Lawn & Garden Outdoor Living

45 Backyard Landscaping Ideas for Creating the Ultimate Outdoor Living Space

With a few simple changes, your backyard just may become your new favorite place. From easy DIY upgrades to professional overhauls, here’s the inspiration you need to create an oasis you'll never want to leave.
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A view of a large home with a pergola.

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Fresh air, natural light, and the right backyard landscaping ideas can convert a ho-hum outdoor space into a welcoming, relaxing hangout. Whether your ideal backyard landscape involves a lush lawn, an expansive patio, or a humble hammock strung between two trees, we’ve got some ideas for you.

Upgrading the backyard can be as simple as adding a few colorful containers, as complicated as building a new deck, or anything in between. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for enhancing your backyard landscaping.

1. Create an English cottage garden.

A backyard with wooden bench surrounded by plants and trees.

Fit for a storybook, English cottage gardens are the epitome of charm. With a dense hodgepodge of flowers, fruits, and veggies, these gardens radiate a quaint imperfection. To achieve this picturesque style, go crazy and include a lot of different flora, but just a few plants of each type. So put some lavender here, daisies or other flowers there, and then add some trailing vines, a boxwood, and a few other shrubs … you get the idea. For best results, opt for plants that thrive in your climate.

2. Install a water feature.

A backyard with wooden paths over a pond.

Water features bring elegance and zen-like calm to a backyard, and the gentle splash of a fountain can really relax the vibe of your outdoor space. Depending on the size of your yard, you can incorporate a water fountain into a backyard pond or pool, a birdbath, or an above-ground or small tabletop design.

3. Arrange several seating areas.

A backyard patio with a dining table and multiple areas of seating.

When you consider how many different types of seating you have indoors, it makes sense to have a similar range outside too. To get the most from your space, incorporate chairs for eating, lounging, reading, and more. Instead of dragging the same patio chair around the yard to avoid or capture the sun, strategically situate patio furniture and different types of chairs around your yard to ensure you and your guests always have a comfortable place to perch. Amp up the color and comfort with a few outdoor pillows or cushions.

4. Take a minimalist approach. 

A modern, minimalist wood-slat deck with pool, with a lawn and house in the background.

Adding more landscaping elements to your yard may not be the answer. In some instances, more furniture, more plants and flowers, more bird feeders, and more of anything else can make a yard feel cluttered. You should also take into account the time and care required to maintain everything you add to your backyard living space. Find calm and contentment by taking away the extra stuff and highlighting your yard’s simple beauty and natural flow. Select easy-care native plants and low-maintenance furnishings to minimize outdoor chores.

5. Accommodate multiple uses. 

A family playing Frisbee on the lawn with their dog.

Backyard landscaping ideas have to suit the needs and desires of your entire household. In a single yard, you might need space for kids to play, a vertical garden to grow herbs, trees to provide shade, flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds, and the list goes on. Before deciding on a drastic change that could limit potential uses of your backyard, consider everything the space needs to be for your family and lifestyle.

6. Erect a retaining wall.

A curved retaining wall in backyard.

Adding a retaining wall is a practical and attractive landscaping idea, especially for a sloped backyard. Retaining walls hold back soil to prevent erosion. Depending on the needs of the site, they can serve many purposes, including protecting the house, improving drainage, and providing more level, usable space. Before building a retaining wall, have a detailed understanding of the property line and above-ground and underground utilities. You also need to make sure that the wall has appropriate drainage and will be able to support the soil. With careful planning and the right materials, a retaining wall can enhance the design and function of your outdoor space. 

7. Add a small swimming pool.

Deck chairs by a small plunge pool, all with a tropical atmosphere.

It’s hard to beat the appeal of a gorgeous and inviting pool. Its calming blue color makes your backyard space seem like a vacation paradise, and a pool means your home is the place to be in the summer, whether you’re hanging out with friends, reading, or swimming laps. Pools can be constructed in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles to suit your yard. Whether your ideal backyard pool landscaping involves a diving board, a kiddie pool, or a specific shape or length that will add to the natural flow of the yard, finding the right pool contractor can be the key to bringing your vision to life. 

8. Construct a ground-level deck.

A wooden terrace surrounded by greenery, with wicker patio furniture and ornamental grasses.

The word “deck” can conjure up images of a barbecue area, a cozy outdoor room, a fresh-air yoga space, or a ton of other possibilities. Advantages of adding a deck include aesthetic appeal, less plant maintenance, more room to entertain, and a potential increase in property value. While raised decks are common, a ground-level deck can do the job just as well, providing a convenient space for entertaining, complete with seating, attractive lighting, and container plants. Lay down a colorful rug to create a softer effect.

9. Build a pond.

Slatted wood patio set with a view of a backyard pond.

A backyard pond is a terrific addition, especially for a large backyard. Building a pond gives your home a truly noteworthy water feature that enhances outdoor relaxation, exudes feelings of calm, and helps create a stress-free space. When the pond is finished, fill it with fish and pond plants like horsetail, taro, and water lilies. Once the ecosystem is established, maintenance is minimal, and you’ll be able to spend more time enjoying the pond than working on it. 

10. Cultivate a lush lawn.

A backyard with lush, vibrant green grass, bordered with hedges.

Let’s face it, the lawn can make or break the aesthetic of your backyard landscaping. Thick, perfectly tended grass has a luxuriant beauty that makes a yard look amazing. Whether you grow grass from seed or get a near-instant upgrade with turf, it’s never too late to improve the health and appearance of your grass. Opt for a native or drought-tolerant grass to cut down on water use and mowing.

11. Change up the garden.

A healthy backyard garden with a barrel collecting rain water.

Every home, no matter how big or small, has space for a garden. Plant a new garden, switch up your old one, or create a few small gardens to better suit your aesthetic, your space, and your passions. Or, branch out into a new type of garden by planting a vegetable garden to make practical use of the landscape, or adding color with tropical plants or flower beds. If space is limited, opt for a vertical garden or raised garden bed on your deck or patio, or plant an herb garden, small succulent garden, fairy garden, or more. 

12. Opt for drought-tolerant landscaping.

A backyard with patio flooring, stucco walls, and drought-tolerant plants.

Certain climates have windows of time when there’s no rain and the soil dries up, but this dry weather doesn’t have to annihilate your lawn and garden every year. If you live in a drought-prone region, avoid the heartache of losing your water-loving plants by switching to drought-tolerant greenery. Depending on your local climate, adding plants like lavender, catmint, California poppy, yarrow, and artemisia will keep your outdoor space colorful and thriving. 

13. Fill up the flower beds.

A small backyard garden full of flower beds and container plants, with steps and handrails to the backyard gate.

Flower-filled gardens are delightful, but growing flowers in beds and pots gives your backyard landscaping a little something extra. Flower beds can be situated in spots where they’ll get the right amount of sun for the plants grown in them. Elevated flower beds are kinder to the back muscles, with less bending required to prune, plant, and weed. Maintenance is crucial—an empty or neglected flower bed attracts attention for all the wrong reasons. Make it easier to keep your flowers perky and thriving by selecting outdoor plants that do well in your climate.

14. Put in a personal patio. 

A gray home with a paver patio.

Adding a patio off a bedroom or other living space gives you yet another outdoor area to beautify and enjoy. Create a serene spot for drinking your morning coffee, gathering with close friends, or contemplating a different view of your backyard. Decorate your patio with furniture, string lights, wall art, and greenery to fashion a micro paradise. Personalize the patio to your tastes and interests, or choose a meaningful theme. If you’ve been to Greece, add some blues. If you’re missing Provence, choose table linens, cushions, or plant containers that evoke your favorite French memories.

15. Cut down on mowing.

A backyard with a raised garden and gravel used for landscaping instead of grass.

Enjoying your backyard and maintaining it are two separate activities. For more pleasure and less upkeep, try to reduce the amount of lawn you’ll need to mow by adding features like decks, terraces, or patios that eliminate some of the grass. Still want the greenery without the work? Replace traditional lawn turf with a grass alternative like creeping thyme, which gives you a beautiful, hassle-free lawn that can still be stepped on.

16. Grow a vegetable garden.

A family enjoying gardening together.

If you plant a vegetable garden, you’ll be able to cut your grocery bill while you enjoy the taste of healthy, fresh veggies you grow and harvest yourself. Not only is a vegetable garden a charming backyard landscaping idea, but it also provides you with a hobby that gets you outside in the fresh air. Although many veggies thrive in summer, you can stretch the season by planting vegetables you can grow through the fall

17. Fence it all in. 

A aerial view of a backyard that is surrounded by a white fence.

Dreaming of a house with a white picket fence? There are many reasons, both practical and aesthetic, for installing a well-designed fence. Maybe you just crave some privacy, or you need to keep the kids or dogs in the yard, or you’re trying to keep critters out. Beyond defining the boundaries of your space, a well-chosen fence also creates a neutral backdrop that you can liven up with vining plants, outdoor lights, or weather-resistant art.

18. Lay a welcoming walkway. 

A grassy backyard with stone walkway.

Instead of putting out a forbidding “Keep Off the Grass” sign, construct a simple walkway to welcome visitors and direct foot traffic off the lawn. Choose materials to suit the style of your house and outdoor spaces. Attractive options include flagstone, pavers, stepping stones, bricks, wood planks, decorative concrete, and more. Figure out what fits your style, and use it to create clear paths around your home.

19. Hang some starry string lights.

Three friends watching a movie in the backyard decorated with string lights.

String lights add ambience to an outdoor space and romantic illumination for entertaining after dark. They also come in a wealth of designs, from classic Edison bulbs to novelty chili peppers, to suit a variety of style preferences. Make sure you hang outdoor string lights safely and keep them out of the way of walking paths. While novelty sets can be fun, it’s a good idea to Invest in a well-rated set of outdoor string lights that can suit any occasion. 

20. Put partial privacy to use. 

A large stone fire pit next to partial privacy fence.

An all-around fence can sometimes make you feel like you’re boxed into your own backyard. Where such a fence isn’t desirable, there are plenty of ways to achieve a little bit of privacy. Especially if there’s a section of the yard that offers beautiful views, you can create some partial privacy that provides seclusion yet retains an open feeling. To carve out a little partial privacy in your yard, consider adding a garden structure like a trellis or gazebo, outdoor curtains, a living fence of cedars or other greenery. a small fence or partition, or some combination of these barriers. 

21. Assemble a pergola.

Dark wooden pergola with outdoor dining table and seating.

A pergola is a garden structure that can stand alone or attach to the side of the house (permits may be required). Known for its columns and crossbeams, a pergola is a stunning addition to backyard landscaping that provides an elegant place to sit or mingle. When topped with a fabric canopy or climbing plants, it can even offer shade. 

Backyard Discovery’s Ashland pergola is one of our favorites—we even rated the cedar beauty Best for Entertaining in our guide to the best pergola kits. Add outdoor curtains for additional privacy, shade, and a touch of luxury.

22. Plant some shade trees.

A hammock hanging between shady trees.

Spending the day outside exposed to harmful UV rays isn’t great for anyone’s skin. To enjoy the outdoors responsibly, you need to apply sunscreen regularly and seek shade when you’re able. If your backyard landscaping is a little light on shade, you can plant some trees and gain a little extra shade every year. The best shade trees pair well with playful children and hammock hangouts.

23. Set up a storage shed.

A beige backyard shed with grey double doors.

Prolific gardeners, pool owners, and tool enthusiasts need a place to keep all their gear if they don’t want to clutter up their lovely backyard. More than just a practical storage solution, a shed is a component of your landscape, so you should take care to select a shed that will complement your house and yard. Thanks to its size, appearance, and utility, this highly rated Suncast storage shed is an attractive option for large backyards.

24. Mirror your home’s geometry. 

A large geometric home with similar landscaping using blocks of stones.

The clean lines of contemporary homes translate well into modern landscaping ideas. To create a cohesive outdoor aesthetic and enhance flow through your indoor and outdoor living spaces,, design your backyard landscaping to mirror the shape of structures and features around your home. These geometric details can be incorporated into planters, walkway stones, and patio furniture, and can even be carried through to the pruning of trees and plants.

25. Carve out a courtyard.

A Spanish-style back patio made of brick and decorative tiles.

Marry practical design with aesthetically pleasing features by adding a courtyard to your outdoor space. While a courtyard is traditionally an open-air space surrounded by walls or buildings, in your yard it might occupy the space between your home and a detached garage, guest house, or pool. Rather than forcing a grassy lawn in a courtyard that will see a lot of foot traffic, lean into concrete, decorative tiles, and brick designs that can bring a different kind of beauty to an outdoor area, and require less maintenance. 

26. Find a stunning slope solution.

A well landscaped backyard with a slope.

While a sloped backyard presents significant landscaping challenges, it can also be a lot of fun, providing a variety of heights for planting flowers and greenery for visual interest. Because mowing sloped terrain may not be your favorite chore, try to find grass-free solutions, such as terraced flower beds, succulent gardens, decorative rock beds, and more. 

27. Fit in a fire pit.

A stone fire pit behind a blue house.

A backyard fire pit is great for nighttime entertaining and memory-making for young and old alike. Bond over a fireside chat, stargaze by the warmth of the flames, roast marshmallows, snuggle on a date night in your own backyard, or just sit mesmerized as you watch the fire flicker and dance. Available in designs ranging from rustic to refined, a backyard fire pit, whether wood-burning or propane, is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

28. Retreat to a quiet oasis.

A wooden gazebo tucked away in a tropical backyard garden.

Many of our backyard landscaping ideas enhance entertaining, but not everyone wants a space to mingle and party. If you’re among those who would prefer a quiet sanctuary, transform a special spot in your backyard into your own peaceful place. Position a screen, small fence, or tall shrubs to create a little hideaway. Add a small Zen garden or bubbling water feature, or even a simple porch swing. Accessorize your space with items that fuel your spirit, such as artwork, aromatic flowers, or a cozy outdoor chair, that give you the mental break you need to meditate, read, or think. 

29. Construct an outdoor kitchen. 

A large modern outdoor kitchen made with stone.

Hosting an outdoor dinner always seems like a great idea until you’re on what feels like your millionth trip from the kitchen to your backyard space. But with the outdoor kitchen of your dreams, outdoor dining becomes a lot easier. Useful amenities include a barbecue grill with cooking elements, an outdoor fridge, a pizza oven, a blender, or an outdoor sink. Pretty much any convenience you have in your regular kitchen can be incorporated into an outdoor kitchen—just make sure you have access to power outlets. 

30. Build a backyard fireplace.

A large home with a modern stone fireplace.

A fire pit is usually in the middle of the action, with guests gathered around it. An outdoor fireplace, on the other hand, tends to sit on the periphery, larger than a fire pit and generally more opulent. Styles can be modern, rustic, or anything in between, finished with brick, stone, concrete, stucco, or other sturdy materials. When building your outdoor fireplace, orient it in a direction that blocks prevailing winds to reduce heat loss and to make the experience more comfortable for those sitting in front of it.

31. Support greenery with a trellis.

A large white ornamental garden gate and fence, surrounded by flowers.

Limited space for greenery? Go vertical by growing flowers and vines on a trellis. A beautiful decorative feature for a yard of any size, a trellis adds a touch of artistry to the landscape. Trellises can be simple or ornate, depending on the statement you want to make, and they’re available in materials like wood, iron, and bamboo, as well as a range of styles to suit the vibe of your backyard.

32. Design for the desert. 

A backyard with a wooden pergola and small pool.

Sometimes drought-tolerant just isn’t enough. If you live in a desertlike climate, choose plants that can thrive in extremely dry conditions and opt for landscaping styles and backyard structures that make the most of this challenging environment. Consider Zen gardens, which rely on sand and interesting rock formations; succulent or cactus gardens; and decorative elements like pergolas that contribute visual interest and pockets of shade. 

33. Upgrade your outdoor dining.

A nice dark wooden patio dining set.

When the warm weather arrives, you want to make the most of it by soaking up that vitamin D and savoring your breakfast, lunch, or dinner beneath a blue sky (or covered patio). So while you’re upgrading your backyard, maybe it’s time to invest in an attractive outdoor dining set to add greater functionality and comfort to your outdoor space. 

34. Toss some texture into the mix.

Two lawn chairs on brick patio next to stone covered area.

Green is good, but too much lush turf makes for a dull landscape. Similarly, a yard that’s all concrete or pavers can seem both boring and cold. Warm things up and add some variety by using natural elements to introduce texture to the landscape. For example, run a dry riverbed down a slope to offset a smooth concrete patio. Mix plants not only by color but by leaf shape and texture, and pepper ornamental grasses among flowering shrubs. Add texture to a garden bed with wood chips, pecan shells, or other natural mulch types

35. Designate a place for kids to play.

Wood backyard swingset with clubhouse and a slide.
Photo: Getty Images

Kids need outdoor spaces that are just for them, with sandboxes, swing sets, and room to play. These spaces keep them engaged and active, and prevent them from encroaching on parts of the landscape that you want to protect. While there are options for kids (and yards) of all sizes, this highly rated cedar swing set at Wayfair offers plenty of challenges for growing children and is a good choice for a large space. 

36. Lay down stepping stones.

A view of a walkway made with large stepping stones leading to an outdoor building.

Although this backyard landscaping idea can be purely decorative, stepping stones usually serve a practical purpose. They provide stable footing across uneven terrain in your backyard or carve a path through gardens, across grass, or over a rock bed. You can make your own stepping stones, or purchase ones that complement your backyard design, such as these resin stepping stones, available at Wayfair

37. Pour an artful concrete surface. 

A backyard patio made with stamped concrete.

Concrete’s no longer just a slab of gray hardscaping reminiscent of a city sidewalk. In recent years, concrete has become more of an art form. Concrete contractors can stamp concrete into designs and textures and color it in a rainbow of hues, elevating the appearance of outdoor patios and walkways and unifying your landscaping.

38. Design an outdoor living room.

Backyard seating and table made from wooden pallets.

An outdoor living room can provide all the comfort and amenities that you enjoy indoors, including outdoor couches, recliners, side tables, and even outdoor televisions hung under a covered patio. For a plush living room cabana, arrange the furniture under a large gazebo fitted with weather-resistant drapes

39. Cultivate a container garden.

Bright flowers in container garden made with wooden barrels.

Containers make it possible for everyone to have a garden, even with a small yard or patio. Growing veggies, flowers, and other plants in containers instead of in the ground is especially popular for those living in urban spaces who may have little more than a balcony. Container gardens also work well when scattered throughout a large yard or in combination with in-ground beds. Try planting containers of herbs and vegetables right off the kitchen, or a fragrant collection of pollinator-attracting plants near a sitting area.

40. Build a backyard bar.

Backyard wooden bar with matching chairs.
Photo: HappyLittleBear via Etsy

It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere! Make your backyard the neighborhood happy hour hangout by outfitting your patio or deck with a bar setup. While a bar cart will do in a pinch, a dedicated and well-stocked bar space is a tremendous upgrade. Serious DIYers might embrace the challenge of building a bar for their pool or outdoor living room, while others may prefer to purchase an outdoor bar.

41. Create a rustic backyard retreat.

Backyard retreat with wooden swing on wooden patio.

Dial back the modern influence to create a casual, rustic backyard landscape design. This simple backyard landscaping idea just feels comfortable, like your favorite pair of warm socks. Go for a mix of wood and metal accents, mismatched planters, and greenery that isn’t perfectly manicured to give the space a homey, farmhouse feeling. One advantage of this laid-back style is that it’s simple to maintain so you’ll have time to relax in your backyard retreat.

42. Construct a chicken coop.

Large backyard wooden chicken coop.
Photo: EasyCoops via Etsy

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own chicken coop in the backyard? You’d have fresh eggs whenever you want them, the potential to start a small business, and a rooster crowing each morning to signal the start of another beautiful day. As well, chicken coops and their feathered inhabitants add entertainment value to a backyard. Build one from scratch with these chicken coop plans, or buy a complete coop like the Producer’s Pride Sentinel, which is a top pick in our guide to the best chicken coops. Because chickens need room to run around, this landscaping idea is reserved for larger backyards, and always check local laws before putting a chicken coop on your property. 

43. Hang a hammock. 

Oversized blue hammock hanging from a tree in a backyard.

Drifting off to sleep in the gentle sway of a hammock can feel incredible and comes with the pleasures of dappled sunlight, singing birds, rustling leaves, and maybe even a burbling fountain. To secure your share of peaceful moments, hang a hammock between two sturdy trees, or choose a freestanding model with a steel frame, like the Viviere cotton hammock. Create a beachy vibe by adding a few brightly colored chairs and some sand or white pebbles.

44. Terrace a sloping backyard. 

Nicely paved backyard steps with stones.

This backyard landscaping idea is a must for sloping sites: Use multiple retaining walls and terraced beds to create a beautiful garden, turning a difficult, hilly yard into a pretty and stable outdoor space. Tiered garden beds make planting possible in areas that were previously unusable and helps even out water distribution, which further reduces erosion. 

45. Install path lights.

Backyard solar globe lights with star designs.

Keep family and guests safe by illuminating walkways around your house. Not only do path lights prevent nighttime trips and falls, but they also provide an opportunity for homeowners to add a personal touch to their outdoor space. Choose lights that will aesthetically complement your yard and will work with your existing layout. If you want to install hardwired lights and don’t currently have path lights, you’ll need to have some electrical work done. Otherwise, consider wireless options like these Beau Jardin solar path lights, the top pick in our tested guide to the best solar path lights