6 Drought-Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Las Vegas

golden yellow leaves of a honey locust tree

Drought dictates a lot of what you can and can’t do in the middle of the Mojave Desert, but it doesn’t mean you have to have a boring, barren landscape. With these six drought-resistant landscaping ideas for Las Vegas, you can create a captivating landscape that uses very little water. 

Some advantages of drought-resistant landscaping include:

  • Perfect for Las Vegas desert climate
  • Reduces water usage
  • Low maintenance
  • Eco-friendly
  • Rebates available

As you can see, drought-resistant landscaping is a great idea for Vegas homeowners, but how do you implement it? Here are six ideas to get you started. 

1. Drought-tolerant native plants

Good news: You don’t have to give up on growing plants in your yard just because you live in a drought-riddled desert. Nevada’s native plants are used to surviving with minimal water, so they’ll feel right at home in your water-wise garden.

You can water native plants far less frequently than non-natives. In fact, you may not have to water them at all. Natural rainfall (though scarce) provides enough moisture for many native plants.

The best part? Nevada natives come in a wide variety of flowers, trees, shrubs, vines, succulents, and more. Some of the best drought-tolerant native plants for Las Vegas include:

  • Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
  • Honey locust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos)
  • Sweetbush (Bebbia juncea
  • Western virgin’s bower (Clematis ligusticifolia)
  • Nevada agave (Agave utahensis ssp. nevadensis)

Cost to implement drought-tolerant native plants: About $5-$10 per plant for new flowers; about $20-$100 per plant for new shrubs; about $60-$800 per plant for new trees; price will depend on the size, species, and availability of the specific plant

2. Drip irrigation

The idea of an automatic irrigation system being a water-wise choice for Las Vegas might sound crazy to you, but drip irrigation is much different from your traditional sprinklers. Where sprinklers irrigate a large area all at once (wasting a lot of water in the process), drip irrigation systems only apply water where it’s needed most — around the roots of your plants. 

A series of individual emitters make up a drip irrigation system. Each emitter waters the root zone of a single plant or a group of plants with similar water needs. You can adjust the amount of water released by each emitter to ensure your plants get exactly the amount of water they need and no more. Drip irrigation reduces water usage by about 30% to 60% compared to traditional sprinklers. 

Cost to implement drip irrigation: About $1.50-$4.50 per square foot for professional installation; about $20-$200 for a DIY kit depending on the size of the area.

3. Mulch in plant beds

If you ignore everything else we suggest for your drought-resistant landscape, the least you can do is spread mulch in your flower beds and around the bases of your trees and shrubs. Mulch is very affordable, and it can work wonders for your landscape. 

Through the dry, unrelenting heat of Mojave Desert summers, mulch will insulate your soil and keep it cool. That cooler soil temperature will prevent water from evaporating. That means your plants will retain moisture in their roots longer, and you won’t have to water them as often. 

Mulch also smothers weeds and prevents them from growing so they can’t leech coveted water away from your plants.

Cost to implement mulch: About $2-$6 per bag of mulch; Note: One bag covers about 12 square feet at a depth of 2 inches 

4. Hardscapes

Think outside the plant bed! There are many features that can enhance your landscape and boost curb appeal without a single drop of water. Install a paver pathway winding through your front yard, a patio out back for entertaining guests, a charming stone retaining wall or another non-living feature to fill space where you might otherwise plant thirsty flowers or grass. 

Non-living features like the ones we’ve listed are known as hardscapes. Hardscapes have quite a few advantages. The most important is that they’re extremely low-maintenance. Another is that most hardscapes serve a purpose in addition to looking good. Plus, a properly built hardscape can increase property value (not to mention increase your enjoyment of your home).

Cost to implement some common hardscapes: About $2,000-$6,000 for a patio; about $1,000-$6,000 for a fence; about $2,000-$4,000 for a paver pathway; about $4,000-$11,000 for a deck; costs vary widely depending on the type of hardscape, its size, the material it’s made of, and whether you build it yourself or hire a contractor

5. Rock garden

Love the classic look of a garden but don’t love the gallons of water it takes to keep all those plants alive? Get creative and design a rock garden instead. 

Rock gardens come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on your style and what your yard allows, your custom rock garden might feature decorative boulders, gravel, natural stone, and perhaps a few succulents or other extremely drought-tolerant plants.

You could use rocks of various sizes to mimic natural rock formations or create a modern design. Since you don’t have to worry about water or sun needs as you would with plants, the only limitation here is your imagination. 

Cost to implement a rock garden: About $400-$1,000 for rocks and other supplies 

6. Artificial turf

Did you know turfgrass is usually the thirstiest part of a landscape? Lawns use about 30% – 60% of the urban freshwater in the United States. You can drastically reduce your water usage by removing the lawn altogether. 

Of course, not everyone likes the idea of a dirt lot or a yard full of hardscapes and decorative boulders. The obvious alternative is artificial turf. With artificial grass, you can keep the classic look of a lush, bright green front yard with none of the water waste. 

Some might worry about the environmental drawbacks of artificial turf, but the truth is that artificial turf is no worse for the environment than a traditional lawn. To keep grass alive over the years, homeowners use hundreds of gallons of water, not to mention pesticides, herbicides, and other chemical treatments that can poison groundwater. 

Cost to implement artificial turf: From $5-$19 per square foot, including labor rates for a professional installer

FAQ about drought-resistant landscaping

1. Do you have to water drought-resistant plants?

Drought-resistant plants can go a very long time without water once established. However, they may need regular watering when you first plant them to help them grow strong roots.

Note the difference between “drought-resistant” and “drought-tolerant” plants. While drought-resistant plants can go a long time without any water at all, drought-tolerant plants need minimal watering to survive.   

2. Why did Las Vegas ban ornamental grass?

Remember, grass uses far more water than most other plants. Planting ornamental grasses where you could use drought-friendly plants instead is simply a waste of water. The ban on ornamental grass could conserve up to 14 gallons of water per person per day in the Vegas area. 

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has put such water-saving measures into place in response to Nevada’s two-decade-long drought that shows no signs of improving and the dangerously low levels of Lake Mead, which is currently facing its first federally declared water shortage

3. Does Las Vegas have a mandatory watering schedule for landscapes?

Yes. Check with the Las Vegas Valley Water District for information on when you’re allowed to water your lawn and garden. 

Why we need drought-resistant landscaping in Las Vegas

Those who actually live here know that life in Sin City comes with its fair share of struggles, one of which is severe drought. The Hoover Dam’s water level has fallen more than 100 feet in the last two decades, leaving Las Vegas (and much of the West) in the worst drought of the past millennium. 

Clearly, we don’t have enough water to waste on extravagant landscaping. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a beautiful yard! You just have to be smart about it. Using a few of our drought-resistant landscaping ideas for Las Vegas is a great place to start. 

Not sure how to design and install a water-wise landscape on your own? That’s why we have professional landscapers. Local pros will be extremely familiar with drought-resistant landscaping, and they’ll help you make the best choices for your yard’s specific conditions. 

Main Photo Credit: Jarmila | Pixabay

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and editor with a passion for sustainable, earth-friendly gardening and lawn care practices. When she isn't sharing her knowledge about lawn care and landscaping, you can find her curled up with a good book and a cat in her lap.