While the backyard is typically a private space, the front yard creates a strong impression for visitors and sets a tone for your desert home. A desert landscaping style called xeriscape saves water by incorporating plants that tolerate drought, employing low water usage and limiting the amount of maintenance required. By designing a plan before you begin, you can include important xeriscape elements and create an attractive desert landscape.
Irrigation and Maintenance
A drip irrigation system can be an effective method for watering desert plants. The system drips water directly over plant roots to employ the least amount of water necessary to nurture plant growth. Irrigation systems that are timed help water only as long as needed during the hours when moisture is least likely to evaporate quickly. A desert landscape is typically low maintenance, but some care is usually necessary. Plants are likely to require occasional pruning to maintain their attractive appearance. Adding new plantings in various seasons will keep the color blooming year round. Even deserts have rainy seasons, and rainfall usually encourages weed growth. Weeds need to be eradicated in order to keep them from overtaking garden plants.
Flowers, Shrubs and Trees
When the flowers, shrubs and trees you choose for your desert front yard are native species to your region or adapted non-native species, they will likely be able to withstand the desert climate once they are established. Many plants with low-watering needs are colorful, and inclined to attract desert birds and butterflies to make the front yard lively and attractive. Shrubs such as the hummingbird attracting Chuparosa in yellow (Beloperone californica) and in red (Justicia californica), the purple flowering Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum zygophyllum "Cimarron") and bush Lantana (Lantana camara) in hues from pink to yellow to gold are examples.
If you plant grass, it is easiest and least costly to maintain if you keep it contained in small area. Ground cover plants and mounds or raised beds of native plants add visual appeal and visual interest for their variations in height. Flowers that adapt to many desert climates include Calla Lily (Calla aethiopica) and Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana). Desert trees including the varieties of Palo Verde and mesquite, the Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina "Rio Grande") and Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) can add shade. As with any landscape design, plant shorter plants in front of taller ones so that all remain in view from the home’s interior and from the exterior.
Lighting can add an important element of texture to a desert front yard landscape. Using small solar lights to line a driveway can increase safety for night driving and also illuminate interestingly shaped plants and boulders. Having lights shine from ground level upward onto tall cacti, succulents or trees such as palms can also make the front yard stand out.
Decorative Rock, Boulders and Stone
In lieu of turf or to complement small sections of it, use expanses of colored, decorative rock or crushed granite. Outcroppings of larger rocks or tall individual boulders alone or near tall plants can add visual interest to the landscape. Walkways made of crushed granite combined with paving stones also add interest and create an inviting path through the garden or to the front door.
In some rural and suburban desert communities, wildlife species are present. Wild animals including coyotes, deer, and javelina, which are also called collared peccary, can be attracted to a desert front yard if the homeowner installs a water feature such as a pond or a ground level fountain. Wild animals pose a threat to people and pets. In areas wild animals frequent, water features are best left to backyards enclosed with tall fences.