drought tolerant landscape

6 Ways to Update an Outdated Landscape

drought tolerant landscape

Has your landscape seen better days? While the interior of our homes may showcase the newest design trends – sometimes we ignore the outside. The landscape around our homes compromises approximately 15 percent of its value, making it worthwhile to make some needed updates.

Landscape trends come and go, although more slowly than do trends for the inside of the home. While avocado green appliances and shag carpeting were hot trends in the ’70s, you don’t see them much anymore. Imagine what an outdated landscape says to people about the inside of your home?

Not sure if you have an outdated landscape? Here are some signs that your outdoor space can use a facelift and useful things you can do to update your  landscape:

An example of a landscape that can use some updating
Replace old, overgrown, and outdated plants, with drought-tolerant, low-maintenance selections.

Believe it or not, there are plants that can date your property because they were heavily used in the past and have become synonymous with that era. Some examples are juniper, photinia, and pyracantha. While these plants grow well in the Southwest, they do harken back to the ’70s and ’80s and can make your property look older.

Take out railroad ties or uneven, broken brick borders and replace with updated options like concrete curbing or pavers.

Hardscape options change over time and older materials can deteriorate and look shabby. When that happens, consider selecting a newer type of product for your border.

A man-made river rock wash with debris and one that has been cleaned out
Refresh old river rock and gravel areas with a new layer. Over time, landscape rock (gravel) coverage begins to thin, and the ground underneath showing through.

To revive gravel, add 1-inch of new gravel in the same color. If you want a different type, remove the old gravel, and then apply 2-inches of the new landscape rock. River rock areas fill with dirt and debris over time while also mixing with the surrounding landscape rock. To fix, remove the rock, spray them off with water and place them back, which will do wonders in improving their appearance.

A beautiful, blue container filled with ‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia and elephants bush (Portulacaria afra)
Switch out old, deteriorating pots with colorful containers filled with succulents.

As pots age, they can chip away or become layered with mineral deposits. Add new containers in bright colors like blue or orange to introduce color in the landscape. Colorful flowers are pretty, but are labor-intensive and need to be replaced seasonally. Succulents make excellent low-maintenance container plants and are a favorite garden design trend.

A new Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) ready to take the place of a plant that died
Replace plants when they die.

Well-designed landscapes include a combination of trees, shrubs as well as perennials/groundcovers. Plants don’t live forever and when they are pulled out, they are often never replaced, and eventually you’re left with a landscape with a couple of trees and a cactus or two, which is not attractive and doesn’t enhance your home.

overpruned leucophyllum shrubs
Excessively pruned Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) shrubs
Texas sage pruned to retain its natural shape
Avoid pruning trees and shrubs into outdated, round shapes.

If you take a drive through an older community, you’re likely to see trees and shrubs pruned into a variety of forms such as balls, cupcakes, and squares. Not only is this unhealthy for plants, but it’s old-fashioned. Instead, allow them to grow into their more natural shapes by restricting pruning to one to two times a year and using hand pruners and loppers instead of hedge trimmers.

A beautiful Southwestern garden with lots of curb appeal.

Updating your landscape will the value of your home, while also decreasing the maintenance required. By taking these steps, you will remove years from the appearance of your property and enjoy the beauty of your updated landscape.


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  • Linda carver

    Love the idea of succulents in my orange and blue pots. Loving the articles. We redid the old landscaping in our home after we moved in 3 years ago, but it continues to be a work in progress. We recently had the canopy raised on a number of trees out back and this gave us more sun. Now I can add more sun friendly drought tolerant plants Thank you

    • Noelle Johnson

      Hi Linda,

      You are very welcome! We hope that you continue to find inspiration for your southwest landscape.

  • Diana C Kirby

    You’re so right – this is good advice. I cringe when I go to a client’s house and see old, past-their-prime shrubs that are pruned into tiny tree forms because they’ve long lost their lower foliage like your second photo. I tell people that plants are like people, they don’t always hold up too well in their old age!

    • Noelle Johnson

      Hi Diana,

      I think many people don’t think about plants having a limited lifespan – especially in the case of shrubs. Thankfully, the solution is rather simple by replacing the plant or plant something completely new!
      – Noelle