How to Create a Desert Landscape | Ask This Old House

How to Create a Desert Landscape | Ask This Old House

Ask This Old House landscape designer Jenn Nawada heads to Phoenix to recreate the desert in a homeowner’s front yard.
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Time: 1 day
Cost: $2,000 and Up

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for Creating a Desert Landscape:
Hand truck

Shopping List:
Variety of desert plants
_” stone
Modular pavers

1. Dig out the outline of a walkway about 3’ wide and 3-4” deep. Give the outline a slight curve to add visual interest to the walkway.
2. To mimic the hills of the desert, shovel piles of soil onto the landscape into seemingly random mounds.
3. Determine a few locations to place boulders in the landscape. Dig holes in those locations about 4” deep and roughly the width of the boulder being placed.
4. Carefully load each boulder onto a hand truck, wheel it into position, and roll the boulder into its final place. Backfill around the hole to make it look like it really belongs there.
5. Stage the variety of desert plants across the landscape. Things aren’t really clumped together in the desert, so keep the plants spread out. Be mindful of when plants bloom, if ever, to have an even spread of color across the landscape.
6. Once each plant is in its desired position, plant them all with the shovel. Dig down just about as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
7. To plant cacti, wrap a piece of cardboard around the needles and move the cactus only by holding onto the cardboard.
8. Give everything a good watering.
9. Put down a layer of _” stone on the outlined walkway and level it.
10. Compact the walkway with a compacter.
11. Lay down the pavers over the walkway base in a running bond pattern.

In any landscape design, Jenn recommends looking for natural cues in the surrounding area to recreate in a controlled way in your yard. In this case, she identified an abundance of small stones coating the ground, plants spread far apart from each other, and undulating hills. Those cues informed the design in the homeowner’s front yard.

Jenn installed boulders, red yucca, lantana, bougainvillea, a few variety of cacti, and a Chilean mesquite tree. These can be found at nurseries, particularly in the Southwest region of the US and in zones 9 and 10.

Expert assistance for this segment was provided by Rod Pappas and Xeriscapes Unlimited, Inc. (, A-1 Materials Phoenix (, All Season Nursery (, and Horizon Irrigation (

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How to Create a Desert Landscape | Ask This Old House


  1. JACKIE MARTIN on July 30, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    OMG I LOVE THE DESERT ❣️ so much so open & the sunny drenching days too ❣️❣️❣️❣️

  2. TrueToad on July 30, 2021 at 9:09 pm

    Excellent Learning I lived South of Tucson Arizona for many years, the desert is beautiful”

  3. Prakash Gudimetla Gudimetla Prakash on July 30, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    Very nice natural tea

  4. Saul Goodman on July 30, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    Those pavers look like they have a rounded over top. Which won’t be good for a wheel chair. You should have used flat pavers. Space aren’t even between them. Some are bigger then other.
    If you have someone in a wheelchair. You should have just poured cement. It’s safer that way.

  5. Andrew on July 30, 2021 at 9:15 pm

    this is not wheelchair accessible. You don’t put concrete pavers. Surface needs to be smooth. these guys are not the brightest.

  6. rth on July 30, 2021 at 9:15 pm

    I would not plant a mesquite that close to the house because of the roots

  7. Cooper Bookout on July 30, 2021 at 9:17 pm


  8. drinny26 on July 30, 2021 at 9:18 pm

    Beautiful but I can never live in the desert.

  9. Margery Hinman on July 30, 2021 at 9:19 pm

    This looks so amateurish. The papers are the wrong type, they are uneven, the arc is not good, and just all around amateur looking. Very disappointing.

  10. TeenaGeena Ballerina on July 30, 2021 at 9:19 pm

    I’m curious about watering this landscape, because I didn’t notice any irritation system. Did the homeowner use sprinklers, and how often?

  11. marbarchi on July 30, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    The homeowners response after he tells her that the plant will "go with your mailbox" is priceless. Lol

  12. D. Fras on July 30, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    What kind of granite is that? is that crushed granite or some other name, I need this for starters?

  13. Cal on July 30, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    They did a beautiful job. The pavers look awesome. The plant choices were perfect. But they blocked the window again with the tree and planted it to close to the house. Those mesquite roots can wreak havoc on a foundation. I planted mine 15 feet away from my house.

  14. Brandon James on July 30, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    3:01 a flat yard is good lmao 🤦‍♂️

  15. Elijah Prescott on July 30, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    pretty sure I’ve passed this house on my bike rides

  16. rth on July 30, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    They could have cut back the honeysuckle without killing it. I do it all the time. The fact that they killed it really pisses me off. I have several in my front yard.

  17. Logamn1023 on July 30, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    more like this please

  18. José Luis Sosa on July 30, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    I wonder what her girlfriend looks like 😉

  19. Donald Erickson on July 30, 2021 at 9:33 pm

    Seeing this makes me homesick

  20. Kayinfso Here on July 30, 2021 at 9:34 pm


  21. Justin Waynoka on July 30, 2021 at 9:34 pm

    Everybody has been the guy at 2:42 at least once lol

  22. Jon M on July 30, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    That honeysuckle was beautiful. Why tf did they cut it out? Just TRIM it if it’s too big!!

  23. Tamm on July 30, 2021 at 9:39 pm

    Hummingbirds love that honeysuckles! They could’ve replant it somewhere-else in the yard!

  24. QuangThichDuc on July 30, 2021 at 9:40 pm

    Rahja would have been pissed, I didn’t see anyone rough up those roots.

  25. jean tsai on July 30, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    Did roger stop because of his back ?

  26. kayla lewis on July 30, 2021 at 9:43 pm

    Biological Japanese detective ennqh wedding pot cook divorce remind sad tomorrow head extra.

  27. Valerie Elfering on July 30, 2021 at 9:43 pm

    Bougainvillea 🤮 God, I hate those.

  28. Jeff Cram on July 30, 2021 at 9:43 pm

    This is my one step process of creating a desert landscape. I have studied and researched this topic for tens of seconds. After many partial minutes of thought, I have distilled my method into a single rule:

    Step 1: Stop watering

  29. Jose Arana on July 30, 2021 at 9:45 pm

    I live in North Carolina on the east coast and I love this desert look landscaping can I do this in here???

  30. Mr. X on July 30, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    Always smart to remove shade from in front of your windows in Phoenix.

  31. RvBadlands2015 on July 30, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    Chilean mesquite are not native to Arizona. The velvet mesquite and honey mesquite are native to Arizona.

  32. Martha McKinley on July 30, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    Big no I didn’t like it !!!

  33. Aaron Andrews on July 30, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    Isn’t concrete a natural material? What is she talking about?

  34. Tomboy Dru on July 30, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    That honeysuckle could have been salvaged smh

  35. THE INFINITY CALL on July 30, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    Honestly, the most offensive landscaping video I’ve ever seen. Did I just witness to people murder a gorgeous huge old honeysuckle bush by saying, take it out? And then they just proceed to murder it like it’s nothing? They purport to love plants in nature but this video says otherwise. Patently offensive. Philistines. Cretins. No connection to nature whatsoever. They’re just playing checkers out there.

  36. fred barnes on July 30, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    It looks like a west facing home. I bet someone put that honeysuckle in to block the AZ sun from coming in the bedroom and making it uninhabitable.

  37. Walter Malterre on July 30, 2021 at 9:55 pm

    can you guys do follow up videos? I’d really like to see how some of these home and yard projects turned out after some time.

  38. Derek Lull on July 30, 2021 at 9:55 pm

    The camera guy wasn’t having the best day

  39. Gammareign on July 30, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    Actually, people who know anything about geography understand that mountains cause deserts via the "rain-shadow".

  40. murray andru on July 30, 2021 at 9:57 pm

    Great Job Jen !

  41. Blue Unicorn on July 30, 2021 at 10:00 pm


  42. Clinton Lyle on July 30, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    Stop watering your lawn. Cover all grass and greenery with tarps for several months. Remove tarps after the city cites you.
    Bingo. Desert landscape.

  43. kevin juarez on July 30, 2021 at 10:02 pm

    Just wait till things grow I always see people fucking things up and not spreading them across they are not gonna stay little just wait till the plants start to have baby’s and start spreading or that tree rooting will cause a problem to the house down the line so much for being The Professionals.

  44. karen on July 30, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    Dont kill the beautiful tree

  45. OfftoShambala on July 30, 2021 at 10:04 pm

    Don’t use the new gold lantana.. it’s not good in winter… the purple is much better… blooms profusely year round.. attracts butterflies. If you want a low grower… the reds and pinks are usually big. And I can’t recall if they look good year round or not, but I’ve lived with both new gold and purple… purple is better.

  46. Janette Hammons on July 30, 2021 at 10:04 pm

    I also live in Az. But, I need a dog friendly yard. Any suggests? And what are some of the trees that will live here? Thank you

  47. Dziadek on July 30, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    Their enthusiasm as well as the skidsteer were a little overkill for the situation

  48. Martin Zone on July 30, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    Can’t you guys there just go to a desert, dig some plants and cacti out to transplant them to your yard?

  49. Plumbing & Stuff In Oregon on July 30, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    Why’d they kill the Honey Suckle? I love those!

  50. Skimask on July 30, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    dont wanna step on a cactus or kick one no thanks

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