Desert landscaping doesn't have to mean boring. While the Sahara is rolling sand dunes as far as the eye can see, desert landscaping uses a variety of plants, materials and focal points to bring interest to the yard. One definitive advantage is that desert landscaping requires much less water than the traditional landscaping methods of lawns, foundation plantings and hedges.
Landscaping with plants that are natural to the desert area results in saving time and money. This doesn't mean going out to the desert with a pickup truck and a shovel. Cacti are protected in some areas like Arizona where a permit is required to remove or transport cacti. Native plants are available at plant nurseries. Save the seeds from blooming varieties like brittle bush, Indian paint brush and desert marigold and you'll get extra plants for free. Some cacti can be propagated by taking a cutting and rooting it in the ground. Prickly pear and jumping cholla are two that grow easily from cuttings. Others like hedgehog grow in clumps. Separate the clumps and plant for additional groupings.
Xeriscaping is based on the principle of using plants that require little to no supplemental watering once the plants are established. Many of these plants are native to areas that get limited rainfall such as Australia, Texas, Colorado and Arizona. These plants, for the most part, are slow growing. Fill in the landscape with rocks, boulders and gravel until the plants mature. For example, mimic the look of a dry river bed with smooth rounded river rocks laid in a meandering pattern. Surround the river bed with crushed gravel. The river bed becomes a focal point of the landscape.
For those gardeners who require greenery, even in a desert landscape, plant the yard in zones. Most of the yard will be water-conserving plants, cacti and trees. Select an area close to the house for an oasis area with grass, flowers, vegetable garden and trees that require supplemental water. Zones farthest from the house are mulched with gravel and planted with cacti or water conserving plants. Shade may be provided with trees such as ironwood, Palo Verde and mesquite.
Many desert landscapes depend on mostly gravel, a few cacti, a tree or two and pots full of colorful blooming flowers through the spring, winter and fall. Many areas of the desert have mild winters so the flowers continue to thrive. When summer heat hits, the flowers are removed until cooler weather resumes.