Old ways of installing Nautilus do not work.
Install Desktop Folder from App Center
Strangely, VirtualBox was able to put an icon on the desktop. The .desktop file it created is in ~/Desktop/, no surpises there. And it works! So it looks as if the capability is still there, all they took out was the tools to create desktop items from the GUI. If you are comfortable creating .desktop files from scratch, it should be possible.
There is a utility available called Desktop folder which can enable desktop in Elementary OS . You can install it via AppCentre with a click and use it. It provides a lot of other features and is really hand. The fact that it's no third party and is available via AppCentre convinced me it's not going to break something.
- You can access files, folders and applications from your desktop.
- Activates the right click on desktop.
- Supports drag and drop for files, apps, links inside panel to quickly use next time.
- You can also resize the panel, reposition it on the screen and change background colours.
- You can keep notes on the desktop and display photos.
- It also revives the desktop by enabling Super Key + D to display Desktop at any point of time.
Source : Enable desktop in Elementary OS