Creating The Perfect Desert Landscape

If you dream of living in the Mojave Desert or already live under the New Mexican sky, the Land Of Enchantment, then you need to dress up your yard. We’re here to give you quick tips and walkthroughs to help you achieve just that. 

If you’re looking for fire pit ideas, try this article. If you want to take relaxing naps outside, then daybeds for the outdoors can work wonders. And if you want pathway lights, then check this out.

What Is A Desert Landscape?

Desert Landscape
Via Caribou Construction Company

The answer is quite simple. A desert landscape is an area of land that is either naturally desert-like or made to look like a desert. The amount of bright greens in a desert landscape is low and there is little to no natural water source. 

Though there are many desert landscapes across the world, these two things are quite essential. Whether it’s the Chihuahua Desert or the Sahara Desert, a few things remain the same. Let’s take a look at one of the quickest ways to get a desert landscape. 

How To Get A Desert Landscape

Via WaterQuest Landscaping

There are plenty of different types of landscapes that are dry and desert-like. However, in the United States, there’s one type of yard you’ll see appear more than others. Take these steps for an easy guide to get a desert landscape no matter where you live. 

Do Away With Non-Desert Plants

The first thing you’ll want to do is clear the way to get started with your desert landscape. In order to do that, you’ll need to get rid of the lush, green plants that aren’t naturally found in the desert. Don’t worry, we’ll add more plants later.

This includes grass. A yard full of grass will automatically make your yard look like a non-desert yard. So getting rid of the grass before transforming your yard will do a lot of good. If you like grass, you probably won’t want a desert landscape. 

Note: if you’re in love with the non-desert plants then leave them. Your yard should be your sanctuary and should make you happy. If leaving the plant makes you happy then leave it. No one will know the difference. 

Create A Pathway

In order to get a feel of the footprint, go ahead and create a path in the dirt. Start at the door or porch entrance, and end at the gate or sidewalk. The path should be a few feet wide and a few inches deep. 

At this point, it should only be a ditch of sorts. We will fill it in later on. You can create a wonky shape to give your yard personality. You may want to curve it a couple of times in the middle but not so drastic that it’s hard to walk on.

For a yard that is inclined, you can dig uphill and create stairs later on. The stairs can be made with pavers or a set of outdoor stairs. In this case, keep the pathway straight as most staircases don’t swerve. 

Place Weed Barrier

Next, you can place a weed barrier over the entire yard. This will prevent unwanted plants or grass from growing. You can make holes where you want the grass to grow and cut the area out. Leave the barrier uncovered for now. 

Place Boulders

Via Tierra Concepts

Choose a few spots to remove the weed barrier and dig a hole. The hole should be about one-third to one-half the size of the boulders you choose. The boulders should then be placed in the holes and left to cover later. 

For oddly shaped boulders and a more modern design, you can leave the boulders on top of the gravel. This will look more like art and less like a natural landscape. Both options look amazing, so it’s all a personal choice. 

Add Chosen Plants

Create more holes in the barrier for plants. We will talk more about great desert plants later, but if there are any plants you have your heart set on, make sure they are placed strategically. Give them the showcase they deserve. 

Cover With Gravel, Sand Etc.

Now, cover the entire yard with gravel, sand, or dirt. Whatever you choose, make sure it is a desert color. Dark browns and greens won’t work. Beiges and tans are much better. Sandy colors work best for a desert landscape. 

Add Natural Mounds

Put extra dirt and gravel in certain spots, preferably near the rocks. Cover sides of the rocks to make it look like they’ve been sitting there for years. Then, create other mounds around the area as not all deserts are perfectly flat. 

Fill And Pave Walkway

Finally, feel the walkway with pavers of your choice. You can use concrete pavers or even natural stones. You may need to add a base for them made of finer gravel. Sand isn’t ideal as it will sink and make your walkway uneven. 

Desert Landscape Plants

Via Patricia B. Warren, AIA Warren Architecture, LLC

What makes a desert plant so special? Well, desert plants are unlike most other plants in many ways. But the most impressive thing about them is their ability to survive. These plants are often found in the desert and easy to keep in your yard. 

Thread Grass

Also called Nassella, desert thread grass is a perfect substitute for regular grass. It is dry and wiry but can cover a lot of ground.  It can grow to be a couple of feet tall and is what many ghillie suits are made of. 

Ghost Plant

The ghost plant is an attractive succulent with a unique shape. They are easy to take care of and can be placed both indoors or outdoors. They are perfect for using along walkways or near windows where you want the eye drawn. 

Elephant Tree

The elephant tree gets its name from the fact that it can store water in its trunk just like an elephant can. If you’re looking for a large desert tree, there’s hardly a better option. They can grow up to ten feet, which is perfect for small to medium-sized yards. 

Prickly Pear

Not only are prickly pears a great-looking desert plant but they are also edible. They taste like earthy berries and can be prepared in a variety of ways. During certain times of the year, they are only green, but they do often sprout redbuds. 

Organ Pipe Cactus

There are many options for large cacti, but the organ pipe cactus is one of the most popular. They grow in a way that pleases those looking for symmetry and those looking for a more eccentric design.

Desert Marigold 

Via Kendle Design Collaborative

Finally, some color! Bright colors are sparse in the desert landscape. So when you find flowers that grow bright and plentiful in the desert, you’ve found a gem. The desert marigold grows bright and beautiful and loves the sun. 

Desert Palm

The desert palm is even a popular indoor plant. gives you that taste of the tropics in the desert. It looks just like any other type of palm tree but doesn’t need the moisture that they do in order to survive. It’s a must if you want a tropical flair in your yard. 


The winecup flower offers a dark color uncommon in desert landscapes. The flowers are a purplish color that can add a lot of vibrancy to an otherwise bland yard. They are perfect for window flower pots. 


Thyme is one of the few herbs that can grow in the desert without any issues. If you want an herb garden, start with thyme and work your way to other herbs that are more difficult to keep alive. You can even add thyme to the middle of your yard. 

Red Yucca

Yucca plants thrive in the desert and add a new texture. The red yucca is a softer yucca with red sprigs throughout. It will add color to your yard almost all year long, which is more than can be said for other plants like it. 

Added Touches

Via Patricia B. Warren, AIA Warren Architecture, LLC

Now it’s time to add the finishing touches that really make your desert landscape yours. These are all up to personal preference and are simply here for inspiration. 

Find Your Culture

Since deserts are found in many parts of the world, it’s important to find cultural inspiration. Will it have Northern Mexican touches? Or Arabian influences? Perhaps even Mongolian inspirations? It’s all up to you. 

Animal Skulls

If you want American-influenced desert landscapes, then animal skulls are a great addition. They don’t even have to be real, you can buy fake animal skulls online that look real but are cruelty-free.

Paint Your House

If you have a dim-colored yard, then painting your house a bright color can be all you need. The New Mexican culture offers a lot of inspiration for brightly colored houses. Dark blues, reds, and yellows are quite common. 

Bright Tiles

Another way to add color is to add something tiled. This can be a walkway, a bench, or even accent pieces around the door. This is the perfect way to add great color accents to your yard while maintaining a desert look. 

Steel Art

If you want art that is safe to add to a desert landscape, consider steel art. You can get animal cutouts or even those from local tales and legends. Or, get one custom-made for your yard by contacting a welder. 


View in gallery
Via DRC Landscaping LLC

Since desert landscapes don’t offer a lot of shade, adding your own shade can be a great relief from the sun. Pergolas are mroe common in desert landscapes than gazebos or pavillions, so they will look natural. 

Add A Fountain

Since there aren’t many natural water sources in the desert, adding a fountain can be a great way to add some moisture and even irrigate your plants. Make sure the fountain matches your landscape well. 

Final Words 

In the end, there are no set rules in order to have a desert landscape. You can draw inspiration from other desert landscapes, but you can also merge climates and biomes to create your own piece of paradise.