Low Maintenance Desert Landscaping (Phoenix)

5 Replies

I was wondering if anyone had recommendations for some landscaping that will add a splash of green without requiring frequent maintenance in desert cities. Currently the area around my fourplex in Phoenix is just gravel, and I've had several requests for landscaping.


Ryan, I'm a fan of bottlebrush and various types of elephant food\bush. They are inexpensive, grow slow, attractive and don't shed leaves or flowers everywhere. Olive trees and bougainvillea are the devil.

I'm curious, do you have other residential multi-family that request landscaping? These current tenants that are requesting this from you; do you think they expect it for free, or are you intending on making up the cost by raising rents by more than inflation or market to make up for the cost? Does your property have a water source that isn't tied to the unit utility bill, or do you pay for water and include that in rent?

Thanks @Matthew Terry ! I just have this one fourplex. I'm on the hook for water, which is billed back to the 4 tenants at a flat fee. Right now I'm making some improvements and dealing with some longstanding maintenance issues, after which I'm planning on bringing up the rents. 

@Ryan Heywood

I am a fan of the desert plants that need little to no water and require no trimming.  Cactus, Yucca's, Aloe's, and some succulents such as firesticks add a ton of color and will fill up a good amount of space over time.

I have a few inputs.  

Keep in mind that even if you do have plants that are considered low water/zero water/drought tolerant there is an establishment period and they will need water until properly established.  I lived in CA for many years and we typically installed plants towards the end of the "rainy season" if there was one.  IF you have an irrigation system, that's a plus, but I'm assuming you don't because you mentioned it's all gravel.  Plus, that's an extra cost to you with maintenance and water bill.

Also, when picking plants, make sure to pay attention to the mature plant size.  The last thing you want to have to do is get on a trimming schedule.  Avoid adding spreading groundcovers and plants with indeterminate growth patterns such as bougainvillea.

Should you need a plant list for your area, check this resource:  http://www.amwua.org/plants

A few plants that I personally like...

Salvia leucantha has pretty purple flowers and will fill a space

Euphorbia rigida adds a nice blue pop

Rosmarinus officinalis has solid green color year round and does great in full sun once established (keep out of shade)
Muhlenbergia capilaris is a great grass that adds color as well.  it dies back in winter though, as do all grasses

Salvia clevelandii is another good candidate that will attract birds and hummingbirds

Then pick out some "specimen" plants to add interest.  

Make sure to blend compost into the planting pits to add a degree of water holding capacity and nutrients.

Bam, done.