Scottsdale, Arizona is home to an abundant and diverse collection of desert plant species, many of which are unique to the region. The City of Scottsdale has determined that the presence of these unique natural resources contributes to the aesthetic and economic well being of the community. First drafted in 1981, the Native Plant Ordinance has been amended through the years to increase specificity and accommodate the growth the municipality. The last amendment in 2000 ensured the long-term protection of thousands of additional native plants. 

Image result for scottsdale arizona mapUnder the Amended Plant Ordinance, any project that affects plants from the specified list is required to submit a native plant program detailing the existing location and proposed treatment of each protected plant. Ideally, protected plants should remain in place; however, the ordinance allows plants to be salvaged and replanted within the project if they must be moved.

The Preservation and Environmental Planning element in Scottsdale’s Comprehensive plan indicates that native plants are a significant natural and visual resource that should be protected and conserved.

The city recognizes that native plant retention:

  • Maintains the health, productivity, and biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem;
  • Contributes to the community’s character;
  • Adds to the health of the community through pollution prevention;
  • Reduces water consumption;
  • Stabilizes the soil;
  • Provides desert wildlife habitat; and
  • Discourages non-indigenous plants that produce pollen.

Local governments use native plant ordinances to improve the landscape principles that guide landscaping of all new development. Many communities find that the use of appropriate native vegetation in local landscaping helps achieve water conservation goals, preserves habitat in urban areas, greatly reduces landscaping maintenance costs, and protects property values. Appropriate native vegetation is defined as vegetation found in the natural community that is suited to the soil, topography, and hydrology of a particular site.

Scottsdale’s groundbreaking Native Plant Ordinance serves as a model for other cities that seek to improve protection for native plants. The ordinance is connected to Scottsdale’s Comprehensive Plan in the Preservation and Environmental Planning element, where it calls for the elimination of harmful, invasive exotic plant species and provides protection for threatened and endangered native species.

Additionally, the Native Plant Ordinance addresses native plant education, requiring a landscape manual that defines best landscaping practices using native plants, and is effectively enforcing a development review process with hefty fines up to $10,000 associated with failures to comply with the requirements of the programs.


Case Study Resources

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Resilient Communities and Watersheds


  • Challenges:
  • drought
  • waterconservation
  • State:
  • arizona
  • Scale:
  • site, community
  • Type:
  • urban, suburban, amenity