Southwest garden designs are as varied as the terrain and the climate, but even in areas with the most extreme temperatures, the desert is never barren. There’s no shortage of desert garden ideas, even in areas where the sun beats down with a fury from dawn to dusk, or in the chillier high desert regions. The following Southwest garden design ideas will pique your creativity.
Circulating fountains don’t require much water, but they create a beautiful focal point in a desert landscape.
Don’t be afraid to be daring with colorful accents. For example, chili pepper red pots and bright turquoise tiles are great palette colors for this garden theme.
Rely on gravel pathways, pavers and stone walls, but don’t overdo. Too much rock in one place can get boring – and very hot.
Maintain grassy areas as small accents and avoid large lawns. Locate a handful of thirstier plants, including colorful annuals, adjacent to the lawn. Always group plants according to their water requirements. (Some desert dwellers prefer artificial turf.)
Dry creek beds create the soothing illusion of a meandering riparian area without wasting valuable resources. If you build the creek bed carefully, it can serve as a waterway to manage runoff from sudden desert storms. Line the bed with river rock and soften the edges with a variety of desert plants, shrubs and trees.
A fire pit or outdoor fireplace provides a peaceful spot where you can enjoy spectacular desert sunsets and star-filled skies. Even though the desert is blazing hot, temperatures can plummet at dusk, especially in higher elevations.
Plants for Southwest Gardens
One thing to remember about gardening in the Southwest: water is precious. Keep this in mind when you’re selecting plants for southwest gardens and remember that native plants are already adapted to the desert environment. Here are a few waterwise suggestions for Southwest landscaping:
- Salvia (Zones 8-10)
- Hairy desert sunflower (Zones 8-11)
- Echinacea (Zones 4-10)
- Agave (Depends on variety)
- Organ pipe cactus (Zones 9-11)
- Penstemon (Zones 4-9)
- Desert marigold (Zones 3-10)
- Mexican honeysuckle (Zones 8-10)
- Bougainvillea (Zones 9-11)
- Lamb’s ears (Zones 4-8)
- Barrel cactus (Zones 9-11)
- Night blooming cereus (Zones 10-11)
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A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.