DIY xeriscape design

Create your own Sonoran desert landscape

You can have a yard full of beautiful cactus without paying thousands of dollars to a landscaper or nursery. Educate 8stepsyourself, then Do It Yourself. If you design your own yard, it will be more unique because you created it. You will love/hate spending many hours outside working in your yard. You will learn what works and be able to keep your plants looking beautiful. By learning about low-water and drought-tolerant plants, you can control how much water you use. In the end, you can have a beautiful desert landscape and spend a lot less on both the initial landscape and its maintenance.

First you will want to pick a theme for your landscape design. Then you must map out your design and decide where your plants will go. Consider terrain (adding it if your yard is flat), irrigation lines, and aesthetics. Think about where you want shade and where you want to preserve a view. I recommend finding books at the library with design ideas to inspire you. And of course, read my blog to find out what I know about plant selection. The more you know, the better choices you will make. I also design for free for friends…

After all your planning, you can finally start creating!  The more complex your design is, the longer it will take to implement. So plan on spending multiple seasons landscaping your yard–it will give you time to see what works and get everything just right. A landscape is never static.

Design ideas: open space

A desert landscape has  M O R E    S P A C E   between plants than landscapes in other parts of the country. I love how this gives a feeling of airiness and space to the landscape.  All landscapes also have areas with no plants and areas with groups of plants together. It is important to  decide WHERE plants go–and I’m no expert in this area. Here are the few pointers I’ve learned:

  • To look natural, avoid planting anything in a straight line. No rows of trees or bushes. Stagger, even if you can only do so by a few feet.
  • When drawing out your design, plan for the mature size of plants.
  • In a front yard design, preserve a line of sight to your entryway from some point in the street.
  • Cluster plants together in islands, groupings, borders (not straight line borders!), etc
  • Use repetition to create cohesiveness
  • Add architectural touches with non-plant items. For example: paved surfaces, arches, outdoor furniture, boulders, yard art, colored glass, ramadas, pools, fountains, etc.
  • In a backyard, design space into outdoor “rooms” with a function. For example: eating area, vegetable garden, walking path, screening plants, pool area, sitting area. A larger yard should be divided into more rooms, not just bigger rooms.


Design ideas: use trees to conserve energy

You can save on your home’s heating and cooling bills by planting trees in specific positions. Plant in a manner that provides shade in summer and sunlight in winter. Basically this means shade trees on the east and west sides of your home. Look up passive solar architecture for more information.


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