Landscaping Trends 2023: What Ticks Among Phoenix Back- and Front Yards?

June 29, 2023

Completed full backyard landscape project, top view

If there’s anything we’ve learned in the last few years, it’s proving that change is the only constant in life. A lot happened in such a short period—from unprecedented travel restrictions to social media’s explosion. Now, the “new normal” is underway.


  • Trending Features
    • Why Less Is More in Arizona Designs
      • Factors Driving the Trends
      • Residential architecture is no different. For instance, the current landscaping trends in Phoenix, Arizona reflect the residents’ growing affection for home improvements. We don’t do them anymore only to fix what’s broken. We also try to make our dwellings more fun while future-proofing their value. This blog post discusses what kind of outdoor space upgrades are picking up steam in the Phoenix area and why.

        Backyard renovation allows people to expand their living spaces. With the right revamp choices, you can make staying home feel more like a dream vacation than a chore. Phoenix residents can do that by building new outdoor structures that promote relaxation and interactions as in an indoor living room.

        The Hardscape: What It Is and What’s Currently In Demand

        In landscaping, “hardscape” refers to the hard, non-living elements of the design. The hardscape divides the outdoor living space into three planes:

        • Base or ground plane—spans the floors and walkways.
        • Vertical plane—includes structures elevated from the ground, serving as columns, enclosures, raised vantage points and many others. Examples are patio walls, fences, decks, and furniture.
        • Overhead plane—includes roofing structures like ramadas and pergolas.

        The planes making up the outdoor living space. This complete landscaping project is one of ours.

        Presently, the following home improvements are making a splash in the metro:

        1. Outdoor Kitchens

        An outdoor kitchen increases your cooking options and creates a unique dining experience. It also raises Phoenix home resale prices significantly. Custom outdoor kitchens are especially popular because of their immense aesthetic, entertainment and investment potential.

        The trendsetting outdoor kitchen upgrades today include gas grills, smart cooking appliances, adding an entertainment area and expanding the storage spaces.

        Gas grills have several advantages over types running on other forms of fuel. For starters, they're easy to use and maintain. And although the flavors are less smoky than what you would get from a wooden grill, these appliances work fast. They also let you comply with Arizona's environmental restrictions, which aim to improve air quality, especially during cold months.

        Then there's smart technology. Automated appliances make it possible for you to attend virtual meetings and cook meals to perfection simultaneously. They let you set your grill's temperature and cooking time straight from your mobile device. 

        An entertainment area can keep the mood light and fun while guests wait for their food. Some ideas are outdoor-rated TVs, putting greens, and billiards tables, but the choices are up to you and the crowd you expect to entertain.

        This pool takes outdoor kitchen entertainment to the next level. Design and construction by Straight Line Landscape.

        Expanded storage areas let you take fewer trips to your indoor kitchen. That means greater efficiency and less likelihood of spills and accidents.

        2. Outdoor Fireplaces

        Outdoor fireplaces have various possible uses and can add great value to your home. Besides warming up Arizona desert yards on chilly nights, they can—

        • Add drama to landscape lighting
        • Make for a good privacy screen
        • Conceal unsightly corners
        • Enhance the landscape’s overall architectural appeal
        • Help with cooking when attached to a grill or pizza oven, and many others

        These fire features are versatile, hence the increasing demand. In Arizona, gas fireplaces are preferred due to environmental regulations. Combo fire and water features, such as fountains attached to fireplaces or fire pits, are also having a moment due to their stylishness.

        An outdoor fireplace lights up this beautiful garden at night. This is a Straight Line Landscape creation.

        3. Water Features

        In critical times like the present, people grow a greater fondness for the environment. The Phoenix homeowner is no different. That's why wildlife-supporting water features, such as birdbaths, ponds, and fountains, have become local landscaping trends. Swimming pools are likewise fashionable—they provide much-needed recreation and physical activity to people staying home for long intervals.

        Water features may look wasteful on the surface, but many modern ones are not. Primarily, there's a shift toward water-efficient technology. Building pros now integrate water-recirculating or recycling equipment into water features. Some offer to attach a home rainwater collection system as an option.

        Strategic landscaping is another water-conserving innovation. The idea is to build your water feature in a cooler location—such as under a tree, in a garden, or near a shade structure—so evaporation occurs less. Using Zen designs in landscaping also helps limit water use.

        Modern water features have built-in water-conserving technology. Design and construction by Straight Line Landscape.

        4. Shade Structures

        Desert landscaping is incomplete without these overhead protectors. Roofing structures like ramadas and pergolas lessen ambient heat and shield people, pets and equipment from various elements. They ensure comfort 24/7 despite the weather's unpredictability and the environmental changes, thus their popularity.

        The upsurging design ideas for shade structures include automation, poolside shades and hanging chairs and beds.

        First up is automation. If you can incorporate smart technology into cooking appliances, you can do the same to your roofing. Automated roofing lets you adjust the amount of skylight in your backyard nook and protect it from rain when needed—and you can do them all remotely.

        Building shade structures near swimming pools is also becoming more common. Shade structures add style and limit heat and water evaporation. They also make a fun hangout after a swim.

        A poolside shade cools you down after a daytime swim. This landscape is one of our projects.

        Hanging chairs and beds up the ante on outdoor relaxation. They’re great for quiet reflections and quick break time naps. They come in various designs, so you can find one for every ramada or pergola style.

        5. Decks and Patios

        Decks and patios create spots where people can have quiet alone time or intimate conversations outdoors. Decks provide the best desert landscaping views, while patios make great locations for outdoor kitchens and fireplaces. Both can boost property value.

        Current deck and patio trends include composite decking, shaded outdoor kitchens and outdoor offices. Composite decking means using eco-friendly plastic wood to build decks. Shaded outdoor kitchens are built-to-last, roofed deck or patio cooking areas. Outdoor offices are shaded deck or patio spaces specially made for people working at home.

        A ramada wards off the desert heat so people can fully enjoy noontime barbecues on this patio. This is a Straight Line Landscape creation.

        The Softscape: What It Is and What’s in Fashion

        “Softscape'' refers to the soft parts of the landscape, notably artificial and natural plants. In Arizona, residents have widely embraced xeriscaping—essentially, the practice of drought-proofing a landscape—to adapt to the desert climate. Besides switching to a water-efficient irrigation system, the following have also become popular in Phoenix homes:

        Xeriscaping in a modern Arizona home. Done by Straight Line Landscape.

        1. Growing Native Plants and Shrubs

        Native Arizona plants are drought-resistant, thriving in the desert climate better than non-native ones. They are low-maintenance yet wildlife-friendly. They’re perfect in localities incentivizing home water conservation. If you wish to infuse life into your backyard, filling it with colorful succulents like aloe vera and Christmas cactus would be a great idea.

        Succulents in a Straight Line Landscape xeriscaping project.

        2. Switching from a Natural Lawn to an Artificial Turf

        A natural ground cover needs a regular water supply. Artificial plant material doesn't. Many Arizona residents replace their natural lawns with artificial grass. Doing so helps them keep up with local regulations, fickle environmental conditions and busy calendars.

        Manufacturers classify artificial turf based on various characteristics, such as material, stitch count and color. Some varieties are made specifically for foot traffic-heavy locations like putting greens and play areas. Talk to landscaping pros to find the best type for your yard.

        A putting green covered with artificial turf. Installed by the pros of Straight Line Landscape.

        3. Maintaining a Small Natural Lawn Amid Large Areas of Hardscape

        Phoenix homeowners may also choose to cultivate a small natural lawn and surround it with big chunks of hardscape. For people with nurturing souls, it beats avoiding natural grass entirely. If this is what you prefer to have in your yard, we recommend working with reputable landscaping professionals. Doing so helps ensure you get nothing less than an impeccable lawn design for your desert landscape.

        Most natural grass lawns in Arizona have resilient species like Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass. There are others, but if you want natural grass on your property, pick climate-suitable varieties and give them enough TLC. You can read our previous post on choosing and caring for Arizona grass for more information.

        A driveway flanked by desert plants and patches of natural grass. A project of Straight Line Landscape.

        4. Planting Drought-Tolerant Trees

        What can drought-resistant trees do that shorter desert plants can’t?

        The answer: They provide shade.

        Trees are important in Phoenix landscaping because they cool the surroundings better than ground cover plants. They also give shelter to wildlife animals. Some varieties commonly found in Arizona homes are palo verde, desert willow and many kinds of palm trees.

        However, tree planting isn’t for everyone. Those who do greatly value physical activity, caring for wildlife and lower energy bills from air conditioning. 

        Palm trees planted around a swimming pool. This is a Straight Line Landscape creation.

        5. Gardening

        Gardening has become increasingly important in metropolitan areas, even desert regions like Phoenix. People create desert oases for various reasons. Many do it for recreation, physical activity or simply to embellish the surroundings.

        Lately, food security has also become a vital home gardening goal. Since not every Arizona yard has ample space or suitable soil, innovations like container gardening and vertical gardening have turned mainstream. Carrots, leafy greens and tomatoes are some vegetables you can plant in your backyard.

        If you wish to have your own garden, you may contact your local nursery for plant care information for specific varieties. Don’t forget to hire a professional landscaper to help you create a desert oasis that suits your home.

        You can grow flowering plants in pots and other containers if you have little space or suitable soil. This garden is part of a Straight Line Landscape project.

        Now that you know what outdoor features are gaining traction locally, you may wonder how your neighbors put them together. In other words, what landscape design ideas are flourishing in Phoenix?

        Over the last few years, Arizona home architecture has been shifting to one concept in particular: simplicity. Simple designs inspire inner peace and promote efficiency—just what you need to cope with drastic environmental and social changes. They also require little upkeep.

        Simple art designs take on different names: minimalism, suprematism, Zen design, abstract art, constructivism, modular and others. The patterns do not always represent nature, though they stay quietly in the background to let nature’s beauty pop up.

        So we see a lot of the following art elements in Arizona landscaping these days:

        • Lines that are more often straight than curved
        • A limited spectrum of colors
        • Angular shapes predominating over rounded geometric patterns

        The materials in these designs may or may not have regular surfaces. Smooth cuts are typical in stacked structures like brick walls. Rough finishes keep floors slip-proof. Irregular shapes are common in rustic settings. Regular ones are more often found in urban designs.

        • A swimming pool and an outdoor fireplace in a Zen-style garden
        • Snapshots of a Zen-design backyard. Design and construction by Straight Line Landscape

        Snapshots of a Zen-design backyard. Design and construction by Straight Line Landscape.

        You probably noticed that these upgrades make modern Phoenix homes look very different from dated ones. Hardscapes used to be less complex, though most backyards had greater vegetation diversity. You may ask, what gave rise to the landscaping ideas currently on trend?

        The most important factors are the following:

        1. The Need for Water Conservation

        Arizona occasionally has rains, but the state's water supply remains low. This is one of the biggest reasons for the local landscaping trends, especially since it impacts other environmental factors beyond human control.

        Some Phoenix cities offer rebates to homeowners who reduce their water consumption. Outdoor irrigation can take up to 70% of residential water use. Local government and HOA water restrictions usually apply only to front yard landscaping, so the backyard is where people make more cuts.

        Some examples of backyard renovations that can decrease water requirements are the following:

        • Replacing natural with artificial turf
        • Choosing drought-resistant over less resilient greens
        • Reducing natural softscape areas while expanding hardscapes

        Note that when water requirements are low, maintenance costs are also low.

        Water conservation efforts made xeriscaping trendy in Arizona. Done by Straight Line Landscape.

        2. Modern Living

        Time moves fast in American metro areas like Phoenix. People with busy lifestyles may find their routines both rewarding and stressful. These are the same individuals who want centerfold-worthy homes that require little maintenance. Minimalist designs, hardscapes expanding the living space, and low-water-use backyards appeal most to them.

        A little technology wouldn’t hurt, either. User-friendly electronic devices, such as outdoor cooking and entertainment equipment, allow homeowners to balance work with family life. They also engage people of all ages, making the outdoors fun for everyone.

        3. Neighborly Influences

        Drought and temperature extremes characterize the Arizona climate. Local governments and HOAs support home improvements protecting from these environmental conditions, such as the following:

        • Planting drought-tolerant trees
        • Building shade structures
        • Adding fire features

        Residents keep building regulations in mind when making their backyard designs. However, as much as they want their homes to look unique, they’d rather their landscaping ideas aren’t too flashy. So, you could say that neighbors also influence each other’s preferences.

        4. Social Media

        When social distancing was in force, social media enabled people to share ideas, even with little or no face-to-face contact. The COVID-19 pandemic created the need for more entertaining home activities, but it was the internet that fanned the flames. Chalk it up to people’s fear of missing out.

        Social media contributed to the vast popularity of outdoor kitchens. This cozy nook is one of our creations.

        Some landscaping ideas that went viral online in the last few years are:

        • Outdoor kitchens
        • Outdoor fireplaces
        • Gardening for food security
        • Minimalist designs
        • Wildlife-nurturing water features like birdbaths
        • Remodeling projects like installing decks and artificial turf

        In Arizona, social media has also shaped the landscaping preferences of many residents. So the online trends are not far off from the real-life local ones.

        5. Pandemic After-Effects

        The COVID-19 pandemic made people want to expand their living spaces, thus the surge in professional and DIY outdoor projects. Hardscape structures like outdoor kitchens and decks provided homes with more room for entertainment. Even if the public health situation is now improving, these upgrades aren't expected to lose popularity soon—they're just too enticing not to have.

        6. Rising Ambient Temperatures

        Desert daytime temperatures can reach scorching levels, and the changing Arizona climate doesn't make things better. What does, however, is building a backyard shade structure like a ramada or pergola or planting native trees. The demand for overhead hardscape elements is expected to continue in the area, more out of necessity than sheer novelty.

        7. Costs of Materials

        Construction material costs continue to rise because the supply barely meets the demand. The pandemic made things worse by disrupting distribution chains. Adapting to these conditions means backyard landscape designs must be sustainable and practical without compromising aesthetic quality. So when you think about it, material price and shortage also justify the current popularity of minimalism and low-maintenance structures.

        Minimalist designs let you create stunning landscapes despite the increasing prices or shortage of materials. This is one of Straight Line Landscape’s projects.

        As you can see, these landscaping ideas didn’t surface on their own. They resulted from recent events that shaped global and local views. Keeping up with the trends is just as important as knowing how they came to be. After all, backyard designs must be both pleasant-looking and environmentally appropriate, especially in places like Phoenix, Arizona.

        In summary, what you can expect to see in Phoenix landscaping this year are:

        • Hardscapes that expand the living space, making more room for home relaxation and entertainment
        • Softscapes requiring less water
        • Low-maintenance features
        • Back-to-basics landscape design themes
        • Eco-friendly structures
        • Things that allow people to become self-sufficient

        Feeling the landscaping pulse is a good way to start your project. Only by knowing can you make a sound design that’s also appropriate for the Arizona environment.

You dream it. We design and construct it. You enjoy it.

Here at Straight Line Landscape we are experts in custom landscape design and construction. From the creative design and selection of materials to installation and construction, you’ll recognize quality and attention to detail from start to finish.

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