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23 Arizona backyard ideas on a budget: Get inspiration for your desert-themed backyard

Do you live in an arid area, making it impossible to grow a lush, green lawn? Well, lucky you, because backyard beauty standards are changing!

Redecorating to include a desert-themed backyard will still get you the kick-ass results you’ve always dreamed of. It only requires a little creativity and some materials and plants that suit your environment. And you definitely won’t have to dig yourself into a financial hole to make it happen!

Here are 23 Arizona backyard ideas on a budget. Check them out to get the help that would lead you through your remodel.

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Rocks & Stones for Your Arizona-Inspired Backyard

This idea is pretty low-maintenance and can cost almost no money since rocks and stones are natural and readily found everywhere in different sizes, shapes, and colors.

Collect some rocks and arrange them in a way that transforms your otherwise dull backyard into a relaxing, breathtaking private oasis or a desert-themed backyard.

rock garden along the side of a pathway
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a pathway rocks  surrounded by a garden of succulent
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A tree surrounded by a spiral of rocks, plants and dirt in
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White rocks on the pathway of the house front door
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rocks artistically arranged into flowers
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Pros & Cons

+ Easy to decorate
+ Feasible to find so many stones 
+ Creative
+ Low maintenance 
– Time-consuming 

My Feeling About This Backyard Idea

This is one of the most affordable backyard landscaping ideas in Arizona. It costs nothing and you can let your creativity flow. I have gathered enough stones to surround the flower beds in my backyard, but you can lay the entire yard if you want to. It will definitely get some attention from your neighbors. Let’s see if they can resist redecorating their yards. 

Common Problems I’ve Experienced

The only problem I had was allocating enough time to collect the stones and rocks. I encouraged my family to help me out, and we managed to gather enough stones for my flowers. Other than that, it is a decorative idea that you can freely change every season if you wish so. 

My Verdict

The best decorative ideas are free, and this stone lawn surely transforms your yard. It costs nothing at all, and you only need to contribute your time.

Artificial Turf to Save Water in a Desert Backyard

Even if you live in a climate region that allows for a natural lawn, maintaining it comes with a price and includes constant maintenance, like mowing, weeding, filling in bald spots, and fertilizing. Not everyone is a fan of gardening. Why can’t we have a green lawn without tending to it too often?

Well, there is a solution. To save time and money, consider artificial turf, which is a surface made of synthetic fibers that resemble real grass. Nobody would even think your grass is unnatural.

According to, artificial turf can have a big upfront cost ($5-20) per square foot including installation. However, once installed, it should be good and cost-free for the following 15 to 25 years.

Opting for artificial turf has many benefits for homeowners and our planet.

Artificial turf saves water, is more environmentally friendly, and is much easier to maintain. Just remove the debris, rinse the turf regularly, and brush the grass against the grain from time to time.

According to, artificial turf can have a big upfront cost ($5-20) per square foot, including installation. However, once installed, it should be good and cost-free for the following 15 to 25 years.

tree ground covered with pebbles and use rocks to separate it with the grass ground
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front yard landscaping, filling your garden ground with rocks and use bricks to separate it from the grass ground
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creating an oasis garden through your front door
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landscape with a golf course backyard design
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Pros & Cons

+ Long lasting
+ Low maintenance
+ Doesn’t require water
+ Easy to clean 
– Big initial cost

My Feeling About This Backyard Idea

I’m pretty familiar with this backyard idea because I actually tried it in the past. I used to use artificial turf but only on limited areas. I approached the realization of this decor with creativity. I formed a few green islands in my yard to give it color. 

You can do the same instead of covering the whole backyard. It definitely improved the curb appeal, and I didn’t have to spend too much money and time on cleaning it. 

Common Problems I’ve Experienced

My only issue with artificial turf was the price. It was too big of an initial cost to place the green carpet all over the backyard. Instead, I was inspired by some of the photos you see here and created green islands. They perfectly contrast with the bushy plants and stones I have. 

My Verdict

Installing artificial turf is like laying a carpet. You cut the size you need and place it where it needs to be. It may be a pricey landscaping idea for homeowners in Arizona but don’t forget that it will last you for over 10 years. 

If you are looking for a low-maintenance backyard idea that resembles real glass, then this option is worth considering.

Cacti Decor for a Desert-Themed Backyard

There are many reasons to have a cactus garden.

First of all, cacti blends are the perfect fit for your desert-themed backyard. Secondly, cacti are hardy and can live a long time, so they don’t need frequent replanting, making for an affordable, sustainable backyard addition.

Perhaps most importantly, cacti are easy to care for, conserve water, and require much less maintenance than almost all other types of plants.

All you have to do is follow these three steps:

  1. Do not overwater your cacti garden: Make sure that their pots and soil are well-drained. This can be achieved by adding a layer of pebbles to the bottom of the pot.
  2. Water according to the season: During the summer, you can water your cacti whenever the soil surface feels dry. However, during the winter, especially when it’s cold, cacti should not be watered at all. You can start watering when the plant starts budding again, as spring begins.
  3. Choose the type of soil wisely: Go for soil that allows water to quickly drain away from the plant, like sand mulch.

Some of the cacti species are quite hardy so you can plant them even if you live in cold hardiness zones such as zone 7. For more hardy tropical plants, check out our post with tropical plants for zone 7.

This is one of my favorite small desert backyard ideas.

However, be careful if you live in an area where cacti are native: once you plant a cactus, it’s very hard to kill it!

cacti garden around the gate wall
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tall cacti on both side of a pathway
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backyard cacti garden center piece
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Garden tree surrounded with well arranged cacti
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Contemporary Desert Landscaping planted with Various Kind of Cactus Plants on the Front Yard with Contemporary Wall Fence
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Pros & Cons

+ Affordable 
+ Low maintenance
+ Need little water
+ Don’t need to be replanted frequently
– May be dangerous for kids 

My Feeling About This Backyard Idea

I discovered this Arizona backyard design not so long ago and decided to try it out. I haven’t planted that many cacti – however, I opted for Golden barrel cacti to be planted at every corner of my yard. To add some color, I also got gorgeous yellow Winter jasmine. All the plants gave a nice appeal, and I am hoping to add more plants at the edge to keep unwanted intruders on the other side of the fence. 

When choosing plants for your backyard, take into consideration the weather – not all of the plants can survive cold winters. Use this backyard decor as inspiration, let your imagination flow! 

Common Problems I’ve Experienced

If you have restless kids racing around your backyard, this idea may not be the safest one. Consider this factor when opting for cacti decor. 

My Verdict

I find cacti decor a bit dangerous for small children but overall beautiful for Arizona and other parts of the U.S where the weather permits them to grow. It’s a perfect plant that needs a little water and attention as long as your winters aren’t too cold. I planted Golden barrel cacti and Winter jasmine, but you can grow whatever plant you want.

A Place to Relax in a Desert

It’s important to dedicate a spot for you and your loved ones to relax and enjoy the beautiful haven you’ve created. There are many options for seating, style, and layout of your patio, from a gazebo or a pergola (you can also install a shade on top of your pergola) to just a few chairs or a bench.

Your choice will depend on the available space and the budget you’re working with.

According to, on average, building a gazebo costs over $6,000 and pergolas over $3,600. However, costs vary according to the materials used, type, size, and whether you decide to go the DIY route or hire a professional.

To create an oasis feeling, you can plant a few palm trees. Even if you live in cold zones, you can still do that because  many palm species are actually quite hardy.

Agave and cactus splendor in the garden
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garden grounds filled with pebbles and accented with different sizes of rocks
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a relaxing garden with a pergola and  a pond
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cacti garden on an outdoor living space
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Pros & Cons

+ Improves the curb appeal
+ Doesn’t need to be watered often
+ Easy to plant
– Costly

My Feeling About This Backyard Idea

If you are looking for a backyard desert landscaping ideas on a budget, this could be it. The key is purchasing plants like succulents, Ponytail Palms, Pohtos, and Pregnant Onion plants. There are many more plants you can look for that need little water. Most of them reproduce, so it’s really easy to plant them everywhere for free. 

I think the only problem you will have is choosing between a patio and a gazebo. 

Common Problems I’ve Experienced

In my case, I planted young plants, so it took time before they showed their beauty and blossomed. However, you can purchase plants that will suit your backyard. 

My Verdict

Your Arizona yard will turn into a real oasis. I have already spotted a few neighbors copying my decor because it looks amazing to be surrounded by plants whenever I go out to have my coffee.

A Swimming Pool Is a Must for an Arizona Backyard

Having a small swimming pool in your backyard is a great idea for hot, dry, and sunny days. Or even enjoy a dip during winter with a solar heated pool. Which one to build will depend on the size of your backyard and your budget.

Compared to a vinyl-lined inground pool, which usually costs between $20,000 and $30,000 for a basic, medium-sized one without a patio, the cheapest and easiest option is a small, above-ground pool. On average, depending on quality, their cost ranges from $1,500 to $4,500 and their installation costs vary from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on their size and type.

According to, an even cheaper alternative is a ‘set and fill’ pool, which can last between one to three summers before it needs to be replaced. Their price varies from $100 – $800.

melenia pool as a center piece of your backyard garden
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melania pool and its outside wall is decorated with white pebbles, rocks and plants
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lighting into the palms around the pool
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Pros & Cons

+ Excellent place for summer parties
+ Gives your yard an unbeatable look
+ Increases your house’s value
– Expensive
– Takes time to build
– Frequent maintenance required 

My Feeling About This Backyard Idea

Building a pool is definitely a costly expense but such a deserving one if you spend your summer in Arizona. I opted for a medium-sized ‘set and fill’ pool as it is a cheaper option, although it needs to be replaced once a few years. 

I have planted a few palms around the pool so that I could take a dip during the day in the summer and chill under the shade. 

Common Problems I’ve Experienced

To install a ‘set and fill’ pool or build a permanent one, you will need to clean it and change the water from time to time, not to mention the initial costs involved. However, it is a long-term investment that will increase your house value if you plan on selling. 

My Verdict

Having a pool surrounded by greenery is definitely one of the most desired Arizona backyard ideas. Although not the most affordable one but definitely worth considering. Combing a few backyard designs for Arizona I have mentioned earlier will turn your personal space into a peaceful sanctuary where you get to spend quality time with your family.

Arizona Backyard Ideas on a Budget: Did You Like Our Image Collection?

Did my Arizona backyard landscaping ideas on a budget help you decide what you would like your desert-themed backyard to look like after renovation?

Personally, being a resident of North Carolina myself, these simple tricks (along with dry river bed landscaping ideas and these cool landscaping ideas with mulch and rocks) helped transform my drought-prone backyard into a beautiful, private oasis.  You can also plant some pretty drought-resistant bell-shaped flowers to liven up your landscape.

We hope we’ve been able to keep you entertained and inspired. Let us know what you think in the comments section! And, if you’ve liked the content, feel free to share the article.

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About The Author

Nadya Jones

Nadya is a writer, entrepreneur, and designer based in Raleigh. She writes in her blog, the one you are visiting right now, where she shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design. Her husband Brett provides her with a lot of inspiration and behind-the-scenes content. Together, they work on creating beautiful outdoor spaces that serve as an extension of their home and inspire others to do the same. If you are interested in landscaping, gardening, or outdoor design, be sure to check out the blog! Also, follow Nadya on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr!

4 thoughts on “23 Arizona backyard ideas on a budget: Get inspiration for your desert-themed backyard”

  1. Beautiful ideas! And thank you for your gracious response to the a hole above. We need more of you in the world! Keep up the great work! I will be using some of your ideas for sure. 👍😊💖

  2. Your photos are not even in Az … the photo from Pinick is in Austin Texas .. the mans who backyard that is is a popular cactus blogger .. I’m reporting your plagiarism.

    • Hey there, thanks for your comment! I found them on Pinterest and I did not realize that Pinterest can give misleading results 🙁
      As for the Pinick photo, I can remove it! In the past, I used to ask bloggers if I can publish their photos. Nobody objected as long as there is the image credit provided and only one photo per post is used.
      But again, I can remove it.
      Thanks and have a great day!


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