A Sandy Dream: 10 Desert Landscaping Ideas You Need To Try Today!

For someone growing up under the tropical sun, Indians are not particularly keen on experiencing desert landscapes. Contrary to popular belief, deserts have a lot to offer in terms of native colours and unique plants. So let’s learn about the desert landscaping ideas you need to know and follow.

Their serenity is almost romantic–an authentic visual experience. However, we are well aware of life’s challenges in a desert, and adding landscape comes with a set of its own.

What You Need To Know About Using Desert Landscaping

Before you manifest your dreamy desert landscape, you must know how to deal with the extremes of the climate. The harsh sun, dry air, and winds can cause trouble, but a few tips to remember will make your landscaping mission a success.

01. Know your Soil

Testing the soil will help you understand the kind of plants that suit its nature. The analysis will tell you how you can enrich it so the plants will thrive.

02. Choose your Plants Well

Desert gardeners must take care to choose seeds that are native to their area. You must also be aware of the time of year that is best suited for their growth. For example, peppers can adapt to arid conditions but grow well in the early winters from November to March. The native cacti and succulents are well-reputed for being drought-tolerant, along with some bloomers like petunias that qualify as the best choices for desert gardens.

03. Water your Plants

Although desert species are adapted to high heat, watering them at the right time is essential to keep them fit. You can water them early or late at night to prevent water loss due to the high morning sun. In addition, a drip irrigation system can help the water reach the roots easily. Another solution would be to mulch the ground to reduce any evaporative loss.

04. Get to know the Zones

Studying the site is a necessary step before you start generating ideas. But first, understand where the light is substantial and how the wind circulates. This will guide your decisions on types of plants, their placement, grouping, and elevations.

You will know where and how to protect your plants from strong winds and where you can create a comfortable place to sit on summer mornings or winter nights.

Top 10 Desert Landscaping Ideas You Should Try

Here we share the top 10 desert landscaping ideas that you need to follow if you are in an area where there are no lush green gardens and blooming flowers around:

01. Mix and Group Desert Landscaping Plants

Grouping Desert Landscaping plants

Desert landscapes must be designed not only to add beauty but also to conserve water. Grouping plants with similar water requirements is a guiding tool in the design process and eventually facilitates future maintenance. It is one of the best desert landscaping ideas that you must try.

Make sure to group them closely so that the plants keep each other and the surrounding ground in comfortable shade. In doing so, consider mixing forms, colours, and heights to add variety to your scene.

02. Desert Landscaping Plants on the Rocks, Please

Desert Landscaping Plants on the rocks

Natural rocks are effortless at adding drama and dynamism to your desert garden. Larger rocks offer a sculptural contrast next to spiky succulents, while the smaller and smoother stones help add texture.

Arrange them naturally, as if they’ve been there for ages, protecting the thorny cactus that grows from behind them.

The trick is to do the rocks appropriately; they overheat under continuous sun exposure, which can potentially cause harm to the plants growing right next to them.

03. Create your Oasis in the Desert Landscape

Create your oasis

Water pools in a desert can be quite a rarity. Of course, this makes them worthy of attention and praise. Adding water features to your landscape can be a refreshing respite on the hottest days. Depending on the style of the landscape, they can be neat or organic, but if you’re simulating a desert, natural forms are a better fit.

04. Follow the Light

Lights in Desert landscape

Planning for both the morning sun and evening lights is a must. Play with the filtered natural light in the morning to add softness to the otherwise rough topography.

In the evening, add a touch of gold to bring out the sandy tones of the desert. Warm colours capture the essence of a desert, and the yellows intensify the theme altogether.

05. Pave your way in Desert Landscape

Pave your way in Desert landscape

One of the desert landscaping ideas is to pave your way in desert landscape. A path in the dirt with a few curves can be an exciting addition to the dry surface and a means for circulation. Their creative turns give character to the design. It is best to make ribbon-like paths that disrupt less of the soil. With little rainfall to feed the ground, permeable pavers are eco-friendly alternatives to impervious pavers. With the path paving its way, make personalized yard signs along its periphery for the desert landscape.

06. Play with forms in Desert Landscape

Desert landscape

The next step after shortlisting natives is choosing befitting forms. Desert vegetation comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Plants like agave stand out with their compelling foliage. They have a sculptural aura about themselves with their large, fleshy leaves and can be found in sizes both big and small. In addition, their coloured leaves in green, white, and yellow reveal the landscape’s details. Yuccas are no less than classic agaves. They have distinctive spiky foliage, and with their gold and green varieties, they can uplift the mood of the landscape.

07. Pot your Desert Landscape Plants

Pot your Desert landscape plant

You may want to consider container gardening if your soil isn’t cooperating. The designs on the pots add detail to the scenery itself. Pots of various sizes can be used to create a hierarchy in the design and open up possibilities for some creative arrangements. The warmth of terracotta pots complements the greens and blues of fleshy succulents. 

Glazed ceramics are a better alternative to their unglazed variants. They not only come in more colours and designs but also conserve water better. It’s always better to group a couple of different sizes to achieve a unified composition instead of scattering single pots.

08. Magic of Gravel in Desert Landscaping

Gravel in Desert Landscaping

Covering pathways or plant beds with gravel is a good way to add texture to your desert landscape. Plant beds form a unifying carpet that holds the different families of plants together. Gravel and bigger pebbles form a pervious bed for the rainwater to trickle into the thirsty soil. Coloured pebbles, on the other hand, add contrast to sandy tones.

09. Add Colour to your Desert Landscape

Colour to Your Desert landscape

You may not be able to imagine too many colours when you think of deserts, but they offer an unexpectedly wide range. Cacti and succulents come in surprisingly vibrant colours that can add personality to your design.

Several native flowers bloom merrily in the starkness of the desert. For bright reds, you can go for the fountain bush, and for vivid yellows, the creosote bush is a perfect pick. However, adding too many colours can be overwhelming and messy. It is advisable to stick to a restrained colour palette for perfect balance and harmony.

10. Use the Topography for Desert Landscaping

Topography for Desert Landscaping

If your landscape has natural slopes and rocks, don’t think twice before including them in your design. A natural mound can be used as a large desert bed, and, with the right flowers and succulents, it can very well become the centrepiece of your composition.

The best landscape designs are inspired by the scenery around them and, in this case, natural mounds are your best friend.

A Little Bit of Inspiration Does Not Hurt

Now that we have enlisted some ideas for beautifying your desert gardens, we can see them being successfully applied in some homes around the world.

01. Tate Studio’s Pass Residence

Tate Studio’s Pass residence

Tate Studio’s Pass residence is the perfect example of a serene desert home. The landscaping around the house has been kept simple to complement the earthy walls. Cacti and stones of various sizes are the dominant landscape elements.

The entrance is made interesting by flanking the pathway of plain stepping stones with tall cacti and stones. Small beds of succulents find space in different corners of the house and not to forget the warm yellow lights that bring out the textures most splendidly.

However, the best feature of this design is the use of borrowed landscape, and in this case, the architects have framed the most majestic views extending from the scattered desert shrubs to the far-off mountains. The landscape of the house truly blends with the topography around it, giving the house a sense of expansiveness.

02. Oscar de la Renta’s home in Punta Cana

Oscar de la Renta’s home in Punta Cana

Although not exactly situated on desert land, late designer Oscar de la Renta’s home in Punta Cana is a green paradise on earth. A part of the artful garden features all the desert vegetation we’ve been talking about. The garden makes good use of layering and elevations to create a comfortable retreat. A white bed of pebbles surrounded by stone paving connects symmetric agaves, eccentric consoles, and golden barrel cacti.

03. Arizona’s Rancho Nuevo

Arizona’s Rancho Nuevo

Designed as a desert retreat, Arizona’s Rancho Nuevo is a synthesis of nearly all the elements listed so far. From potted plants to sculptural rocks, plant beds, and diverse succulents, it has a bit of each. The design makes sure to play with natural light through surfaces and wooden trellises. The infinity pool is a refreshing sight to behold against the mountainous backdrop and surrounding cacti.


Desert landscapes are growing in popularity, given their simplicity and low maintenance. You don’t need a massive piece of land to build the landscape of your dreams. Small backyards or internal courtyards are equally friendly to creative desert landscaping ideas.

There are no hard and fast rules about desert landscaping. The key to a successful desert retreat is understanding your space well and knowing what it needs. If you can do that, your surreal getaway is not a far-off dream.

Now that you know about desert landscaping ideas, we’ll share some reasons why people love landscape architecture:

And before you take a leave, do you have a small backyard and still want to try out landscaping? Worry not because we have an informative blog for you:

12 Landscape Tips and Ideas for Small Backyards!

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Author Bio

Brickly – Sakshi Sakshi navigates the corporate world by day, and transforms into a wordsmith by night, bridging the gap between spaces and stories. Occasional travel and regular reading are her muse. Her LinkedIn following, a vibrant community of around 12k kindred spirits, emboldens her to continue this enriching exchange of ideas.

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