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How to create a desert rock garden


Save water and energy by creating a southwest-style desert rock garden

Each spring, the flurry begins at nursery and home improvement centers for the influx of colorful plants. We forget that in some areas these beautiful annuals and perennials are high maintenance. Planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding; but most of us feel it is worth it for the rewards. Rock gardens, on the other hand, can be just as appealing, with a lot less effort.

Of course, not every location is suitable for the arid requirements of a desert rock garden. These spaces are also called "xeriscapes" because they require little water or much of any other type of maintenance. You may find the occasional weed or perhaps a little washout, but that's about it.

You'll need plenty of full sun and good drainage. However, many plants that we envision as belonging in the desert are quite hardy; they'll adapt to and withstand many types of climates.
Some of the hardiest varieties are within the yucca family. Just try to remove one once its roots are established. Not even a come-along and a strong axle will drag that big spiky plant out of the ground. If you have inherited a home with yucca, it's better just to plan around it - add a cactus and an aloe family member, fill in with a few rocks, and you're done.

There are several plant varieties to choose from, including succulents and fast-growing grasses. Large rocks add depth to a garden, but you may prefer a layering of bark or pebbles instead. To create an impressive color contrast, make a raised bed with a dirt base and fill in with rocks; just add a decorative landscape border to keep the pebbles in and the grass out.

Desert gardens are popular, of course, in the southwest, but are gaining popularity as a water-saving-consciousness effort in other parts of the country. As always, talk with the experts at the local nursery to be sure you're choosing the right plants for your landscape design and for your particular tastes.

You can still have your beautiful green landscape in most parts of the country, but even in areas that are naturally lush, a spot of "desert" can be an interesting and dramatic contrast. A desert rock garden requires so little care that you may find a desire to let it expand!

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