How to Conserve Water with Sonoran Desert Landscaping

If you’ve recently created a gorgeous landscaped desert paradise in your back or front yard, or you’re looking to create one, it’s important to know how to best care for desert landscaping. Here’s an overview of the types of plants that work best in a desert climate, along with tips for modern desert landscaping. 

Caring for Your Desert Plants

Desert plants tend to thrive in as much natural sunlight as possible. Unless specified otherwise, plant desert trees, shrubs, and cacti thrive in areas that won’t be covered by shade or pool umbrellas, or blocked by an awning or patio. Remember that desert plants are used to living with minimal rain. Wait until you notice the soil is dry before you water these types of plants and avoid the tendency to overwater. Part of the beauty of a desert landscape is that it’s very low-maintenance compared to other types of landscapes.

If you’re still looking for desert landscape ideas for your yard, consider planting a mix of cacti, ground covers, and succulents. The following varieties do really well in the desert:

  • Cacti: Prickly Pear, Indian Fig, Golden Barrel
  • Ground covers: Red Spike Ice Plant, Tufted Evening Primrose, Morning Glory Bush
  • Succulents: Blue Yucca Plant, Agave Plant, Partridge Breast Aloe Plant


Water Conservation

Desert landscapes inherently conserve water as they require less moisture than many other types of landscapes and they’re generally very easy to care for. A large part of living in the desert is recognizing our precious resources and doing all we can to conserve water. One of the ways to conserve water with your desert landscaping is to water more in the warmer months, when it’s a necessity, and then backing off with the amount of water you use in the cooler months. When watering during the warmer months do so in the morning or evening as well.

Also, soils high in clay content hold onto moisture well but could retain moisture a little too well for desert plants. Consider adding some coarse sand to create the perfect mix of soil that will retain moisture, but not allow the plants to maintain too much.

Another way to minimize water usage is by grouping together the plants that need the most water, and then grouping together the plants that need the least. This way you can irrigate your plants according to their water needs and save water overall. This is called “hydrozoning.”

Harvest Monsoon Water

Did you know that we get more than half of our annual rainfall during the monsoon months? Instead of letting this precious water go to waste, you can be intentional about collecting it and using it to water your desert landscape. You can use your roof, with a system of gutters and downspouts, or implement a series of basins and terraces in your landscape design with sloping terraces that deliver rainwater directly to your plants. However you choose to do so, try to make use of this important natural resource as much as you can.

Birds are Your Allies

When creating the perfect desert oasis, you’ll want to attract the right type of birds that complement your modern desert landscaping. To attract cardinals, choose a sturdy feeder that can support their weight (between one and two ounces typically) and offer foods like crushed peanuts, safflower and sunflower seeds.

To attract hummingbirds, consider planting citrus trees or mandevilla. You can also think about planting nectar-producing plants or offering nectar in a hummingbird feeder.

If you’re interested in learning more about optimizing your desert landscape, and proper cactus care, check out the Desert Botanical Garden’s workshops for homeowners.

As always, it’s important to check with your HOA to make sure your desert plants are approved before beginning to plant. If you’re interested in moving to a private community that is lush and beautiful with natural desert landscaping, contact us or view our desert inspired homes today!