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By Thumbtack Contributors
Over the past few years, an outdoor living space has become a more valuable feature for many homeowners, buyers and sellers. But the vast majority of Americans (88%) say they’re not satisfied with their current space.¹ If you’ve been spending more time at home, you may have realized that your outdoor space could use a few landscaping upgrades to make it more enjoyable, functional and valuable.
Thinking about improving your front and backyards, but don’t know where to start? Here are some landscaping ideas to spark your imagination.
Boost your home’s curb appeal, and create an outdoor sanctuary with these landscaping ideas for your back and front yards. Each idea has a specific theme, but you don’t need to add every single feature to turn your yard into the best on the block. Just take a few elements from these suggestions and put your own twist on them.
If you don’t have a lot of space, there are still many ways to make the most of your small outdoor area. For example, choosing an eye-catching focal point is essential when you have a small space. Think of a gazebo, decorative birdbath, sundial or even a statue. Consider putting in something unexpected or whimsical to put your stamp on your landscaping.
Alternatively, consider building a small patio to capture attention. A patio can be even more appealing and elegant when it’s the focal point of your landscape.
Creating an intimate, outdoor living space takes some skill and finesse, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Mix up your hardscaping and softscaping to give your backyard the look and feel of a natural outdoor living room.
First, take a look at your living, family and dining rooms for inspiration. How can you design your outdoor space to complement your interior’s aesthetic? For example, you could place perennial bushes or synthetic rattan furniture — complete with comfy cushions, throw pillows and a table — under a covered concrete patio. Make it even cozier by adding an outdoor fireplace and string lights or lanterns.
Do you have a small backyard? Don’t let its size hold you back. Utilize your entire space by having your patio run right up to your property border or fence line. Consider keeping your fence line high to make your space cozier — and more private.
A water feature, like a koi pond, makes a statement like nothing else. It adds a serene element to your landscaping, especially if you incorporate a waterfall for soothing white noise. It’s an excellent way to add a bit of nature close to home. But take note: a source of water will likely attract wildlife to your yard, especially birds.
Photo credit: Achieve Remodeling
Instead of spending a small fortune to stay at a resort every summer, why not create a vacation spot at home? If you already have a pool, you just need a few more elements to bring the vision to life. For example, plant a few bright, tropical plants outside (think: bougainvillea, birds of paradise, bamboo or small palms). Install well lights in the ground to spotlight plants and other landscaping features around your pool, or use vertical light torches for a tropical-luxe atmosphere.
Next up: seating. Buy lounge chairs and place them around the pool. You can get lounge chairs that can be submerged halfway into the water for even more or a vacation feel, or try hanging a few hammocks on your deck or patio. Achieve beach club vibes by building a backyard cabana, gazebo or canopy and placing comfy couches or chairs on the patio. Decorate your sitting area with bright, colorful accent pillows and cushions, and use string lights to create a soft glow.
Finally, if you really want your outdoor area to feel like an all-inclusive resort, consider adding an outdoor shower, sauna, spa, kitchen, bar or even a small water slide to your yard.
If you have a big backyard, add another dimension to your landscaping design. A circular garden can optimize your space and open up a lot of opportunities. Think of creating a pattern of carefully shaped topiaries or shrubs — especially if you’re looking to inspire a sense of elegance and formality.
If you or someone in your family enjoys hosting birthday parties, pool parties, barbecues or summer soirees, choose landscaping features perfect for entertaining. For example, build an outdoor kitchen with comfortable seating so your guests can lounge and eat. If you have the budget, why not install a pool or play equipment for the kids to enjoy?
Before you dive into creating a multi-use backyard, consider its functionality and ask yourself, “how do I see my household using this space?” From there, create a list of backyard features that will make everyone happy.
Photo credit: Achieve Remodeling
This landscaping idea is simple but can have a big impact on your peace of mind. If you don’t want your neighbors to easily see what’s going on in your backyard, use plants and trees to build privacy hedges and screens. For example, you can use vines, arborvitae, hemlock, yew and Leyland cypress to make your space more private. You can also use wood fence panels, bamboo, vertical gardens, metal fencing or a trellis for enhanced privacy.
Make your little sanctuary even more tranquil by building a small pool or a water fountain and installing a patio for dining and lounging.
Consider creating an outdoor spa getaway in your backyard with a hot tub and swim spa. You can find models in a wide range of sizes with fun features like audio systems and decorative lighting. Combine it with privacy elements to give the experience even more of a getaway or staycation feel.
The classic English country garden has an unmistakable charm. You can put flowers right alongside tomato plants — and it works. By building layers into your foliage, you’ll create a relaxed atmosphere that helps you get more out of your space — and even makes it seem bigger.
Start by planting large, bushy perennials like hydrangeas and roses, and then mix lavender and rosemary herbs into the design. Try including a few boxwood hedges to help lend some overall shape to your yard.
You can also incorporate a few hardscape features into your elegant garden. For example, install a metal fence and gate, build a wooden bench under an arbor or create a garden path using brick, gravel or cobblestone. Complete the vision with a fountain or a pond — plus some vintage steel tables and chairs for tea time.
If you have a small backyard, create multiple levels to add depth. Just like choosing plants of different heights, adding a raised bed or step-up concrete slab can create space where little exists.
First impressions are everything, so if a lackluster front yard is keeping people at bay, it may be time to get your landscaping act together. Depending on your yard, a few small tweaks or a weekend project might be enough to give you the curb appeal you desire. If your front yard is a blank slate, you may want to go all-in for a big redesign.
Knowing where to begin is half the battle. Take a look at our front yard landscaping ideas for some inspiration.
White picket fence, manicured lawn, clean borders, colorful flower beds, stone pathways and a quaint, little porch — these front yard landscaping ideas are great if you want your home to give off classic suburbia vibes.
For additional charm, install a white picket fence out front, and plant rose bushes or evergreens to help it stand out even more. Next, add simple path lights along your walkway — and perhaps plant a pine oak or red maple out front for maximum shade. Alternatively, choose a sugar maple or dogwood tree for beautiful yellow, orange, bronze and red foliage during the fall.
Ever walk up to a friend’s house and feel like the yard is inviting you to the front door? This “sense of entry” is a simple trick that landscape designers use to help the entry to the house feel like a big deal. The easiest way to pull this off is with shrubs that frame the front door and create a rhythm along the front edge of the house. These shrubs are often called “foundation plantings” because they provide a visual anchor for the rest of the landscape.
For best results, use evergreen shrubs, and buy the most mature plants you can afford. Take a look at the shrubs your neighbors have to get a feel for what you like and for the types of shrubs that thrive in your area. Some of the most commonly used foundation shrubs include:
When considering landscaping ideas for the front of the house, always look at the simplest solutions first. Existing planting beds are a good place to start. If your planting beds are borderless, adding a border to the edges is one of the most impactful upgrades you can make. Popular edging options include low-profile steel edging, bricks, precast concrete pavers and stone and wooden timbers.
Borders give your beds a clean, defined look. They also help control weeds and keep mulch in place. Costs vary by material, so first determine a budget and then consider your options. Take the style of your home and landscape into account, and choose a material that complements the overall design.
Chopped stone or custom welded steel can be used to create geometric, modern beds that reinforce clean, straight lines and add strict symmetry. Dry-stacked natural rock lends a naturalistic, rustic look. Brick borders are traditional and formal, and precast concrete pavers give a tidy, contoured edge — and are easy to install by yourself.
One of the most often overlooked front yard landscaping ideas is lighting. A few simple uplights highlighting ornamental trees or a series of low solar-powered lights along the pathway will transform the front of your home at night. What’s more, landscape lighting improves visibility after dark, reducing hazards and deterring would-be burglars.
Lighting styles vary dramatically, so take your time to select lights that work with your home and landscape. While solar-powered lights are simple to install, more complex systems will require a good electrician to wire in safely and securely.
Everyone loves those shade trees in your front yard… except the grasses struggling to grow beneath them. You can turn an eyesore into a feature by creating circular beds at the base of your shade trees and filling them with shade-tolerant plants.
Based on your climate, you may want to choose shade-loving perennial plants or bright, annual flowers. Some of the most popular shade-loving ornamental plants include:
For design continuity, you’ll want to use the same type of edging material that encloses existing beds. This will give a crisp, clean edge to the beds and will visually connect them to the rest of the landscape.
For a put-together look, install evergreen shrubs or ornamental, mounding grasses along the edges of the pathway that leads to your front door. As mentioned above, creating a sense of entry adds powerful aesthetic value to your landscape.
Plants with a naturally round shape will create a nice rhythm and are less work to maintain than plants with a less defined form. Experiment with the spacing between plants to find an interval that feels best and that allows enough room for lighting or flowering annuals in between. When planting immature plants, take into account their mature sizes.
If you want to add pops of color without disrupting the existing landscape, one of the more creative landscaping ideas for front of house areas is to add accents in containers.
The types of containers available range from recycled whiskey barrels to massive glazed ceramic pots, and even custom-built steel planters. Container planting is an easy way to add volumes, color, texture and layers to an existing space instantly.
One of the front yard ideas that we love is creating a small flowerbed around the base of a curbside mailbox. This oft-neglected, difficult-to-mow area can be made into a lovely feature with relatively little effort.
Ideally, you will want to construct the border of the bed using the same material used in the borders around existing flower beds. The best plants for this space are annual flowers and groundcovers that won’t grow too high. Just make sure to check with the local regulations to ensure that your bed is in compliance with your HOA and that the plants are an allowable height.
If you have a rustic craftsman-style home or a cozy cottage, one of the front-yard garden ideas that gracefully fits is an elegant arbor. This arched entry, typically constructed from sturdy wood, is a perfect place to plant climbing roses, wisteria or other flowering vines. Not only does an arbor tie in nicely to a picket fence, but it creates a sense of entry and adds rustic charm to your yard.
Many folks are interested in front yard landscaping ideas with rocks, especially desert-type gardens. Sometimes mistakenly referred to as “zero-scapes,” xeriscapes use rocks, gravel and stone as the foundation for low-maintenance, water-wise landscapes. Whether your climate is suited better to desert or Mediterranean plants, xeriscapes provide year-round color, texture, and beauty without the hassle of mowing or watering a lawn.
You can start small, removing just part of your yard or one flower bed and replacing it with xeric plants and materials. Plants that lend themselves to these types of gardens include:
A well-designed walkway invites guests into your home and adds to your front yard’s overall appeal. A cracked, shabby or overgrown walkway has the opposite effect. Straight concrete paths, especially if they’re cracked or uneven, can be replaced with a stone or brick contoured pathway for an instant makeover.
If your walkway is in good shape but could use a little update, consider power washing and then applying a pigmented concrete resurfacer to give it a fresh new look. Using brick or stone to create a border along the walkway — or installing plantings alongside the pathway — can reinvigorate the look and feel.
Properly installed pavers can add value to your property, but poor installations are a liability. Take the time to do it correctly, or consider hiring a professional.
Related: 13 cheap, simple front yard landscaping ideas.
Do you have a small front yard or backyard — or both? There are several ways you can make your yard appear bigger and put the limited amount of space to good use. Whether you want to create an outdoor living room or a simple garden design, here are a few of our best landscaping ideas for small yards.
A small backyard can feel cozier than a large backyard with the right landscaping elements. Make your small space your peaceful sanctuary. Invest in a high privacy fence, install a paver or concrete patio, get some outdoor dining furniture and add a few plants. For minimal maintenance, opt for a potted plants and consider removing your grass in exchange for pavers.
Avoid cluttering your yard with too many potted plants, shrubs, bushes, large trees, rocks and other elements. A crowded yard can make your small yard appear even tinier. Instead, choose a focal point (or a few eye-catching features like a fountain or patio), and leave enough space for lounging or entertaining.
Before planting trees and flowers, make sure you know how big each plant will get as it matures. You don't want to accidentally plant a tree that will overtake your small front yard or backyard. Chat with a local gardener or arborist to ensure the plants you choose will fit nicely in your yard.
25. Think vertically.
Maximize the space in your small yard by adding vertical features, such as:
If you want your yard to appear bigger, there are a few techniques you can use to create the illusion. For example, include a mixture of plants with different textures and leaves. Add a focal point (a beautiful flower garden, patio or deck, statue, water feature, pathway, etc.), and include landscape elements with varying heights (ex: tall and short hedges).
You can visually draw the eye in your small backyard by creating designated areas for different functions. For example, create a zone for a garden, sitting and lounging and a water feature.
Related: 17 small front yard landscaping ideas.
Lighting is a key ingredient when creating an elegant landscape. Not only will light fixtures spotlight the features you’ve worked so hard on, but they can also help prevent trips and falls on steps and pathways.
Light your yard and patio with lanterns to give it a beautiful, peaceful ambiance. Combine these lights with well-shaped evergreens and pines, and you’ll have yourself a calming atmosphere for dining, relaxing or meditating.
These modern, cordless globe lights serve as great decorative accents for your landscape features. They can help light your pathways, or you can use them to illuminate trees and bushes. If you have outdoor tables, place them on top to act as a centerpiece while dining under the stars.
String lights are great for creating an informal atmosphere that feels cozy and comfortable. Hang small fairy lights on your fence or wrap them around your pillars for a subtle, cozy, soft glow. You can also use string lights with large bulbs to provide more lighting during your outdoor soirees.
If you have a walkway, it’s highly recommended that you provide some type of pathway lighting. Common options include LED pathway lights and step lights that are bright enough so no one misses a step.
Photo credit: LA Voltage Inc
To add some color to your yard, install strip lights on your outdoor steps or walls, around your pool or water features — or anywhere you want to highlight in your favorite hue.
You can also find pathway lights that display blue, purple, green and red lights at night. When guests walk along the path, they’ll notice and follow the lights — and be less likely to trip.
If you have a pond, install some colorful lights for entertaining and late-night swims. It’s also a good idea for safety reasons. You don’t want anyone to accidentally fall into your pond at night.
Using underwater LED lighting, you can create a soft, ethereal glow — or liven up your yard with bright and vibrant colors. While it’s best to install your underwater lighting while the pond is being constructed, you can also do so during a full pond cleaning when the water is drained. Reach out to a professional for the optimal way to install.
Show off your garden features with a little bit of light. Use the uplighting technique (placing the lights on the ground and having them shine upwards) to give your trees and shrubs a warm glow. You don’t need to install them everywhere. Just choose a few of your favorite plants to spotlight.
Whether you have steps in your front yard or backyard, it’s always a good idea to install a few lights. This way, you and your visitors can see where you’re walking at night and avoid trips and tumbles.
Related: 15 landscape lighting ideas to make your yard glow.
Landscape edging is an easy way to create lines between beds in your yard. It’s most visible between the lawn and a garden bed, and it creates a defined look between areas that helps divide up space.
Edging also makes maintenance easier. For example, it’s easier to edge weeds or mow grass along a border than an open garden bed. Plants inside a border tend to do better, as edging protects them from mowing and weeding — and makes it easier to control the process of irrigation, fertilization and chemical applications in a garden.
Thinking about adding some edging to your yard? Here are some ideas to consider.
Using wooden logs for flower bed edging gives your yard an earthy appearance. There are logs of numerous sizes and various types of wood you can use to create the look you want.
When it comes to landscape edging, concrete is highly versatile, as it can be used for lawn, garden and flower bed edging. It is also very durable and will last for years.
Bricks are an attractive way to add landscape edging in flower beds and gardens. Coming in a variety of sizes and colors, bricks allow you to simultaneously create pathways in your yard and a border for your flower bed or garden. One of the biggest benefits of using bricks is that they create a uniform look. You can install bricks in a straight or curved line, depending on how you want the edging to appear.
Metal is a durable material to use to create landscape edging. Whether you need a border for your lawn, flower bed or garden, metal is a good choice. It will prevent mulch or other garden materials from migrating, and it will also keep the lawn from creeping into nearby beds.
Using pebbles and gravel is a decorative way to create lawn edging. They will reduce weeds in your yard. While you can use them in any area, they look particularly good as a lawn border. Pebbles are versatile as they come in a variety of colors and sizes.
Unlike softscapes, hardscapes are simply all of the non-organic landscaping features you have in your yard, including concrete or brick patios, gravel, rocks, bricks, wood decks, retaining walls, fences and gates, walkways, water features and more.
Adding a functional patio and deck is a great way to landscape your backyard if you don't want to spend too much time maintaining a lot of vegetation. Build a deck or patio using flagstone, concrete slabs, pavers or wood. It all depends on the kind of home you have, the aesthetic you want to create and, of course, your budget.
Your patio can also have a gazebo or pergola attached for shade. Want to cook and dine outdoors? Build a pizza oven or outdoor kitchen, and add a table and a few chairs to make it even more functional.
Related: How much does a patio cost?
Tired of mowing and watering your grass? Consider replacing your green turf for gravel instead. It’s low-maintenance, which means you don’t need to worry about fertilizing, aerating, dethatching and other tedious lawn care chores. Plus, choosing gravel instead of grass will help you conserve water throughout the year.
Related: 15 drought-tolerant landscaping ideas and tips.
Waterfalls, rain curtains, fountains and other water features are more common in backyards than in front yards, which means your home will likely grab everyone’s attention if you opt for a front yard water element.
Some homeowners choose to install a large water feature like a faux stream running around the front of their house. Others might use cultural pieces and small ponds to keep it simple. Browse through different types of fountains, waterfalls and birdbaths for more inspiration. Whichever type of water feature you choose, find lighting that complements it. Submersible lights, downlights and spotlights are all popular options.
You can easily build up an outdoor fireplace that everyone can sit around and enjoy, especially during the cool autumn weather. If you’re planning to build a patio, look into adding a built-in fireplace made of brick or stone. Have an outdoor kitchen? Build a fireplace nearby.
Want a cozy, campsite-like atmosphere? Instead of a fireplace, you can create a fire pit (either built-in, prefab or portable) made out of concrete blocks, lava rocks or pavers.
Pavers — which are essentially small stones made of concrete and bricks — come in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes. Use them to create a walkway with an interesting pattern throughout your yard.
A retaining wall in your back or front yard not only creates a focal point, it helps you manage run-off water and flooding, keeps soil in place and prevents erosion. Choose wood, stone, bricks or concrete to build your wall.
If you have a seating area or patio in your backyard, install a pergola or gazebo for shade and style. Wood is commonly used to build pergolas, but you can also use vinyl, PVC and aluminum.
Related: Cool off with these 12 shade ideas for your backyard.
Install a few decorative steps in your yard using stone, such as bluestone, flagstone, concrete and even slate. If you live on a slope, these steps could make it easier to travel up and down your yard — or they could help aesthetically separate different areas of your outdoor space.
Related: 15 hardscaping ideas for your yard.
Make your swimming pool stand out during the summer with these pool landscaping ideas.
Sometimes, the pool is all you need to give your backyard a beautiful accent piece. If you want to jazz it up a bit without taking too much away from the pool itself, pick simple plants such as small palms or cacti. Put them in pots that help them pop against the pool’s backdrop.
Photo credit: Root Wise llc
For low-maintenance, zen-like landscaping, opt for beach pebbles and stepping stones around the pool. These polished pebbles are available in different colors. Homeowners also use them for desert-like landscaping.
Photo credit: Hi-Tech Builders Inc.
Use rocks, boulders and stones to add a cascading waterfall to your pool — or attach spouts or sconces to the wall. As for placement, put your waterfall in the center of your pool and facing your house so it’s the main focal point of your backyard.
Decking is a must if you want to lounge around the pool and help prevent people from slipping. Stones such as travertine, slate, sandstone and limestone are upscale choices but can get costly. Consider using concrete or wood if you’re on a tight budget. If you have your heart set on stone, think about using stamped concrete that resembles your desired stone.
For safety, section off your swimming pool by adding a fence around it. Consider a clear, transparent fence so you can still view your pool. Create zones in the rest of your backyard and add clean, crisp borders to separate your lawn from your patio, deck, garden beds, etc.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can find ways to lower your landscaping costs. Here are some tips to help you save money on your project:
As always, shop around for the best deals on materials and furnishings — and don’t be afraid to ask about specials and discounts.
Related: How much does landscaping cost?
Tackling a major landscaping project can be overwhelming. Although some features are easy to DIY, consult a landscaping and design professional for bigger jobs and more elaborate designs. They can help you develop a new design, choose the best materials and ensure all of your features are up to code. Start searching for a landscaping service on Thumbtack today.
References: ¹International Casual Furnishing Association survey
A note about project costs included or linked in this article: Figures represent national average cost estimates using data provided by Thumbtack pros and additional research. These figures are provided for educational purposes only and are subject to change at any time due to various factors. Details about your specific project and local rates can impact costs.
Tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll show you pros right for the job, with prices.