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31 Backyard Landscaping Ideas to Improve Your Outdoor Space

By Axis Fuksman-Kumpa March 4, 2024

Stone fire pit next to a stacked stone wall

Curb appeal is important, but many homeowners spend more time in their backyard than in their front yard. Give this outdoor area the attention it deserves and spruce it up with our landscape design ideas.

Whether you have a large backyard or your outdoor area is on the smaller side, there are plenty of landscaping ideas you can incorporate into your space. From water features and seating areas to retaining walls and flower beds, the list of design ideas is seemingly endless. Read on for inspiration you can consider to update your yard - plus, there are ideas for every budget too.

You don’t have to be a landscape architect to bring these backyard design ideas to life, but if you do want some professional assistance, we’re here to help! Some of these projects can be completed in a weekend, while others might require a bit more time and effort.

Keep reading for a roundup of backyard landscaping ideas that will help you achieve your dream outdoor living space. Whatever your style and budget are, you're sure to find a few ideas you'll want to get to work on ASAP.

# 1 // Add Charm with Pergolas and Arbors

If you want your backyard to look like it came straight out of a storybook, consider adding a pergola or arbor. Both of these features add instant character and charm to any outdoor area.

Pergolas and arbors aren’t solely aesthetic features, though. Pergolas help to define a space while also offering shade. You can hang string lights and set up a seating area under your pergola to create a fun outdoor living room-type space.

Similarly, an arbor can help define a point of entry or create a division of two separate spaces. Consider using an arbor to frame an entryway to a cozy seating area or vegetable garden.

Letting climbing plants grow on either of these structures adds even more charm and will create a picturesque point of interest in your backyard. Honeysuckles, potato vines, grapevines, wisteria and trumpet vines are all excellent choices for your pergola or arbor.

You can also take a more rustic decorating approach and use twigs and branches instead of flowers.

A pergola is a great addition to a small or large backyard

#2 // Create Garden Beds Around Your Fence

Dress up your fence by adding garden beds below. Opt for colorful flowers or low-maintenance plants. You can also add climbing vines to help the fence blend into your backyard and offer even more privacy!

The sky is the limit in terms of what you feature - a mix of potted plants, flowering shrubs, climbing plants and ornamental grasses. You don’t need to be a garden designer to create a beautiful space either — feel free to get creative and have fun with it.

Backyard landscape ideas - dress up your fence with a garden in front of it

#3 // Give Your Shed a Makeover

While important — where else are you going to store all the tools you need to maintain your outdoor oasis? — sheds can often be unsightly if not maintained properly. If your shed looks like it belongs in a creepy movie rather than a beautiful backyard, it's time for a makeover.

Fortunately, updating an existing shed is relatively simple. A fresh coat of paint can transform a shed from dingy to darling, and you can add windows to the structure or attach a trellis to make it a focal point of your backyard.

If you’re short on storage space and don’t already have a shed, consider buying one. It's a wise investment because decluttering your backyard is an easy way to make it look larger and tidier. Just be sure to think about how the new structure will fit into your overall backyard landscape so you're not stuck with something that distracts from the space rather than enhancing it.

A well maintained shed in a backyard

#4 // Add a Water Feature

If a calming outdoor oasis is what you’re after, incorporate a water feature, such as a fountain or backyard pond, into your outdoor space. Just the sound of running water can make you feel like you’re on vacation — no plane ticket required!

If your space allows, place a daybed or bench next to the water feature to create a resort-like retreat in your backyard.

You can also incorporate a water feature, such as a fountain, stream or birdbath, into an existing garden space for added tranquility.

If you live near a busy road or somewhere with lots of noise pollution, a waterfall, running creek or rain fountain can help buffer the noise.

Outdoor showers can be particularly useful if you live near the beach and want to rinse off before coming inside or have kids or pets who like to get dirty while playing outside.

A water feature in a backyard next to a fire pit nook

#5 // Maximize Seating Space

If you like to entertain, don’t skimp on the outdoor seating. Creating multiple seating areas throughout your backyard for guests to hang out and relax is the key to any good party.

Add an outdoor dining area with a large table and plenty of chairs, plus a separate lounge space with a sectional couch. Or perhaps your guests would prefer some Adirondack chairs around a fire pit or a sitting area near an outdoor fireplace.

A small backyard with multiple seating areas for enjoyment

#6 // Well-Placed Retaining Wall

Retaining walls can make a sloped backyard much more usable. Plus, creating different levels within your yard can make your outdoor space feel bigger and allow you to have designated areas for different activities (relaxing, eating, entertaining, playing, etc.).

You can also add built-in seating to your retaining wall to create even more seating options for friends and family. Or, position some patio furniture around an outdoor fire pit or fire place and make this area a focal point of your backyard design.

We love a natural stone retaining wall, but you can use other materials as well, such as brick or concrete.

Retaining walls can add more usable space to a yard

#7 // Use Screens to Hide Eyesores

If you have unsightly pool equipment, AC units, or other tools that you want to hide but don’t have the money or space to add a shed, a privacy screen is a great alternative. Your tools and equipment might be crucial to optimal outdoor living, but that doesn't mean you need to see them every time you're trying to enjoy your backyard living space.

Privacy screens come in a variety of sizes and materials, so you can easily select the one that best fits your style and needs. This simple backyard landscaping idea will make a major aesthetic impact with minimal effort on your part.

AC units hidden by screens in straight lines against the house

#8 // More Space with an ADU

Create more usable space for you and your family with an accessory dwelling unit in your backyard. These secondary buildings can be used for a wide range of things, such as an extra living room, a gym, an office or an in-law suite.

Treat this unit the way you would the rest of your home by adding a walkway and incorporating the same landscape design around it. You might also consider planting some flower beds around the structure or placing a seating area nearby.

Backyard landscaping ideas include adding a ADU like this one alongside a pool

#9 // Create a Patio Area

A patio area is another excellent backyard addition for those who love to entertain.

You can create a beautiful stone patio or brick patio, or you can opt for a DIY gravel patio for a more affordable — but just as useful — option. Either way, having a designated area like a patio in your backyard will help dictate how you want it used and ensure you’re making the most of your outdoor space.

Don’t forget to add patio furniture to make the most of this area. If you have somewhere to hang them, string lights are always a fun addition and will allow you to enjoy this outdoor living space well into the night. Think of this space as an outdoor living room and design accordingly!

A large wood deck next to a gravel fire pit area

#10 // Family Time with a Fire Pit

Fire pits are a great feature because the whole family can enjoy them. They are a fantastic place to gather together during the summer (s’mores, anyone?) but can also be used during the cooler months, providing your family with even more outdoor time. Set up some Adirondack chairs around your fire pit and get ready to enjoy some fresh air and family time for hours on end.

An outdoor fire pit on a bluestone patio

#11 // Don't Forget the Shade

While soaking up the sun is great, shade is also critical to enjoying your outdoor space! Make sure you have ample shade — whether it's a great cantilever umbrella, a covered patio or a shade sail — to ensure you (and your guests!) can be comfortable outside. Many of these shade options also offer some backyard privacy.

If you have mature trees in your backyard, think about creating a seating area underneath them as another shade solution.

A shaded outoor living space next to a pool with easy access to the house

#12 // Focal Point Steps

Steps don't have to simply be practical — they can also add to the beauty of your backyard! If you have steps in your yard, you can make them a focal point by lining them with beautiful garden beds, lush greenery or native plantings. Mulch and gravel will also work here!

Your steps can blend into your landscape with natural materials or more modern concrete - so use whatever materials blend in best!

Gorgeous concrete steps with lush plantings of succulents and grasses surrounding

# 13 // Intimate Bistro Nook

If your backyard space is limited but you still want an outdoor dining area, try a bistro nook. You don’t need a vast space to create a comfortable spot to enjoy a casual meal or happy hour cocktails. A small seating area with ambient lighting will do the trick.

Have fun with some cute colored chairs and a table for a pop of color, and consider planting flowers around the nook to make the space feel extra special.

A small bistro table set in the front yard of a home

#14 // Statement Pavers

Statement-making pavers — either large square ones or long rectangular pavers — in the grass are a popular landscaping element and an excellent way to update your backyard. You can use pavers to lead the way from a patio to your garden or a separate seating area. They're also a smart way to lead people from your front yard to the backyard.

If you still aren't sure where to place pavers in your yard, look for well-worn spots in your grass. That usually indicates where people are walking most frequently.

Large rectangular pavers make this patio a bold statement

#15 // Sustainable Design Ideas

Sustainability is the name of the game when it comes to creating a smart backyard and nailing your landscape design.

We recommend focusing on native plants (plants that are native to your environment) for a lower maintenance lawn. We love the sustainability aspect of native plants, but because they’re most likely to survive in your climate, they’re also the best option for those lacking a green thumb.

If you incorporate native plants into your backyard landscape ideas from the start, they'll be much easier to maintain over time.

This yard is full of native plants that attract pollinators and a rock garden

#16 // Minimal Mowing

Your backyard should be a source of enjoyment and relaxation, but maintaining a beautiful outdoor space isn’t always easy. Grass requires a lot of upkeep — watering, mowing, seeding, spraying, etc. — and sometimes, taking care of it can feel like a never-ending task.

A simple solution is to remove some of your grass and replace it with a low-maintenance option. Expanding your current garden beds — or creating new ones — is an easy way to reduce the amount of grass in your yard and add some visual interest.

Artificial grass is another one of our favorite alternatives to real grass, or if you prefer to keep things natural, you can opt for a native ground cover, such as clovers, creeping thyme or moss.

You can also add a sandy area with a fire pit and chairs or create a space for your kids to play.

Or you can get creative, building a backyard pond might be more work upfront, it will definitely cut back on the time you spend mowing your lawn in the future.

Backyard landscaping idea - turf gass and a large patio make this yard easy to maintain

#17 // Drought Tolerant Landscaping

Living in an area that receives little to no rainfall doesn’t mean you can't have lush landscaping and a beautiful yard. You just need to be smart about the plants you choose.

Drought-tolerant landscape designs can be achieved with thoughtful hardscaping — that's any non-living element of your yard, such as a deck, fire pit or walkway — and by reducing the amount of grass and temperamental plants with high water needs. Drought-tolerant plants have adapted to drier climates and will naturally use less water than other plants.

While it might be tempting to fill your yard with the flashiest, most eye-catching flowers at your local nursery, it pays to do your research first and opt for plants that can thrive in your environment with less maintenance and water.

Drought tolerant plant should especially be considered for drier climates and any areas where there are water restrictions.

A landscape design with gravel fire pit area, turf grass and a patio

#18 // Creating Rooms with Space Division

If you want your outdoor space to feel like an extension of your indoor living space, why not design both areas in a similar fashion? By that, we mean creating “outdoor rooms” by delineating outdoor spaces and breaking them up into specific areas. Creating clean lines with containers — or pots — is a great way to do this, a trellis, even just an outdoor rug can help differentiate two spaces. If you have a small backyard, breaking up your space can help you make the most of it.

A yard with a wood deck, fire pit nook on a patio and a pool surrounded by a metal fence

#19 // Create a Kid-Friendly Space

No park for your kids to play nearby? Don’t worry — get creative and create one in your own backyard!

Treat your kids to an outdoor playspace where they can hop from stump to stump, tip-toe across a log balance beam and climb up big rocks like a pro rock climber. You can also add swings, an in-ground trampoline or other playground-inspired pieces.

Make the space feel like it’s a cohesive part of the rest of your yard with the right landscaping around it and a walkway that connects it to another area of your property, such as your backyard garden or outdoor kitchen if you have one.

A backyard space for the kids with chalkboards, container planting, kids playhouse and swings

#20 // Landscape Lighting

Lighting is an aspect of your backyard landscape that can be functional and fun. Landscape lighting is critical for safety, but it can also be used to create a cool or zen atmosphere!

Whether you are using moonlighting from your trees, have soft pathway lighting or uplights on your home, the right lighting can really set the mood in your backyard oasis. Terraced gardens can also benefit greatly from well-placed landscape lighting.

Landscape lighting that highlights a spring flowering tree

#21 // Incorporate a Quiet Spot

Many backyard designs often focus on entertaining, with plenty of seating options and spaces where lots of people can gather. But sometimes all you need is a quiet spot to kick back and relax.

Adding a seating area somewhere quiet — whether it's a bench in your garden, some seating in a side yard or a lounge chair by a bird feeder — will help you enjoy the natural beauty of your backyard.

Bakyard landscaping with an outdoor oasis in the corner

#22 // Relaxation on a Hammock

Hanging a hammock in your backyard is one of the quickest and easiest backyard landscape ideas to implement. This small addition will enhance your outdoor space and create a relaxing environment.

Surround yourself with nature by hanging a hammock in your backyard garden, or place it near (but not too close to) a fire pit and let the roaring fire keep you warm and cozy. Or, keep it simple and situate your hammock beneath your favorite trees or on the patio.

A hammock next to a seating area in a small backyard

#23 // Design a Dining Area

If a formal indoor dining room feels too fancy or you simply don’t have the space for one, don’t worry! Instead, take the dinner party outside. This space can be on a deck or patio or under a pergola.

Wherever you put it, having a designated dining area ensures you will use your backyard that much more. This is one of our favorite backyard ideas because it's like you're adding another room to your home!

An easy backyard landscaping idea a dining area and seating area for entertaining

#24 // Small Swimming Pool

You don’t need a huge backyard to have a pool. Spools, plunge pools, small above ground pools and cocktail pools are all great space-saving options for any size backyard. Water features like a pool — no matter the size — instantly elevate any landscape design and offer fun for the whole family.

With the addition of a pergola, create a shady spot to relax, complete with lounge chairs and a table for snacks and cocktails for the ultimate poolside experience.

A small swimming pool with patio furniture next to it

#25 // Minimalist Outdoor Space

A beautiful backyard space doesn’t have to mean tons of upkeep. If you're busy and don't have tons of time to work on your backyard, remember that sometimes less is better!

Instead of tons of flower beds, water features and other backyard landscaping elements, try incorporating only a few low-maintenance landscaping ideas that fit your lifestyle and schedule.

Fire pit table with a simple garden behind it

#26 // Plant a Vegetable Garden

Enjoy the fruits of your labor — literally — by planting a garden full of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Berries, carrots, onions and zucchini are among some of the easiest fruits and vegetables to grow, but feel free to try whatever edible plants you love most — it's your garden after all.

Keep the garden close to your kitchen door for convenience or in another location that best fits your overall landscape design.

A raised vegetable garden

#27 // Add Privacy

Even if you love your neighbors, it’s natural to want some privacy in the comfort of your own backyard.

There are plenty of ways to create privacy from neighbors naturally, such as creating a "wall" of hedges, building a fence or covering a trellis with climbing vines. You can also fill containers with tall grasses and arrange them around the area you'd like to keep hidden from your neighbors' view.

clean lines of trees for privacy

#28 // Use What You Already Have

When thinking about ways to update your yard, it's smart — and sustainable — to try utilizing items you already have on hand. For example, do you have a great shady area that is perfect for your patio? Or maybe you have extra bricks from a past project that can be used in your landscape design somewhere?

Repurposing old materials and items can often lead to some pretty cool and creative backyard landscaping ideas.

a large backyard for parties

#29 // Multipurpose Backyard

If you want to get the most out of your backyard, make sure you don’t let any of the space go to waste! Even the smallest of areas can be transformed into usable space.

Is there a corner of your backyard that you never use? Turn it into a small garden! Or build a trellis for climbing roses to grow on and soon enough you'll have a lovely backdrop against which you can take family photos.

If maintaining a garden or building a new structure sounds like too much work, buy a fire pit and some chairs to fill an empty space or add a pretty water feature. Whatever additions you decide to make, be sure to consider how they'll fit in with your overall backyard landscaping plan.

Aerial look at a backyard with many features including multiple garden areas

#30 // Crowd-Pleasing Entertainment Area

Make your backyard the place to be by turning it into a crowd-pleasing entertainment area. We love an outdoor kitchen or poolside outdoor bar, but if your guests are more on the active side, try incorporating a sports feature like a bocce ball or basketball court.

If you have the space, take your next movie night outside with an outdoor theater. Don't forget to provide plenty of comfy seating choices. Or, if you and your guests prefer watching sports over movies and your space is limited, install an outdoor TV on your patio or deck to watch all the big games on.

A bocce ball court next

#31 // Use Your Vertical Space

If your outdoor space is lacking in size, remember that you can always go up.

For example, if you desperately want a garden but don't have enough space on the ground, try a vertical garden instead. Trellises, arbors and fences can provide the support needed for flowering vines, grapes, tomatoes, gourds and other plants to thrive.

To create more visual interest in your space, hang lights in your trees or above your patio. Not only will this create a more visually appealing space, but it will make your yard easier to navigate at night.

If you have kids and want to give them a place to play, consider building a rock wall for them to climb or a tree house they can hang out in!

For homeowners who like to entertain, consider floating benches and built-in seating rather than bulkier patio furniture.

Backyard ideas - vines going vertical in a design on a fence

We hope this roundup of backyard landscaping ideas has offered you plenty of inspiration and guidance to create the outdoor living space you've always dreamed of. If you are feeling inspired, check out some of our favorite front yard landscape designs by house style!

More About Tilly

Tilly’s easy online landscape design process has been embraced by homeowners across the country and in Canada. Tilly breaks packages into the Front Yard, Backyard or your Full Yard. We match you with a professional landscape designer who is familiar with your region to create the perfect custom plan for your outdoor space.

To start our process you’ll fill out a questionnaire about your property that helps our design team understand your goals, needs and existing landscape. You can add 3d renders, lighting plans or side yards to your design package. You’ll then meet with your designer on a video call, show them your space and discuss your priorities.

Whether you are just looking to add some curb appeal or transform your entire backyard - we have a team for you!

Read more about: Landscape Design Tips