11 Small Backyard Landscaping Ideas for Las Vegas

landscaping of a backyard

Finding small backyard landscaping ideas for Las Vegas might seem like a high-stakes gamble, given the notorious desert heat and tight water restrictions. But don’t fold your outdoor design dreams just yet — we’re here to help.

With some creativity, even the tiniest backyards in the most arid desert climate can blossom into personalized retreats. It’s all about playing the right cards: choosing drought-resistant plants and optimizing the space. So, let’s get started.

Best Small Backyard Landscaping Ideas for Las Vegas

1. Opt for a Lawn-Free Landscape

Las Vegas is not the most suitable city for the traditional, lush green lawn due to its arid climate and water conservation needs. In fact, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) took a significant step by prohibiting the installation of grass in new residential developments starting in December 2021, so why not opt for a more water-wise lawn alternative?

For small backyard owners in Las Vegas, the move away from grass lawns is also a practical choice. A lawn-free backyard is inherently low-maintenance. Without the need for regular watering, mowing, and fertilizing, you save significant time, effort, and money.

This article will explore other lawn alternatives, giving special attention to how to make the most out of your small backyard.

2. Install a Small Patio

chairs in a front yard
Photo Credit: Elena Photo / Canva Pro / License

A thoughtfully designed small patio can transform your outdoor space into a versatile haven, giving it dimension, texture, and usability. Whether you want to sip your morning coffee in the fresh air or a secluded spot to unwind, a patio can be the heart of your backyard.

Creating different zones within your backyard with a patio area allows for distinct functions and atmospheres. You can furnish it with comfortable outdoor chairs and a small table, and even add a grill. The possibilities are endless.

Regarding materials, there’s a wide range to choose from, including:

  • Gravel
  • Concrete pavers
  • Poured concrete
  • Flagstone

Pro tip: On average, the cost of building a patio ranges between $8 and $20 per square foot, depending on your backyard hardscape design and the materials. 

3. Build a Cozy Fire Pit

chairs around a fire pit
Photo Credit: Tino Rossini / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Even in Las Vegas, the temperatures dip during winter. While snow is a rarity, the cooler weather is an invitation to extend your living space outdoors, making your backyard a year-round retreat. Installing a fire pit is a great way to do just that, adding warmth to your yard.

Imagine the charm of roasting marshmallows or sharing stories around the fire! You can arrange chairs around it to create a focal point on your patio. 

There’s a variety of fire pits to fit every style, including prefabricated kits, above-ground ones, and in-ground ones. Depending on the type, fuel type, and add-ons, installing a fire pit costs around $850.

4. Illuminate With Outdoor Lighting

Flower bed lit up at night my small in-ground lights
Photo Credit: Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio & the Hill Country, LLC / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

In small backyards, lighting can add depth and dimension, making the area feel larger and more interesting. In addition, well-planned lighting can establish a mood and highlight features in your landscape that you want to showcase. Here are some ideas to consider for your backyard lighting:

  • Path lighting: Use small lights along walkways to guide your way and add charm.
  • String lights: Drape string lights above your patio for an ethereal ambiance.
  • Accent lighting: Place small lights near garden features or trees to spotlight these areas.
  • Layered lighting: Combine indirect and direct lighting to add depth and interest to your outdoor space.

The cost of professional landscape lighting ranges from $2,000 to $4,500, depending on the complexity and scale of the project. However, undertaking a DIY project can reduce these costs.

5. Shade Your Space with Awnings or Pergolas

white, wooden pergola connected to exterior wall over backyard patio
Photo Credit: Javani LLC / Adobe Stock

While outdoor lighting can transform your backyard into a nighttime paradise, having adequate shade during the day is equally important, especially given the intense desert sun. That’s where awnings and pergolas come in.

For those with the room to install a pergola, this option offers shade and an opportunity to enhance your backyard’s aesthetic. Adorning a pergola with climbing vines can increase your small space’s curb appeal. The cost of installing a pergola can range from $2,100 to $6,000, depending on the size, materials, and whether it’s custom-built or prefabricated.

In smaller backyards, a retractable awning might be the perfect solution. You can extend them to offer protection during the hottest days and retract them to enjoy the open sky once it’s more chill, making the most out of your backyard. Retractable awnings cost from $1,025 to $4,750, with motorized versions being at the higher end.

6. Install Vertical Gardens with Native Plants

A gutter vertical garden grown
Photo Credit: keeping it real / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

When ground space is scarce in your Las Vegas backyard, think upwards! Installing a vertical garden is a smart and stylish way to give your space some greenery without sacrificing valuable square footage.

Consider using garden racks or wall-mounted planters, and make sure you choose native plants. Native Las Vegas plants are naturally drought-tolerant, requiring less water and maintenance than non-native species. They can also help attract pollinators.

Here are some native outdoor plants for Las Vegas to consider for your garden:

  • Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
  • Desert sage (Salvia dorrii)
  • Prairie sage (Artemisia ludoviciana)
  • Native fleabane (Erigeron divergens)
  • Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)

7. Hang Flower Baskets

hanging basket with flowers
Photo Credit: Daniel Struk / Canva Pro / License

If you’re tight on space and a full-blown vertical garden or traditional flower bed isn’t feasible, consider the option of hanging flower baskets. This is an affordable landscaping idea for Las Vegas that can inject seasonal color into even the smallest outdoor areas.

Flower baskets are versatile and can be placed in numerous spots around your backyard, such as on your deck, under a pergola, against a wall space, or in any other corner that has been forgotten in your landscaping. 

The cost of adding hanging flowering baskets will depend on the number of baskets you choose to hang and the materials you select. Wire baskets lined with coco coir or moss liners are among the most common types.

Pro tip: If you don’t have somewhere to hang flower baskets, there’s nothing wrong with potting your plants and placing them wherever they fit. They will help your backyard look more appealing, and there’s a variety of shrubs, flowers, and even small trees that can be potted.

8. Incorporate Gravel Elements

Gravel driveway
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Gravel is a versatile, durable, and affordable material that is ideal for Las Vegas desert landscaping. As a hardscape material, gravel requires no watering, making it a low-maintenance option for the desert environment.

Here are some ways to use gravel in your landscaping:

  • Create a walkway: Landscape with pea gravel to form permeable pathways. It can help reduce soil erosion and create interest in a small backyard.
  • Fill around pavers: Gravel can be an excellent filler material around stepping stones or pavers, giving them a contrasting texture.
  • Build an affordable patio: For a cost-effective patio solution, gravel can be used to form a flat surface, ideal for outdoor seating and dining areas. Pea gravel costs $25 to $67 per cubic yard.
  • Use as mulch: Around the base of trees, ornamental grasses, and other plants, gravel mulch can help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and give the landscape a polished look.
  • Create a rock garden: Combine gravel with larger rocks, shrubs, succulents, and cacti to make a rock garden, embodying the rugged beauty of the desert.

9. Edge with Ornamental Grasses

clumps of long deer grass
Photo Credit: The Marmot / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Ornamental grasses, especially the taller varieties, are excellent for creating natural privacy screens, softening the edges of your property and adding depth and texture to a small backyard.

Choosing native ornamental grasses for your Las Vegas home has the added benefit of easy care since they’re already adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. You can mix tall ornamental grasses with shorter ones in different colors for a more visually engaging landscape.

Here are some native Las Vegas ornamental grasses:

  • Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens)
  • Big galleta grass (Pleuraphis rigida)
  • Alkali sacaton grass (Sporobolus airoides)
  • Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides)
  • Desert needlegrass (Achnatherum speciosum)
  • Side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)

10. Elevate With Raised Planting Beds

strawberries grown up in a garden bed
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Building raised planting beds in your backyard is a great way to make a statement visually and also provides practical benefits for gardening enthusiasts. If you’re dealing with limited space, adding even a single raised bed can do the trick.

You can use them to cultivate a variety of plants, from your favorite herbs to vibrant native flowers. On the financial side, raised garden bed kits cost around $145.48, and they come with everything you need to set up your bed quickly and start planting.

11. Add a Water Feature

garden pond with a fountain
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Incorporating a water feature into your Las Vegas backyard can bring a slice of the Bellagio experience into your own space, but on a smaller scale, of course. The sound and sight of water can be a peaceful element to your garden, and it doesn’t have to be big.

Here are some water feature ideas to consider:

  • Tiered water fountain: This classic choice adds elegance and the soothing sound of cascading water. It can be a centerpiece in your garden.
  • Birdbath: Birdbaths are sold in various sizes, so your small backyard can definitely feature one. 
  • Koi pond: There’s nothing more beautiful than colorful fish and perhaps some lily pads in a koi pond in your backyard.
  • Wall fountain: Ideal for small spaces, a wall fountain can be mounted against a fence or wall, providing beauty without occupying much ground area.

FAQ About Landscaping in Las Vegas

Can You Grow Grass in Las Vegas?

Yes, you can grow grass in your home in Las Vegas if you live in a single-family residence. However, growing grass from scratch in new homes, businesses, or multi-family units is not permitted. The grass ban in Las Vegas applies to all “non-functional grass.”

What is the Best Ground Cover for Las Vegas?

The best ground covers for Las Vegas are plants that are already adapted to the region’s dry, desert-like climate. These species will thrive with less water and care compared to other options. Here are some of the best ground covers for Las Vegas:

  • Desert sand verbena (Abronia villosa)
  • Sierra gold dalea (Dalea capitata ‘Sierra Gold’)
  • Goodding verbena (Glandularia gooddinggii)
  • Four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora)
  • Creeping wire vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris)
  • Gray ice plant (Malephora crocea)

What Zone is Las Vegas for Landscaping?

Las Vegas falls under USDA’s growing zone 9a. Understanding this zoning is crucial for selecting the right plants for your landscape, as it indicates the climate conditions of the area. Many plant databases categorize plants based on the zones they are best suited for, helping you pick species that will thrive in Las Vegas’ environment.

When to Call a Pro

Transforming your small Las Vegas backyard into a personal oasis is an achievement worth celebrating. However, keeping that oasis thriving in the desert heat can be a challenge. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. So why wait? Call a lawn care professional near you today.

Main Image Credit: irina88w / Canva Pro / License

Maria Isabela Reis

Maria Isabela Reis

Maria Isabela Reis is a writer, psychologist, and plant enthusiast. She is currently doing a PhD in Social Psychology and can't help but play with every dog she sees walking down the street.