Alternative Lawns in the Desert

Not all homes have the rich soil and changing seasonality to successfully grow a lawn. For places like the desert, traditional grass lawns may be hard to come by due to the amount of limited resources, such as water, and the benefits of season changes.

However, this doesn’t mean desert lawns are hopeless to curate or maintain. In recent years, alternatives to desert lawns have developed to allow desert dwellers the option of building their lawn in spite of the heat and lack of plentiful water. This way, residents of Arizona, New Mexico, and others in desert climates can still enjoy having a green space around their home, no matter how hot it gets. 

Types of Desert Lawns

When it comes to maintaining a lawn in the desert, water conservation should be the most important feature homeowners look for in grass types. Grass that doesn’t require large amount of water to stay alive is not only ideal, but crucial to the survival of the lawn. 

Some grass types that can withstand high temperatures for extended amounts of time are: 

  • Buffalograss
  • Blue fescue
  • Blue grama
  • Redtop grass

Groundcover

Another way to protect grass in the desert heat is groundcover. Groundcover is a type of plant that spreads across the ground rather than growing tall. Desert lawns can benefit greatly from having groundcover, as they require little maintenance and do not need much water to stay alive. They also enhance the soil and prevent weeds from growing in their place. 

When searching for a groundcover plant, height should be the main factor to consider. Depending on how high you want it to go above the grass or flowers, different groundcover plants may be required. Most groundcover plants are receptive to marginal shade, which is helpful when covering the ground under trees.

Ornamental Grass

There is also the option of installing ornamental grass, which is usually shorter than normal grass, but not made of actual turf. Ornamental grass offers beauty and variety, in addition to being drought resistant. Although they sometimes go dormant during droughts, they are usually revived once the first spell of rain kicks in. 

Gravel

Gravel is a helpful material when curating lawns in the desert. Plants like the cactus will especially benefit from having gravel around the lawn.

When placing gravel around the lawn, secure landscape fabrics or plastic underneath it to even the soil surface. Use different colors or a mixture of gravel types to create eye-catching patterns.

Remember to spray a spot killer on the gravel periodically to prevent weed growth. Because gravel tends to leave small openings near the ground, weeds have the opportunity to sprout and disturb lawn growth.

Perennials and Shrubs

Using perennials and shrubs is a great way to build an alternative lawn in a desert climate. Low-growing junipers are an excellent choice, as they are low-maintenance and drought-resistant. Potentilla is another aggressive and drought-tolerant shrub that grows in low to medium heights. 

Salvias, which are tall, narrow flowers that grow mostly in purple, are an attractive option for lawns in the desert. Shrub roses are another plant with flowers that withstand low watering amounts.

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