And if you have a western exposure, that is, a yard that faces the setting sun, in the Phoenix area, you're gonna have a hard time. Not only is it blisteringly hot, putting up shade doesn't really help much, as the setting sun will get underneath it and get to your plants every evening. And that's why you see so much dirt and rocks, and cactus, in Phoenix.
Since my backyard faces east, the front of my house faces west. And that area, which I have experimented with over the years, I call *the fires of hell*. But it's not all just dirt and rocks. And there is no cactus. No, you can't do a real *tropical paradise* out there, but there are several plants that will work. This is what works for me.
• Palm trees. If you have room, plant a Canary Island Date palm. I have a Phoenix rupicola out front (the one in the picture).
• Agaves. Agaves give the closest look to a tropical effect that I have found that can live in the fires of hell. Check the species very carefully, and avoid the ones that get too big. I have a friend who is an expert on that kind of thing and I follow his advice. Or go to a decent nursery, and ask. Gotta get more agaves!