The Importance of Water in Desert Landscape Design

Five different ways to use water in a desert landscape design. How to create the "oasis illusion" in desert landscaping designs. Pictures of gardens in Arizona, California and Morocco.


Install a Pool or Fountain

Pictures from Lotusland in CA

Swimming pool in the Aloe garden at Lotusland.

Swimming pool in the Aloe Garden.

Sell fountain in the Aloe garden at Lotusland.

Shell fountain at the pool's edge.

A pool, pond, or water fountain creates an oasis in a desert landscape. Install xeric plants around the water feature to make the garden look verdant without driving up the water bill.

Pool in a California desert landscaping design.

Pool in a California desert landscaping design.

Fountain in a California desert landscape design.

Fountain in a California desert landscape design.

This backyard landscape design is kept dewy fresh by a lap pool and a fountain.

The lap pool is reminiscent of a canal, and the tiny fountain waterfall contributes the rushing noise that only a waterfall can.

There are two patios here, connected by a walkway and stairs: one at the pool's edge and another up the hill. An outdoor dining area on the upper patio basks in the shade of mature Jacaranda trees which will cover themselves in purple flowers each spring.

Blue pool in a Moroccan garden.

A reflecting pool is smaller, less expensive to build, requires less space, and is less of a water hog than a swimming pool yet brings the same cooling influence to the sizzling desert landscape.


The clump of Papyrus Sedge interrupts the runway effect. Tall palms and bamboo plants cast shade here and make the edge of this pool a cool place to sit and dip your fingers in the water.

Blue fountain surrounded by fountain grass.
Birds enjoying a shower in a fountain.

The rosy flower plumes of Pennisetum alopecuroides wave about on every breeze passing through this cactus garden in Marrakech.

In additon to its visual appeal, this fountain provides the sound of splashing which is music to a desert gardeners ears.

This type of fountain is also delightful to birds who prefer dripping water to a still pool.


The Color Blue

Moroccan desert landscape.

Certain shades of blue are suggestive of water and can be used to create what I call the "oasis effect", the illusion that you have entered a well watered garden.

The Moroccan desert landscape design in the images above, uses the color blue to this effect better than most.

The path mimics the relecting pool (image further above). The shiny surface mirrors the plantings lining its sides, while the blue borders represent water.

The bright blue raised beds in the nearby lawn resemble small pools.

Another way to create the suggestion of water in desert landscaping is to make a dry stream bed.

Dry stream bed made of river rock.

You'll find instructions for making a dry stream, here.


A Waterfall in Arizona

A waterfall in an Arizona landscape design.

If you have the space and the budget, a waterfall is the king of garden water features. Landscape around your desert waterfall with California Fan palms and other varieties that cope well with dry soil.

Other desert plants you might utilize include: Joshua Tree Yuccas, false red yucca plants, Tree Aloe, and Beaucarnea recurvata.

Make a Big Splash with a
Birdbath

Birdbath in a cactus garden.

This tiny birdbath will make a big difference to the smaller forms of wildlife in your desert garden. Keep the basin filled with fresh water and the small birds will sing for joy. Frogs, lizards and butterflies will also refresh themselves at this diminutive desert oasis.

The resulting activity will draw attention to this petite cactus garden.



Head This Way for More Landscaping Inspiration:

Hillside Landscaping Advice: Controlling Erosion and Water Runoff

Ideas for Landscaping Around Arbors and Arches

Landscaping a Courtyard with Containers

5 Front Yard Landscaping Ideas

Vertical Gardens: Grow Food and Flowers Anywhere!

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