How to Create a Desert Garden

Dramatic, mysterious, and romantic, there’s just something about desert gardens that hold so much appeal. Granted, the lack of water available poses a challenge, but, so long as you design your space correctly, you’ll be able to make the most of the natural resources around you to create your very own lush desert oasis.


Choose the Right Plants

Desert gardens bring about connotations of cacti, since these succulents thrive in arid environments. There are over 1,200 cacti varieties that you could choose from, so, if you’re going down the cacti route, explore all that’s out there and try to pick a diverse selection. One of our favourites is the Golden Barrel Cactus – it’s bright, low-growing, and attention-grabbing. Try planting a group of them to really make an impact.

For a taller succulent, look into Yucca trees. The Yucca Filifera is one of the fastest-growing trees in the Yucca family.

If you’d prefer to veer away from cacti, then drought-tolerant trees are what you need. Every garden, even a desert garden, needs a few trees. Find inspiration from native trees – the Queensland Bottle Tree and the Glauca Grass Tree both do well in a desert landscape. Once you’ve exhausted your native options, consider trees from further afield – the Dragon Tree comes from the Mediterranean, making it very tolerable of desert conditions.


Water Conservation

The most difficult part of maintaining a desert garden is ensuring that all of your plants are able to access water. They may be drought-tolerant, but they still need a certain amount of water to thrive.

Many immediately turn to ponds and large pools, but these aren’t the wisest option in a desert environment. The large surface area means that evaporation occurs at a rapid rate – you’ll end up having to constantly refill your pools.

Instead of going for one larger pool, multiple smaller ponds would be a better choice. You could even include a small water feature, such as a fountain that’s run off a solar pump.

Incorporating swales into your desert garden would also be very beneficial. A swale is basically a shallow depression/trench that you dig into your ground. It should run from high ground to low ground, so that, when it rains, water runoff is directed through your garden to the areas that need it the most.


Keep Your Garden Contained

Although desert gardens are generally quite low-maintenance, the smaller your garden is, the easier it will be to care for.

This doesn’t need to mean that any extra space ends up ignored – simply concentrate your plantings and water features in one area, and then use the rest for hardscaping (large, sculptural boulders work so well in a desert garden), entertainment areas, fire pits, and more.



Desert gardens are loved for the fact that they’re low-maintenance and use less water than a traditional garden. They’re also beautifully sculptural and visually attractive – there’s nothing quite like the contrast of a vibrant green space surrounded by an arid environment. If you live in a desert-like climate, embrace this – spend some time creating your very own oasis and you’ll be able to enjoy it for years to come.


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