised planters allow you to make favorite plants a focal point. By building retaining walls and bringing in soil, you can achieve this same design effect in a flat yard.

Cactus Islands

Grouping cactus plants together is a more visually interesting design than randomly placing them around the yard. Scottsdale residents often plant the tall saguaro--whose bloom is Arizona’s state flower--as a centerpiece. Try grouping smaller cacti with different textures and shapes around it, such as the red-flowered prickly pear that spreads horizontally or the globe-shaped golden barrel cactus. Spread a lighter toned rock mulch around the perimeter of the cactus group, and then spread a slightly darker shade beyond. This makes the grouping stand out as an island.

Flowering Shrubs and Ground Covers

Inspired by the wildflowers that bloom in abundance each spring in the desert areas of Scottsdale, homeowners have found that desert plants come in a wonderful variety of foliage and blooms. Lantana is one of the most colorful ground covers and easiest to grow. Its lavender, white, yellow, orange, pink or red blooms and bright green foliage provide vivid spots of color to your yard with little leaf litter so it can be placed near a swimming pool. The superstition mallow shrub grows quickly to heights of 4 feet and produces bold orange-red flowers in the spring that remain until fall.

Small Desert Oasis

The weather in Scottsdale is great year-round, with the exception of the hottest months, July and August. Homeowners want to enjoy their yards even when the temperatures are in the 90s. A popular solution is to plant a small lawn area, perhaps 30 feet in diameter, and plant shade trees on the west side to keep out the harshest summer sun. The cooling effect of the grass and trees combination is significant, and you can use low water usage trees such as the Texas ebony or mesquite.

Real or Imaginary Water Features

Desert dwellers enjoy having the sound of running water in their yards. Many homeowners install water features such as ponds, waterfalls and streams for their beauty and tranquility. Scottsdale has numerous world class golf courses and resorts with beautifully designed, even spectacular water features. You can get ideas for your smaller scale water feature by observing what they have done and taking pictures. If you prefer a lower maintenance concept, the illusion of a stream can be created by placing river rock in a natural meandering pattern through the yard. The smooth texture of river rock, and its variety of colors, provides interesting contrast to earth-toned rock mulches, boulders and other popular hardscape materials.

Keywords: desert landscaping, desert landscape design, desert plants

About this Author

Brian Hill's first writing credit was the cover story for a national magazine. He is the author of three popular books, "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital" and "Attracting Capital from Angels." Among his magazine article credits are the March 2005 and June 2008 issues of "The Writer." His interests include golf, football, movies and his two dogs.