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14 Smart Small Yard Landscaping Ideas

Many of today's homes (especially condos and townhouses) often have little or no yard space at all. Fear not. Here are 14 small yard landscaping ideas that will give your space serious style!

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small yard landscaping with outdoor seating, grenery and potted plantsHannahmariah/Shutterstock

Leave Some Space

When considering landscaping ideas for a small yard, remember to leave space. It’s easy to overcrowd things and inadvertently create a claustrophobic effect. Here, a seating area has a clear view to the garden, courtesy of a small patch of grass and some unobstructed hardscaping.

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small yard landscaping ideas with colorful flowers of varying sizesDel Boy/Shutterstock

Layered Landscape

An easy backyard idea for small yards is to create a layered landscape – just like in nature. Think of a forest with low groundcovers, ferns, shade-tolerant understory shrubs and trees, and the tall overhead trees.You can do the same thing with your small yard landscaping! Use things like groundcovers, bulbs and crevice plants to create a beautiful layered landscape, while maximizing your flower bed space!

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small yard landscaping with creeping vines and flowersBoris Ryaposov/Shutterstock

Walls and Fences

Sure, you want your small yard landscaping to include privacy, so why not utilize surrounding structures like walls and fences? For this small yard idea, vines are the perfect answer – just be sure to pick one that’s not invasive or a garden thug. Check with your local cooperative extension service for recommendations for your area.

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backyard ideas for small yards using hanging plantsDel Boy/Shutterstock

Vertical Gardens

A popular trend in small yard ideas is to garden vertically. There are many off-the-shelf products that allow you to grow plants vertically, such as the wall planters seen here. Or you can create something yourself. Either way it creates gardening space out of thin air.

10 balcony garden ideas you can use.

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simple small backyard landscaping ideas - hanging plantersWutthichai Phosri/Shutterstock

Hanging Planters

Speaking of backyard ideas for small yards, here’s a clever way to maximize space with DIY hanging planters made from plastic bottles. Of course, if the style doesn’t suit you, there are plenty of preplanted hanging baskets at the garden center and grocery store.

See some pretty hanging basket ideas.

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sturdy deck planter flower box

Window Boxes

A more traditional way of maximizing gardening space is with window boxes. Naturally, you can attach them beneath your windows. But other small yard ideas include placing them on a porch, around the perimeter of a patio, or hanging from a deck railing.

See our DIY plans for a custom 3-season planter.

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bushmykhailo pavlenko/Shutterstock

Dwarf Plants

Growers are continually introducing new cultivars with special characteristics. One of those is a dwarf habit. When considering landscaping ideas, you can grow a pine that matures at 1 foot or 80 feet. When you choose the former, you end up with enough space to add companion plants.

Learn about space-saving trees for today’s smaller yards.

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treeESB Essentials/Shutterstock

Columnar Plants

While you’re considering size and growth characteristics, think about habit as well. Columnar plants, such as this upright pear cultivar, grow straight up. There’s more room to the side, and more light at the bottom for a greater variety of plants. And yet you still get the blooms and the fruit. Win-win!

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plant ESB Essentials/Shutterstock

Trailing Plants

Here’s another shape that will help when looking for landscaping ideas for a small yard. You can run trailing plants down the side of a planter, as seen here, or let them trail from the top of a wall. Either way maximizes space and softens a hard surface to help it blend into the landscape.

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garden stepsJPL Designs/Shutterstock

Crevice Plants

Crevices are ubiquitous to most gardens, so you might as well make use of them. Sedum and other succulents such as hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum) are perfect for these spots, which are often on the lean and dry side. They make the space prettier and the hard surfaces less imposing.

See our tips for planting succulents outdoors.

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rocksJudi Deziel/Shutterstock

Narrow Spots

Along with crevices, most gardens have narrow strips that lack soil and moisture. Rather than fighting the conditions, work with them. One of the small yard ideas you can implement is to plant some tough, vining groundcovers and let them sprawl over the area. Use ivy in shady areas, succulents in sunny spots. A mulch of gravel is a nice low-maintenance addition that keeps plant foliage clean.

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flower potsDel Boy/Shutterstock


Let’s not forget containers when thinking about small yard landscaping. They’re more popular than ever—and not just because they maximize gardening space. Containers add greatly to a garden’s character. They allow you to show off your favorite plants. And if you coordinate their color and arrange them in odd numbers, you create a dashing focal point.

Meet some of the best plants for container gardening.

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grassAnton Watman/Shutterstock

Lawn Substitute

As you saw earlier, a small lawn can be helpful to a small-space garden because it opens up the area and makes it feel less claustrophobic. Well, if you’re not going to be walking on the lawn all the time, you might consider substituting a groundcover. You not only avoid mowing, you also integrate the area into the landscape. With a groundcover, your lawn becomes the garden.

Learn about other lawn alternatives.

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treeArmin Staudt/Shutterstock

Bonsai and Miniature Gardens

The smallest yard in the world has room for a garden when the plants are miniaturized. Examples include bonsai, miniature fairy gardens, and terrariums. Although usually kept indoors in cold climates, they can vacation outside for the summer in a protected location where they’re not exposed to too much direct sunlight.

See some breathtaking examples of fairy gardens.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.