Attitudinal and structural drivers of preferred versus actual residential landscapes in a desert city

Megan M. Wheeler, Kelli L. Larson, Riley Andrade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Residential landscaping decisions can have important implications for water use and conservation in urban areas. Yard preferences are generally closely related to actual yard landscapes, but differences in the drivers of and constraints on preferences relative to actual landscaping have not been well explored. In this study, we conducted a resident survey to consider the relationship between preferred and actual yard grassiness in the desert city of Phoenix, AZ, where outdoor water use makes up over two-thirds of residential water consumption. Using a robust theoretical approach including both attitudinal and structural drivers, we examined the relative importance of various attitudes as well as social and parcel attributes as drivers of preferred and actual yard grassiness. We found that nearly half of surveyed residents had less grass than they would prefer, and that existing yard grassiness is best explained by structural characteristics out of the variables we considered. Yard preferences, however, were better explained by attitudinal and social characteristics. The mismatch between actual and preferred yard grassiness revealed a latent demand for grass in this arid city, which could lead to shifts in water-conserving landscaping if structural constraints on landscaping behavior change. Additionally, the relative importance of structural constraints in determining actual yard grassiness, and the differences in important predictors of yard preferences as opposed to actual yards, suggest that appeals to resident attitudes and values are unlikely to shift yard landscaping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-673
Number of pages15
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Environmental attitudes
  • Landscape preferences
  • Turfgrass
  • Urban ecology
  • Yard choices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


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