Ideas for landscaping small backyards

Updated November 21, 2016

Small backyards present a challenge for the homeowner to create usable space without the feeling of clutter. Whether you live in a town house or detached home, your small backyard constitutes a portion of the living space on your property. But even the smallest patios can become a haven for entertaining friends and family with proper planning.


Glance out your back windows from at least one level above your backyard, if possible. There's quite a bit of space there. Your backyard isn't simply a flat surface. Instead, consider the small backyard as an area containing multiple levels. Some levels can be added, some will be created by illusion with plants and containers and others can be designed with terraces or structures.

Using space appropriately in a small backyard requires choosing a definite focal point. Maybe you adore fountains or love rosebushes. Both could be a focal point. Focal points become the centre of a garden or landscape. Avoid choosing trees in a small backyard space unless your choice grows very slowly. The patio, table area or wooden deck could be your focal point as well. Simply choose the aspect of your small backyard that you want to enhance the most, and build around it for a pleasing design.


Landscaping involves certain elements to create a unified design. Balance involves creating equal plantings within similarly shaped gardens. In small backyards, symmetrical garden shapes can make the space look smaller. Consider creating irregularly shaped gardens to draw attention away from the small space. If you have a fence, don't line the fence with a simple rectangular garden. Create curved gardens in the corners to draw the eye up to the flowers and create the illusion of additional space. Irregular shaped or curved gardens also soften the illusion of sharp edges in a square or rectangular backyard.

Unity of landscape design involves choosing similar plants and colours to create a theme for the garden. Always research which plants work best in your area. Most individuals want a small backyard garden to look planned and groomed. Overgrown wildflowers might be beautiful, but the chaos makes the space look smaller. You need to incorporate space between plants within your gardens to increase the feeling of openness.

Height and Hardscape Features

Height becomes a primary tool when considering plants for small backyard gardens. Adding taller plants to the back of gardens and building forward with lower plants creates the illusion of depth to the garden. If you choose to edge your patio area with a garden, choose low-growing ground cover or annuals to delineate the patio. Add height to the patio area with groups of containers of varying heights. Include a trellised plant such as a mandavilla or topiary on your patio.

Wrought iron, freestanding plant hooks can easily be stuck in a garden to create the illusion of height. Place hanging baskets with trailing vines on the hook to add a splash of colour higher in your garden. Adding small, tailored terraced areas can create more planting area in a small backyard while still maintaining the sense of space.

Create interesting textures in your gardens by using mulch to protect your plants with added moisture and weed suppression. Add areas of pea or river gravel to create pockets of visual impact without great expense. Choose rocks that match the home exterior or patio colour so the effect is sublime rather than harsh. In the same vein, select small fountains or water features to blend into the limited space. Water features can provide a dramatic focal point for your backyard living area without overwhelming the space.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author