16 Landscaping Trends You Can Expect to See This Year

As sustainability becomes more a lifestyle goal than merely an esoteric idea, homeowners are looking for new ways to “smarten up” their landscaping with eco-friendly features. Time-sucking gardens that require fertilizers, regular watering, and constant primping are becoming a thing of the past as climate-focused plant choices and money-saving operating systems surge to the forefront in the pursuit of a smaller carbon footprint.

Back to Nature

1/17
Dogwood Tree Front Yard Landscaping

According to Jeffrey Carbo, fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and founding principal of Carbo Landscape Architects, the yard is evolving into “a beautiful undoneness” that melds controlled and naturalistic elements to meet the needs of both people and wildlife. This progression is reflected in these top trends for 2020 that can help you transform your yard into a welcoming, low-maintenance, eco-conscious oasis.

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Year of the Lavender

6/17
Year of the Lavender

Lavender checks all the boxes for what an eco-friendly plant should be: fragrant, low maintenance, water wise, and pollinator-friendly. The National Garden Bureau, a nonprofit organization providing plant-specific garden tips and inspiration, is so enamored of it that they’ve named 2020 the Year of the Lavender. Place it at the front of a border in a dry, sunny spot with excellent drainage, or add lavender to container arrangements with other sun-loving plants. Lavender Blue Spear from PanAmerican Seed is pictured.

PanAmerican Seed

Drought-Tolerant Plants

7/17
succulent garden

Water districts across the country are limiting water consumption for landscape-related use. Drought-tolerant plants like Russian sage, lantana, and succulents are great for injecting color and texture into water-poor landscapes without the risk of a hefty water bill or a fine from the authorities. Check out the U.S. Drought Monitor to find out if you live in a drought-prone region.

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Pollinator Gardens

8/17
milkweed and monarch butterflies

As pollinator plant populations dwindle, pollinators are forced to travel greater distances to find the plants they need to complete their life cycles. To help them out, homeowners are incorporating plants like milkweed, the only host plant for monarch butterfly larvae, and nectar-rich plants like coneflower, Joe Pye weed, and bee balm (monarda) for adult monarchs, birds, bees, and countless other insects. “Having a colorful view from the window is great, but buzzing activity is even better,” says Katie Rotella, spokesperson for Ball Horticultural Company. “Planting flowers that attract helpful pollinators has so many benefits, and the plant choices today offer long bloom times, textures, and plenty of color.”

Related: 8 Ways Your Garden Can Save America's Most Beautiful Butterfly from Extinction

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Vertical Gardening

9/17
ivy trellis arrangement

Small spaces aren’t stopping people from capitalizing on vertical opportunities, according to Tim Pollak, outdoor floriculturist at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Homeowners are "growing up," using creative approaches like trellising to soften walls with vining plants or wall-mounted containers to grow herbs and vegetables near the kitchen.

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Hardscape Patterns

10/17
walkway brick pattern

Homeowners are thinking beyond just the shape, size, and location of their patios and walkways to incorporate more sophisticated, intricate design. Permeable pavers and bricks laid in chevron, basket-weave, or lattice patterns are turning up underfoot. These more complicated patterns, once seen primarily in interior decor, are now warming up and softening the hardscaping of outdoor living spaces.

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Smart Irrigation

11/17
sprinkler system lawn

Have you ever seen an in-ground sprinkler system watering a yard during a rainstorm? High-tech irrigation systems are putting an end to such foolish wastefulness, transforming the way homeowners use water in the landscape. With smart irrigation, homeowners are saving money and conserving water—and it’s happening with just the touch of a button on a smartphone app.

Related: 7 Smart Ways to Save Water in the Yard

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Plant Breeding for the Modern Garden

12/17
petunia planting

Plant breeders are combining the genetic material of related plants to produce new plants with desirable traits like adaptability, increased flowering, and improved disease resistance. For example, today’s petunias are self-cleaning, which means they keep flowering without any deadheading. And plants like the succulent mangave, a new cross between the agave and manfreda plants, are faster growing, have fewer sharp leaves, and are more forgiving of wet environments than their parent plants.

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Discreet Lighting

13/17
built in walkway lighting

Once night has fallen, what good is an outdoor living space without light? Outdoor lighting is all about ambience, and homeowners are increasingly illuminating their landscapes in subtle ways with cost-effective LED and solar-powered options. From planters with built-in lighting on the patio to low-profile pathway lights that hug the edges of the walkway, outdoor spaces now transition seamlessly from day to night with lighting that enhances without overwhelming or detracting from the design of the space.

Related: The Best Ways to Light the Backyard

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Planting to Discourage Wildlife

14/17
daffodils and deer

Maintaining your landscaping can be expensive, especially if you’re constantly replacing plants that deer and rabbits can’t resist. To cut down on these losses, landscapers are setting the table with plants that wildlife tend to pass up, such as daffodils for the spring garden and aromatic summer-flowering plants like Russian sage, lilac, lavender, and allium. That said, Susan Cohan of the APLD points out that it’s a challenge to create low-maintenance, naturalistic landscapes in areas where deer are an issue. No plant is ever truly safe from a hungry deer.

Related: 8 Ways to Combat Garden Pests

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Virtual Landscaping

15/17
Couple Uses Landscaping App

Not enough cash for a professional? Homeowners are downloading free landscaping apps to guide them through a design or redesign of an existing space. The apps provide 2-D and 3-D layouts based on your property's measurements, with an extensive inventory of plants, trees, and shrubs that you can select and place into your design. With apps like these, you can be sure you're armed with a plan before you pick up a shovel.

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Outdoor Furniture That Lasts

16/17
outdoor furniture on deck

As the adage goes, you get what you pay for. Cheap outdoor furniture that's constantly exposed to sun, wind, and rain won’t last for long. Homeowners are increasingly willing to spend a little more up front for quality furniture and fade-resistant fabrics that will stand up to nature and provide more years of enjoyment.

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Healthy Soils

17/17
Adding Compost to Yard Soil

Fertilizers aren’t the cure-all for an ailing landscape. The key to healthy plants is to start with soil full of good bacteria and plenty of nutrients. Homeowners are finally catching on and considering ways to rebuild their soils with composted kitchen scraps, mulches that add nutrients to the soil as they decompose, and new approaches like no-till gardening.

Related: Composting 101: What You Should and Shouldn’t Compost

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