A Gardners Guide on How to Design a Desert Garden

If you want to grow a garden but you live in an area with desert-like conditions i.e. low rainfall and high temperatures, you’ll need to consider designing a desert garden instead of a regular garden. Desert gardens are also ideal when you don’t want to spend a lot of time caring for your garden. A desert garden is simply a garden with plants capable of withstanding desert-like conditions. There are many ways of designing a desert garden. Regardless of the type of desert plants you use i.e. native, non native or a combination of both, your garden can still stand out.

Native desert plants have notable advantages over non native desert plants, however, you can still incorporate non native desert plants and get a favorable outcome provided you plan accordingly. Planting desert plants in your garden is great because your garden can withstand dry heat, poor soil and infrequent rain but still have a long growing season. To help you get started, below are the most important factors to consider when you want to design a desert garden.

(1) Discover The Kinds of Plants That Do Well in A Desert Garden

To design a desert garden, you must first find out the kinds of plants that thrive in desert conditions. Such plants have common features. For instance, they feature fleshy pads which offer adequate space for storing water. Furthermore, desert plants tend to have small and narrow leaves which minimize water loss as well as usage. Some lack leaves which helps them avoid herbivores. Once you are familiar with common characteristics of desert plants, you will be a step closer to designing a perfect desert garden.

(2) Consider Hardiness Zones

One of the best ways of selecting the best plants to grow in a specific area is to consider the hardiness zone. The USDA hardiness zones show the average high temperature, low temperature, average humidity, average rainfall, length of the growing season among other important information about an area in relation to plants i.e. criteria for growing, elevation etc. Considering these information will help you discover the exact kind of desert plants you should planting in your garden.

(3) Plant Shrubs to Protect Your Desert Plants

Shrubs are an important part of any desert garden because they protect desert garden plants from direct sunlight and harsh wind. There are many types of shrubs that thrive in desert conditions i.e. low rainfall and high temperatures. Sagebrush is a perfect example of such a shrub. Sagebrush features small waxy gray-green leaves. The waxiness helps to conserve water and reflect intense heat. Sagebrush also has an intense taste and odor that keeps herbivores at bay.

Another great shrub is the creosote bush. The shrub has small and pointy leaves. The shrub also has an intense smell. You can also consider planting the Honey Mesquite and/or Joshua trees. Shrubs are bound to protect your desert plants as well as offer other benefits such as restoring nitrogen in the soil. The Honey Mesquite has this benefit.

(4) Buy Desert Plants from Your Local Nursery

It’s easy to find desert gardening information today. You can find such information online as well as in local nurseries. In fact, local nurseries are the best places for buying gardening plants, shrubs and flowers. Local nurseries sell plants that flower well in a certain geographical location so it’s important to find and visit your local nursery first before you consider buying desert plants elsewhere.

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If you live in an area with desert-like conditions, you will find ideal desert plants for your garden in your local nursery. The likelihood of getting plants that won’t survive in your area is very slim since local nurseries are out to make money so they wouldn’t want to spoil their reputation by selling plants that will not survive. In case you have any doubts about ideal desert plants for your garden, you can always ask for help. Other benefits you stand to enjoy by buying desert plants in your local nursery include; access to gardening clubs.

(5) Choose Desert Plants That Flower

Contrary to popular belief, there are a good number of desert plants which flower. Many desert plants produce colorful blooms i.e. gold and yellow blooms. You should consider any of these plants if you are keen on having a colorful gold and yellow desert garden; Brittlebush, Barrel Cactus, Cinchweed, Desert Dandelion, Creosate Bush, Desert Sunflower, Desert Primrose, Engelmann’s Prickly Pear, Dune Sunflower, Parry’s Century Plant, Mexican Gold Poppy or the Wooly Daisy.

If you want to have purple or blue blooms, consider planting; Blue Phacelia, Bigelows Monkey Flower, Chia, Desert Lavender, Coulters Lupine, Desert Willow, Desert Lupine, Mojave Aster, Desert Willow, Sand Verbena, Spanish Needles or Smoke Tree.

For while blooms, plant; Apache Plume, Blazing Star, Banana Yucca, Desert Chicory, Brown eyed Evening Primrose, Desert Lily, Dune Evening Primrose, Desert Star, Joshua Tree, Ghost Flower, Mohave Yucca, Sacred Datura, Prickly Poppy, Saguaro Cactus, Spectacle Pod, Soaptree Yucca or Thistle Poppy.

Examples of desert plants that produce, red, pink or orange blooms include; Beavertail Cactus, Chuparosa, Desert Globemallow, Desert Five-Spot, Desert Mariposa Lily, Englemann Hedgehog, Desert Paintbrush, Octotillo, Fairy Duster, Strawberry Cactus, Pincushion Cactus or Winged Dock.


You can mix the above desert plant varieties to have a more colorful desert garden. You should however be guided by your tastes and preferences.

Important Points To Remember

The above factors are the main ones to consider when designing a desert garden. It is however important to note that there is more to designing desert gardens than what is discussed above. There are many other factors to consider if you want your desert garden to stand out and last for years with little maintenance.

For instance, you need to do more than plant shrubs to protect your garden from high temperatures. You can plant your desert garden on a shaded spot to offer additional protection. Problems such as low rainfall can be addressed by using drip irrigation. Last but not least, remember to choose the best plants for your area. All in all, designing your own desert garden is a fun and rewarding endeavor provided you are equipped with the right information. You also need to plan meticulously and put in hard work to get a colorful desert garden that stands the test of time.

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