Outdoor living is a one of the biggest attractions to the Phoenix area. Homeowners who are new to the valley quickly learn that outdoor living areas provide useful living space that functions like bonus rooms in your home. This added square footage can be used for dining, entertaining or simply a peaceful place to relax and enjoy a few minutes of solitude as well as some fresh air. But the very thing that provides privacy for your outdoor living space also provides added heat. Block and stucco walls create a feeling of seclusion even when you are in a large community with neighbors just a dozen feet away. But the drawback is that these walls reflect heat as the sun beats down on them. So finding creative ways to manage that reflected heat will allow you to enjoy your outdoor oasis, even on the hottest days of the year.

Large Plant Material

Including large plant material such as orange jubilees or oleander in your landscape can provide a great deal of relief from reflected heat. These plants will cover cinderblock privacy walls as well as the exterior walls of your home to provide not only a soft and pleasant visual appearance but also a functional feature as they reduce reflected heat. The down side to this approach is that it can take a few years for small plants to mature and provide the needed screening. In addition, the plants will need a larger planting area so they might not be the best choice for a small yard. But if you have a large property and would like to enjoy lush foliage and beautiful flowers then these are great options.


For smaller spaces, a trellis with climbing vines is a great way to add interest and reduce the heat from hard masonry surfaces. Vines grow in a more two dimensional habit unlike larger shrubs which are more three dimensional and can take up a great deal of space. In addition to being more compact than shrubbery, vines also tend to grow and provide coverage more quickly. Cat’s Claw is a particularly fast growing vine which produces highly fragrant yellow flowers. Lady Banks Rose is also a good selection and offers clusters of rose like lighter yellow flowers. Trumpet Vine offers a showy red flowers and a shiny green leaf for contrast. And a very fragrant favorite is the Star Jasmine which offers petite white flowers and a sweet aroma. Selecting a variety of these vines is a great way to create a UNIQUE combination of color and texture while also eliminating the reflected heat from walls or other structures.

Vertical Planting

A newer trend to eliminate the drab appearance of walls as well as the heat that they reflect is called vertical planting. This method requires a structure that can be as artistic and intricate as you like or as simple as a standard pallet. In most cases the structure is used to support pots and planters at various heights along the wall, but some structures are filled with soil and allow for planting throughout the wall. Either way, you will want to be certain that you have the ability to provide drip emitters to all of the plants as the water requirements will far exceed what you will want to commit to with hand watering. Many homeowners who have limited outdoor space like the vertical option to create an herb garden or to create a very showy floral focal point with a variety of textures and colors.

Things to Remember

As you consider creating a screen with plant material of any type, be sure to also think about the UNIQUE water requirements of the hot environment that you are going to be subjecting the plants to. Even if you have the same plants in another area of your yard, the plants near a block wall or a structure are likely to need more water to remain healthy and lush. And if you are considering a vertical planting feature, remember that the pots will dry out more quickly than the soil in the rest of your yard due to increased heat and full exposure to the sun. A simple solution is to install larger drip emitters to the plants in the hotter planting area.

Privacy walls are a must to create a secluded place to relax and enjoy your outdoor living space, and a few strategically added plants can help to reduce the heat near those walls as well as increasing the beauty of your entire yard. Talk to your UNIQUE designer today to learn more about using plant material to keep your outdoor living space more comfortable this summer and for years to come.