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How Succulents and Desert Friendly Plants Provide A Lush and Natural Look

The “natural” look is not only huge right now, it’s one of the most ideal Arizona landscaping ideas for conserving water. With water shortages being a problem, home owners cannot justify planting the backyard with plants that require a lot of water. Choosing natural succulent plants, and creating a real desert oasis in the backyard, will save money, preserve natural resources, and look utterly amazing. Learn more about how to get started with succulents in the Arizona backyard.

Landscaping with Desert Plants

The natural look is popular for Arizona backyards as it incorporates plants that grow well in the region without requiring a lot of maintenance. There are so many varieties of cactus and succulent plants that it is easy to add different colors, shapes, and sizes of plants to create different groupings of desert plants and showcase your unique personality.

Protection is Key

Since many of these plants are spiny, you’ll want to protect friends and family members by creating a large garden walkway that leads people through the backyard without making them pass too close to cactus spines. Gravel and stone are a low-cost options that blends well with the rugged look of these natural plants. For a more upscale walkway idea, consider using large pieces of sandy-hued flagstone to create a path. There are many succulent groundcovers that could make attractive and low-maintenance edging for your path, including sedum, aeonium, sempervivum, and stonecrop.

Use Grouping

To maintain an open and airy feel in your backyard, combine small groupings of plants with other interesting features, such as an outdoor dining table, fire pit, swimming pool, or rock garden. These rugged features add visual interest and blend the desert plants with the home environment.

Consider Mixing and Matching

Mix and match different shapes and textures of plants to add visual interest and make your desert landscape appear lush. If you plant too many tall, thin round cactuses in your yard, it could look severe — the opposite of what you want. To soften up the look, and make the environment look more natural than planned, you might add in desert grasses or work in leafy aloes. These offer different shapes, colors, and textures.
Avoid planting too many succulent shrubs right next to the house, as these can consequently dwarf its appearance. To make a home look taller, try planting a tall shrub or tree (like a yucca or a saguaro cactus) right beside the home to give the illusion of scale.

Caring for Succulents and Cactus

While you might think that cacti require sun, many actually grow very well in the shade and could become sunburned if grown in a full sun exposure. If you have a full sun backyard, you can succeed with cactus plants if you gradually introduce them to more sun exposure and water them more often.

The Right Temperature

As a general rule, most cactus plants do fine in temperatures from 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while succulents prefer a somewhat cooler range of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. During a heat wave, you may need to shade the succulent plants and water frequently, since excess heat may stress plants. On the other hand, when it gets too cold these plants will need protection, as most cannot tolerate any frost. If you live where frost can occur, try growing sensitive cactus plants in containers, so you can easily move them indoors for the winter.

What Soil to Use

Cactus and succulent plants require a light, loose soil mix that drains water quickly whereas other plants, from rose bushes to sunflowers, want to retain moisture near the roots to nourish the plant’s roots. With succulents, however, prolonged water contact with plant roots can actually harm the plant by introducing bacteria or bad microorganisms into the environment. When transitioning to natural landscaping with cactus and succulent plants, you might need to modify your backyard soil. A suitable soil for growing cactus in the backyard might consist of sand, desert soil, river silt, manure, compost, vermiculite, and sawmill shavings.

Desert Plants for the Backyard

There are many fun succulents and cactus plants that are suited for growing in Arizona with low maintenance. Mix and match from different types of cactus and succulent plants, including:

Mix and Match the Following:

  • Aeonium – Because this succulent resembles green or red flowers, and can grow quite tall in a dramatic branching structure. These are ideal for containers or bed plantings.
  • Agaves – These plants, which include the familiar yucca, add height, drama, and visual interest in the home. These are suitable for containers or bed plantings.
  • Aloes – The aloe family offers long thick leaves that can be smooth or spiny. These are suitable for containers or bed plantings.
  • Barrel cactus – This squat, round cactus is a popular choice for poolside landscaping in Arizona.
  • Echeveria – Tiny rosettes in fun pastel colors, these small succulent plants work well in containers or border plantings.
  • Euphorbia – Similar to branching cactus, euphorbia can grow quite tall and have small, button-like flowers. These are ideal for planting at the back of garden beds, or along the fence line.
  • Jade – Jade plants can be potted in containers and kept small or planted in the landscape as trees or shrubs, they can grow quite large.
  • Kalanchoe – Flowering kalanchoe plants can add bright color and visual interest in a backyard full of cactus and succulent plants.
  • Prickly pear – Popular for its edible paddles as well as its vivid flowers, prickly pear cactus plants are a fun choice for shrub and garden bed plantings.
  • Saguaro – This tall, branching cactus is a popular native across Arizona.

These ideas will give you plenty of inspiration for creating a desert landscape in your backyard. To turn things around, consider hiring a landscape design-build company who will design plantings for you, replace your existing backyard landscape with desert-friendly plants and make sure your backyard fits your needs.