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DIY Desert Landscaping

By Nicole Galipeau
Desert lanscapes are affordable to maintain and good for the environment.

Desert landscaping is an easy way to renovate a yard without a lot of continued maintenance, and offers a simple way to make your landscaping more eco-friendly, by drastically reducing water consumption. Best of all, the lack of complicated drip systems or large-scale plantings means that most of your new desert landscaping can be done yourself, without the need to hire costly labor or landscape workers. In arid climates, where desert plants thrive, a desert landscape can even help blend your home into the environment, providing a natural, beautiful look.

Check out the local landscape for ideas to get you started.

Plan your design carefully, before any ground is broken. Consider multiple layout options and how they will work in your yard. Research potential designs on-line or at the library, and consider your plan of attack in detail. Sketch a few possibilities out to help solidify the idea, before purchases are made on plants or materials. Working out possible kinks now will save time and energy later.

Remove any unwanted plants that will not fit into your new desert landscape theme. Any trees or shrubs that consume large amounts of water should be dug out, as should any grass present in the yard. If desired, now is a great time to make alterations to the terrain by adding small hills and elevation changes to the dirt.

Groupings of cacti will require less water than flowering shrubs or trees.

Group plants together based on how much water they require to make the occasional watering process easier, and plant with a mixture of half native soil and half well-draining potting mix.

Cut landscape plastic to fit the remainder of the yard, leaving holes for the plants to come through.

Desert-toned gravel makes the most natrual choice for this type of landscape.

Spread landscape gravel in the color of your choice around the yard at a depth of one to three inches, covering the plastic and tucking it in beneath the plants.

Add boulders, rocks and other d├ęcor to the yard to complete your DIY desert landscape.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Potting mix
  • Landscape plastic
  • Scissors
  • Gravel
  • Desert plants
  • Other decor (optional)


  • Select plants that require minimal water, such as agave, salvia, bougainvillea, lantana and various cacti. Be sure to consider the full size of the plants in their placement, so that they do not become too large and obscure windows or pathways. It is also wise to keep cacti away from sidewalks and drives, to avoid potentially painful run-ins.