Sonoran desertscrub

Landscape theme

While it is fun to buy a sampling of plants and scatter them around your yard, your landscape will look better with a little pre-planning. A yard full of one of each kind of cactus is like a drawer full of unmatched socks. Before you plant anything, pick a landscape theme. Theme plants are the structure and backbone of your landscape. They look natural together, and help you get the most out of your design. If you are designing for a smaller space, decrease your palette of plants.

Cactus sampler

One of each kind of cactus

Look around you for themes. The best place to find inspiration is the desert. Here are some suggestions, all inspired by plant combinations found in nature:

Saguaro – Palo Verde – Prickly Pear

This combination is the most common for native Sonoran desert areas around the Phoenix valley. If you hike, you see these staples at all of the parks.

Sonoran desertscrub

Sonoran desertscrub

Mesquite – Ocotillo – Creosote

Your theme plants provide a backbone, uniting your landscape by repetition.

I love how a completely native landscape creates the best possible backdrop for saguaros. Also, native landscaping is a new concept, and looks unique and organic compared to traditional Phoenix landscaping.

Creosote scrub

Creosote scrub

Ironwood – Jojoba – Brittlebrush

Use your theme plants  to fill the main lines of your design. Once these are in, you can add other trees or shrubs to flesh out your design. Don’t be afraid to plant in multiples: twos, threes, fives, or more. Finally, add your favorite cacti and succulents for sparkle.


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