Comfy, functional furnishings only go so far in making your patio a favorite gathering place. The right landscape plants can transform that hardworking space into a room as big as the great outdoors. Plants make a patio seem part of the natural environment and grace the space with welcoming appeal. Master the do’s and don'ts of patio landscaping and you'll be cooking out with friends in no time.
Plant Patios With Purpose
Think about your patio landscaping and what you want the plants to do. With the right care, plants can fulfill many goals:
Cast cooling shade
Allow viewing access to other areas of the yard, such as children's play areas
Screen unpleasant or unwelcome scenery
Stage seasonal interest
Add fragrance or edible fruits, leaves or blooms
Create a pleasing view
Think about how much lawn you want to retain around your patio, and select landscaping plants to support that goal. To create a private space to retreat, layer greenery heavily and pair in-ground plantings with containers. Stair-step plant heights in containers or on shelving to enhance a sense of seclusion.
If you need to maintain a viewing window from patio to play area, choose plants with a mature height of less than 3 feet. Count on airy seed stems of ornamental grasses to add height to plantings without blocking the view.
Don't plant without a plan. Plantings surrounding a patio are the first thing guests see when they come outdoors. If you don't have clear goals in mind, plants and landscaping will distract and maybe even interfere with outdoor living activities.
Practice Plant Care Maintenance
To improve the odds of patio landscaping success, choose plants that suit the growing conditions. Focus on water-wise plants with a tough-as-nails constitution that are proven to perform in your region.
Don't overlook mature plant size. Double-check that plants you select won't crowd or overtake the patio — and that roots won't disrupt hardscape. Selecting the proper size patio plant is crucial for long-term success. Don't rely on annual pruning to keep plants in bounds, especially when you can avoid these kinds of plant care headaches by evaluating plant size ahead of time.
Welcome Patio Plants
Select plants to provide a changing tableau of seasonal beauty and variety. Count on colorful foliage to carry the patio landscape during floral downtimes. In regions where winter quiets the garden, incorporate plants that feature off-season interest with evergreen leaves or eye-catching seed heads or berries.
Consider views from your home's windows that overlook the patio. Design a patio landscape with planting areas to fill these vistas with beauty in every season.
Don't use dangerous plants for patios. This includes plants that are toxic (Foxglove, Castor Bean, Sago Palm, Oleander or Brugmansia) and have sharp spines (roses, Holly, cacti or succulents such as Agave). Blossoms comprised of multiple small flowers, such as Dill, Queen Anne's Lace and Anise Hyssop, frequently beckon numerous stinging insects. Place these plants away from seating or walking areas.
Look at the Big Picture
Plants are just one part of the patio landscape. Planting beds, lighting, water features and containers can accentuate the space and enhance plantings.
When creating planting beds, include curves for visual interest. Consider adding a focal point, such as a sculpture, trellis or birdbath, to command attention. An eye-catching tree or shrub with some outstanding quality can also serve as a focal point.
Lighting makes the patio an evening escape. Uplight plants from below or direct lights toward pavers or against a wall for effective, relaxing illumination. To brighten an outdoor reading area, position spotlights so they shine down on furniture.
Include a water feature to mask surrounding sounds with a soothing trickle. Select a feature that doesn't overpower conversation. Wall-mounted fountains offer an easy solution that doesn't gobble precious square footage.
Count on containers to splash seasonal annual color onto the patio. Select weatherproof pots that complement the ambience you're creating.
Don't blow it with accessories. Direct lighting away from the patio center to avoid blinding guests. Use decorative elements sparingly to avoid competition between items. Crafting the perfect patio can be as simple as planning ahead with the right resources and practicing basic plant care. Before you know it, your pleasant patio will be your oasis.