Backyard Landscape Design

Your backyard is your outdoor living space; an extension of your home. It’s a private canvas for a landscape that fits your dreams. What do you like to do outside? Here are some ideas for landscaping your backyard space.

Treat your yard like a house. In a home, the space is divided into rooms with different purposes. Same goes for the yard. Do you have a small yard? You will have less “outdoor rooms“. Small or large, there is room for your ideal of privacy and relaxation.

For each idea below, you will follow the same basic principles of a landscape design: plan out the area, drawing a map on graph paper, then building from the bottom up. Planning allows you to fit the rooms together to maximize your use of space. You may pay someone to execute different parts, but the design can be completed by yourself.

Porch or patio

Many homes have a porch just outside the back door. Accessibility makes it the outdoor living space you use most often. You may have more expensive furniture or finishing materials than the rest of the yard. What do you do on your porch? Do you want a relaxing seating area, a space for grilling outdoors, or some potted plants that beautify your view? Plan where the foot traffic goes and keep your porch clean and inviting so that on pleasant days you can live on the porch.


Arizona residents love pools. Adding a pool to the landscape will require professional help, but you can design the surrounding landscape. Pick plants that have low litter to avoid constantly cleaning the pool. Bougainvillea look beautiful but the papery bracts blow throughout the yard, ending up in the pool. Cacti, yuccas, and agaves have no litter making ideal poolside plants.


Pool with landscaping in Scottsdale, AZ

Play area

Do you have young kids? A swing set, sand box or trampoline may be your ideal use of space. Kids love to play outside, and a fenced back yard provides safety. You may want the area where you can supervise from your kitchen window, or off to one side where it won’t clutter your view.

Outdoor dining

An outdoor dining area looks just like indoors. Table and chairs, but made of durable material to resist the sun. I like cement and metal furniture for durability. You may choose furniture with cushions for comfort. How much space do you need for the table and chairs of your preferred size? Do you want the area to seem more secluded and private or sunny and open? Do you dine in summer or winter? Consider the options as you plan the area. If you entertain often, this may be how you use your porch area.


Outdoor dining area on a paved patio

Outdoor living room

I love a comfortable space for seating to enjoy the outdoors. A seat encourages you to stay a little longer. A living room is a larger seating area with couch or comfortable seats. For smaller spaces you may have a bench placed in a shady spot. I like moving my furniture around to try different arrangements.


Outdoor living area in a small yard. Image from


Secluded backyard seating area. Image from


Do you love fresh vegetables? Arizona has two growing seasons, making it a great climate for gardening. Nothing beats trying it yourself to see how tomatoes do in your yard.

You may choose to plant citrus trees throughout your landscape or in an “orchard” arrangement.

I am working on growing a wildflower garden. There is lots to learn when trying to get native flowers to grow.


small garden boxes incorporated into backyard landscape. Image from pinterest.


Many people love lawns and grassy areas. Will you use yours to practice golf? Let your dogs run? Provide some extra green? Traditional lawns require lots of water, but there are lots of alternative options on my page about grasses.


Native grasses in New Mexico. Image by Charles Mann


Your back yard probably has some areas that are for practical use. Plan your traffic walkways and brainstorm ways to beautify them. For an easy update for small side yards, consider xeriscape plants that don’t require irrigation.


Image from stylejuicer. Copyright Michael Boyd.


Some yards also have storage areas, from a small shed to a large shop. Plan where this will be and how you want to view it. Do you want to grow trees or other plants around it to screen it? Will it block a view? Can you use the wall to create more privacy in your yard?


Shed incorporated into small yard landscape. Image from

Image credits:

Scottsdale Adobe Home – OFF THE MARKET



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