Choosing and Cultivating Desert Plants for Landscaping

Monumental Window and Doors is a family-owned and run business located in Palm Desert, California. Many of our projects — both commercial and residential — strive for low environmental impact and high design. Thus choosing and cultivating desert plants for landscaping is a common concern for our builders and dealers. Here we’ve put together some straightforward advice any homeowner can use to optimize their exterior space.

Why Should I Choose Plants That Suit a Dry, Arid Landscape?

Choosing desert-friendly plants for landscaping in dry, arid regions offers numerous benefits both locally and globally. 

These plants are adapted to thrive in low-water environments, and only need minimal irrigation once established. By using them in landscaping, homeowners and communities can significantly reduce water consumption, alleviating strain on already stressed water supplies in arid regions. 

This not only conserves water resources but also reduces the need for energy-intensive processes like pumping and treating water, thereby lowering greenhouse gas emissions associated with water infrastructure. Your costs go down and you get a gold medal as a conscientious neighbor.

Incorporating desert-friendly plants into landscaping also helps mitigate the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon where urban areas experience higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas due to human activities and infrastructure. These plants provide shade, reduce surface temperatures, and increase evaporative cooling, thereby moderating local temperatures and improving outdoor comfort. 

Desert plants’ deep root systems also help to stabilize soil, preventing erosion and desertification. When the monsoon comes along — or any other inclement weather systems — your yard stays firmly in place.

By promoting water conservation, reducing energy consumption, and mitigating climate impacts, the use of desert-friendly plants in landscaping contributes to broader efforts in combating climate change and preserving ecosystems, ultimately benefiting the planet in a big way.

What are the Best Plants for the Desert Landscape?

The Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden lists the following ten plants as the best option for desert landscape development:

  1. Bursera fagoroides, or fragrant bursera
  2. Aloe dichotoma
  3. Adenium arabicum, or desert rose
  4. Ferocactus pilosus, or Mexican fire barrel cactus
  5. Antigonon leptopus, the coral vine
  6. Gossypium harkensii, the San Marcos hibiscus
  7. Yucca rostrata
  8. Agave colorata
  9. Echinopis ‘Flying Saucer’ 
  10. Leucophyllum x ‘Convent’

Investing in Cacti

Some of the picks on the list above are cacti. Our personal favorite is the Flying Saucer, due to its intense “wow” factor.

Cacti are an excellent choice for desert garden landscaping projects for several compelling reasons. They are exceptionally well-adapted to thrive in arid environments, requiring minimal water once established. Their succulent nature allows them to store water in their thick, fleshy stems or pads, enabling them to withstand prolonged periods of drought without wilting or suffering damage. This characteristic makes cacti extremely low-maintenance, ideal for homeowners or landscapers looking to conserve water and reduce irrigation needs in dry climates.

Cacti also offer a diverse array of shapes, sizes, and colors, making them versatile and visually striking additions to desert gardens. From towering saguaros to petite barrel cacti, there is a wide variety of species to choose from, allowing for creative landscaping designs. Additionally, many cacti produce vibrant flowers in hues ranging from fiery reds to soft pinks, adding splashes of color to the desert landscape. Their unique appearance and ability to thrive in harsh conditions make cacti not only practical choices for desert garden projects but also beautiful and captivating focal points that enhance the overall appeal of the landscape.
[H3] Discovering the Yucca Plant

If you’ve never heard of yucca, except perhaps on a Peruvian restaurant menu, that’s OK.

Yucca plants are a group of evergreen perennial shrubs and trees native to arid regions of North and Central America. They are characterized by their sword-shaped leaves, which often form rosettes, and tall, striking flower spikes that emerge in the warmer months. Yuccas are well-suited to desert landscaping for several reasons. 

Like many desert plants, they are highly drought-tolerant and require minimal water once established. Yucca plants also offer architectural interest and visual appeal to desert gardens. Their bold, structural form adds a dramatic element to the landscape, whether planted individually as focal points or in groupings to create dynamic compositions. 

Yuccas are known for their striking flowers, which can range in color from white to creamy yellow, depending on the species. These flowers attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, contributing to the biodiversity and ecological health of the garden. Overall, yucca plants are versatile, hardy, and aesthetically pleasing options that desert homeowners should consider for landscaping projects seeking both beauty and sustainability.