The desert climate that defines Las Vegas is well known. There is little as far as lush plants that would be found in a more tropical or even temperate environment, as there is just not enough water and far to hot of temperatures for plants like these to survive. Yet it has become quite popular and potentially even the standard for Las Vegas residents to landscape their homes with plants that are out of place here. These residents must create elaborate watering systems to feed these plants a constant stream of water, and anyone on Las Vegas can tell you that even a few days without these systems functioning properly will cause your plants to die. The heat in Las Vegas is just too much for most types of green plants, which is why you see the desert areas looking more brown and dark green as the plants have adapted. Desert plants are more short and stout, and are almost never the deep greens that you will see elsewhere. Yet residents will constantly choose these types of plants for their landscapes and go through the process of continually caring for them and monitoring them for health. Where did this idea come from, and why does it continue?
The concept of the “oasis in the desert” probably came from the casinos in Las Vegas originally. The harsh climate made Las Vegas very inhospitable to live in, or even travel through, so the original residents were more in the business of providing a stopover as people traveled across the desert to California. Over time, the concept of providing a reprieve from the desert became the theme, and casino began adopting the idea that if you create a lush environment surrounded by nothing, you will be the destination of choice. The hotels began importing plants from tropical areas and making their properties look not only like a reprieve from the desert, but like a tropical paradise. This concept was so inviting that people began to copy it for their own residences, providing water and climate control to overtake the natural aspects of the desert. As long as we have money coming in, we can create our own world!
The problems began a few years ago when water levels in Lake Mead began to fall to critical levels due to a lack of rainfall. This meant that there was no guarantee that there would be enough water for residents to drink, and the county imposed restrictions on the amounts of water you can use for less than necessary purposes like watering your lawn. Even if you had enough money to do it, you could not water your lawn because it was not legal to do so past a certain point. Many people’s lawns began to suffer and die, and they began taking advantage of rebates and programs offered by the county to reimburse residents that remove sod and replace it with water smart ground coverings like synthetic turf. Real grass needs up to 55 gallons of water every year to survive, so encouraging the replacement with water smart ground coverings makes sense. When you are landscaping your home in Las Vegas, be a good citizen and also save money by considering water smart alternatives to living grass.