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How to Landscape a Sloped Backyard

By Sarah Finazzo February 2, 2023

sloped backyard ideas on a budget

Homeowners with sloped landscapes face unique challenges when it comes to landscaping and garden maintenance. From soil erosion to drainage issues, not to mention the difficulty of mowing and cultivating a hillside garden, sloped landscapes require special attention and care.

However with the right planning, you can transform your sloped landscape into a beautiful and functional outdoor space. How? We'll walk you through it!

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There are many issues a homeowner and landscape designer need to consider when designing sloped terrain.

Access to Sloped Terrain

When landscaping sloped land, a designer must take into account the steepness of the slope. If it's a gentler slope, creating a garden may not be very difficult and can perhaps even be DIY'd.

However, if it's a steep slope or if you are looking to do more labor intensive projects, such as create a playground area, building a deck, terracing the space, adding living space through that requires retaining walls, additional support or modifications may be needed and those can be costly.

Water Drainage

Water drainage can be an issue in a sloped yard. If the water is running down the slope too quickly it may not have time for the plant's roots to soak it up, leading to thirsty plants.

Because of the uneven terrain, water can also collect and pool in certain areas, such as at the base of the slope and cause flooding.


Erosion on a slope can happen due to a variety of factors, such as wind and rain. When a slope experiences erosion, it causes the topsoil to be washed away, which can make it difficult for plantings to take root and grow.

However, if you plan according to your climate and conditions, plantings can actually be used to help reduce the impact of erosion as they can help to hold the soil in place and provide a protective layer over the surface.

Functionality & Goals

In order to determine the best use of space, a designer must consider the overall layout of the space, the homeowner's goals and budget. If it's a sloped backyard, leveling the area for a patio can be very costly, however it can create very valuable entertaining and relaxing space. If budget is a concern, it may make more sense to create a sloped garden that is beautiful to look at (and easy to maintain!)

Garden Maintenance

Maintaining a garden or lawn on a slope can be a challenging task because of the unique terrain. With erosion, water run off, and of course the practical issues of mowing sloped yards, there are many things to consider.

One way to work with nature when you are creating sloped gardens is to select great ground cover that can help slow the water run off and chose native plants that won't require intensive water and maintenance.

Solutions on a Slope

When approaching a sloped space you will need to decide if you are going to level the area or work with the slope. If you have a steep slope, it's best to speak with a professional about your options and what's realistic within your budget.

Here are some ideas and examples on what you can do with a sloped backyard!

Create a Rock Garden

As we mentioned above, creating a rock garden on a slope can be an effective way to help reduce erosion. Rocks will act as anchors, holding the soil in place, preventing it from washing away and helping divert it from running straight down the slope.

Additionally, the rocks can create pockets of soil which can be used to plant low-growing plants that will further help to hold the soil in place. The rocks in essence provide shelter and protection for the plants, keeping them from being uprooted by the wind and rain.

In this form, rocks act as a natural filter, allowing water to slowly trickle down the slope instead of running off quickly and taking the soil with it. All of these benefits can help to reduce erosion on a slope and make your garden look even more beautiful.

sloped backyard ideas on a budget
A Tilly plan in California

Add a Deck

Adding a deck over a sloped part of your backyard can be a great way to add usable outdoor living space to your home. When building a deck on a slope you will need to take extra care in the design and construction so that it is safe and secure.

Additionally, you will want to make sure the deck is properly supported and set up to accommodate any drainage and water runoff. With careful planning and execution, you can create a beautiful outdoor living area that you and your family can enjoy for many years to come.

Added bonus - if you have a view from the top of your slope, a deck can offer a fantastic raised destination to enjoy the scenery.

sloped backyard ideas on a budget
Tilly plan in Colorado

Go Native

Creating a beautiful garden on a hillside in your yard can be a fantastic use of a tricky space. especially if you don't want to (or don't have the budget) to level the ground.

We highly recommend focusing on native plants that are accustomed to your climate to help prevent soil erosion and work to avoid some of the irrigation challenges we mentioned above.

Start by researching the native plants that thrive in your area and choose plants that will work with your sunlight and soil conditions. A sloped backyard garden is a great opportunity to create a focal point so make sure you have seasonality and something blooming as often as possible. Remember to keep in mind sizing and scale of the hill so that there aren't large gaps between blooming flowers, plants and shrubs.

sloped backyard ideas on a budget create a sloping garden above a stone retaining walls
A Tilly plan in New York

Groundcover plants

A native groundcover is a great way to make a slope in your backyard beautiful. Groundcover plants are low-maintenance and hardy, so they can withstand a variety of weather conditions. They can be used to fill large spaces or to accentuate other plants in your garden.

For a slope, focus on a ground cover that can spread quickly and there are some options that are good for helping to resist erosion. You can also use a mix of ground covers to create a colorful and textured landscape.

Sloped backyard ideas on a budget, ground cover plants on a backyard slope

Vegetable garden

Using sloped land for raised garden beds can be a great idea if there is enough sunlight. While it may seem like a daunting task to build raised beds on a slope, it can actually be pretty simple and there are many benefits.

By building a garden bed on a slope you can actually help stop erosion, terrace your garden and experience the benefits of a natural solid sloped draining system!

Garden beds also make it easier to control the soil quality, as the soil can be amended with organic matter to make it better suited to the crops you plan to grow. As long as you have enough sunlight, you can really take advantage of sloped terrain with this type of gardening. Add a stepping stone walkway for easy access and reap the benefits of your labour.

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Retaining Wall

Adding a retaining wall to a sloped backyard can be a great way to create usable living space. Retaining walls will need to be added by a professional. A retaining wall will provide a leveling between areas with differing elevations, which can create more usable space for gardens, patios, playgrounds and other outdoor features.

A retaining wall can be expensive to add in your yard. The cost will depend on the steepness of the slope, the size of the wall, the surrounding area and the materials used. The labor involved in building the wall can also be expensive, so you'll want to get numerous quotes before beginning the work.

natural stone rock retaining wall in a sloped backyard

Terraced Garden

Terracing a slope is a method of creating level platforms on a sloping land. This method involves cutting the slope into a series of level steps or terraces, which can be used to create more level areas for living space. This is a great way to make more efficient use of sloping land.

Again, this can be very costly, however can really improve how you enjoy your yard if you are looking to create more space.

a terraced gaarden on a steep slope backyard
Tilly plan in Colorado

Create a Focal Point

Use your backyard slope to create something beautiful to look at! Perhaps it's a beautiful modern staircase, a water feature, a beautiful flower or rose garden or a stunning landscape features like a fire pit nook or pergola. Use your space to create something meaningful and important to you that you can enjoy and admire.

sloped backyard ideas on a budget, concrete pavers through a sloped backyards
A Tilly plan in California

Go Modern

Create a modern look with ornamental grasses in a sloped yard. Start by selecting ornamental grass that is native to your area and that can tolerate the sun and shade of your space.

You can go with all one type of grass or choose grasses of different heights and colors, to create an eye-catching contrast. You can also add a few flowering plants to provide pops of color.

sloped backyard ideas on a budget

Be Smart about Irrigation

Being smart about irrigation on a slope can help the plants take root and work with the environment.

Some things to consider include installing a drip irrigation or finding ways to collect and reuse water.

sloped backyard ideas on a budget

More Sloped Backyard Ideas

Homeowners with sloped yards have an array of options to maximize their space. From a retaining wall to garden beds there is something for every budget and taste. Whether you're looking for a simple solution or a more elaborate design, here are some ideas from Tilly that have helped transform our client's sloped yard and make them a beautiful, functional space.

Front Yard with Native Plants & Trees

This California front yard has a stone wall with colorful plants flanking the driveway. This wall will help with water runoff and diversion. It is a practical and beautiful landscape design for this front entry.

sloped garden ideas, a flower garden with seasonal flowers
A Tilly plan in California

A Leave it Alone Sloped Backyard

A low retaining wall leveled out a backyard patio for this family to enjoy. While the rest of the yard has a slight natural slope, it's manageable to mow and leaving it alone kept the final cost of this project down.

a sloped yard with stone steps and grass
A Tilly plan in Virginia

Multi-level Sheltered Seating Area

With steep slopes, like this one, it's best to have a professional oversee all parts of the design and installation. This design creates an elevated deck area for entertaining and then hosts beautiful gardens in different tiers going down the slope. It's a dramatic and striking design that will be a stunning feature of this home.

repurposed wood retaining wall with a sheltered seating area
A Tilly plan in California

Waterfall Terraced Garden for Entertaining

This Tilly designer changed this sloped yard drastically by terracing it with natural stone retaining walls and providing different ways to use each level. In the middle is a natural rock waterfall creating a calming zen vibe throughout the entire home. Strikingly unique, this design will create tons of space for entertaining and enjoyment for years to come.

water feature through a terraced garden through the sloped backyard
A Tilly plan in Colorado

Retaining Wall Garden Beds

This sloped yard was leveled with stone retaining walls and gardens in the top tiers. It provides a beautiful view and much needed privacy from neighbors.

retaining wall ideas, create a backyard garden
A Tilly plan in Virginia

Gabion Retaining Walls

This Colorado yard had installed gabion walls before coming to Tilly to help create a holistic landscape design. Tilly filled their space with drought tolerant plantings that work well in the given climate.

gabion retaining walls with drought tolerant plants in a sloped backyard
A Tilly plan in California

High Impact Front Yard

This front sloped garden is lined with large rocks as edging along a long driveway. This plan offers large trees for privacy and low plantings and shrubs for color and visual interest year round.

Sloped garden
A Tilly plan in New York

A Stone Retaining Wall Garden with Steps

This sloped backyard has a a beautiful cottage inspired feel with tons of greenery and flowers throughout the space. The brick patio and stone hardscape compliments each other and provides a beautiful backyard oasis.

sloped backyard ideas on a budget with flowering plants

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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. Tilly also offers individual DIY projects, including a DIY Garden Bed if you aren’t ready to tackle your entire yard.

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