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  • Writer's pictureErica Barnett

Gardening in the Desert

Desert home gardens require less intensive maintenance than many other garden types. Desert landscape is not all cacti. The most successful desert gardens will reflect the plant varieties that are native to the specific area. A native garden uses plants that occur naturally in the local environment. Which is incredibly sustainable because they require less water. less maintenance and help sustain wildlife. Why plant natives? Many eco-conscious California gardeners plant natives in an effort to restore the natural ecosystem and reduce strain on the environment.

There are many dos and don’ts to landscaping in a desert climate.


  • Do select native or well-adapted species that reflect the region and will perform well with little water. Native plants are the best bet for low-maintenance plants that will thrive in your home garden.

  • Do group plants according to their water needs. If you have plants that need lots of water and then plant with almost no water group them with similar plants to make sure their respected water needs are being met in the most effective fashion. Additionally, when plants are grouped by their water needs, it’s easy to use different irrigation zones to water each type of plant appropriately.

  • Do tailor your mulch selection to your plants. Desert natives with a finer leaf texture show up more prominently against gravel. Plants with larger leaves like roses are better adapted to soil with more organic matter.

  • Do create low areas in the landscape to plant trees. Since trees need more water to establish than do groundcovers and perennials but are usually on similar hydrozones, this is an easy way of ensuring that any excess water naturally flows where it’s needed most.


  • Don’t landscape with all rocks. While rocks are low-maintenance, they become so hot and bright in the sun that the landscaping can become unpleasant to live with.

  • Don’t use water-hogging plants. These plants need either heavy irrigation, richer soils, or humidity to be happy, and simply don’t perform well in the desert climate.

  • Most importantly, don’t overwater. Water can be a life-giver or an herbicide. The best practice is generally to water deeply every two weeks in summer and once a month in winter.

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