Front yard landscaping ideas have evolved from cookie-cutter turfed lawns to well-planned layouts that are pleasing to look at. In urban and suburban areas, homeowners are redesigning those plots in front to create privacy with low walls or native plants; as sunny spots to grow herbs, flowers and vegetables; and to gain extra living space by building patios or decks.
While some homeowners will never give up their traditional lawns, many are open to using fewer chemicals and selecting grasses that work with the region and climate. For years, many horticulturists and gardening professionals have been trying to get the message across: grow plants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators to create a natural habitat. Go easy on pesticides or find natural alternatives. Use less water. Save the bees, butterflies, and birds and let predators like ladybugs take care of aphids and other leaf munchers.
So, if you’re starting to realize it’s time to rethink your front lawn, at least you’re agreeable to considering some new landscaping ideas. Reconfiguring your front yard to grow fresh food, promote wildlife, or for a better environment are great reasons, but perhaps you just want that dull space to look better and boost its curb appeal.
Originally, the curb-appeal concept entailed painting your house, making repairs, and landscaping your front yard to attract possible homebuyers and to hopefully make your neighbors happy.
Now, attractive front yard landscaping ideas should not only reflect the architectural design of a house, they should also be a reflection of those who live inside. They can be formal, artistic, earthy, fun, or anything, really.
A word of advice, however: consider hiring a reputable landscape or garden designer to ensure you achieve the best results.
14 unique front yard landscaping ideas to transform your outdoor space
From rethinking water-guzzling front lawns to adding room for socializing and growing vegetables, these front yard landscaping ideas will inspire you to create an inviting new look.
1. Create a Mediterranean escape in the city
With highrises looming just blocks away, a small 1920s Mediterranean home in Los Angeles’ Carthay Circle neighborhood received a colorful oasis-like front yard redesign from Beth Edelstein Landscape Design of Santa Monica. Beth chose drought-tolerant plants and succulents for year-round interest and ease of maintenance.
The growth season for the dinner-plate daisy-like Aeonium ‘Sunburst' is winter and these succulents’ vibrant faces follow the sun. Other plants used include blue chalksticks (Senecio mandraliscae), which spreads and forms dense mats; a grayish salvia; the spiky succulents spoon yucca (Dasylirion wheeleri) and octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana); chartreuse Mexican spurge (Euphorbia characias) and evergreen Martin’s spurge (Euphorbia x martinii); dwarf butterfly bush (Buddleja ‘Lo & Behold’); and a semi-dwarf Meyer lemon tree.
Naturalistic hardscape incorporated into the design reflects the colors of the stucco house and foliage and includes boulders, gravel, a slightly winding garden path of red Arizona flagstone set in decomposed granite (commonly referred to as DG), and forest floor mulch contained with bender board.
The designer continued the landscape to the area between the sidewalk and street – variously called parking strips, tree belts, verges, skirts, buffers, curb strips, and hellstrips – with a wide swath of Ceanothus 'Anchor Bay’, English lavender (Lavandula augustifolia ‘Hidcote’) and Russian sage (Perovskia ‘Blue Spire') along with the red flagstone.
2. Carve out privacy on a small lot
The owners of this new two-story home located on a corner in an urban neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, desired privacy, safety, an attractive yard, and an area in front in which they could chat with neighbors.
Donna Giguere Landscape Design was up for the many challenges. In the tiny front yard which was formerly unusable, 'We created a sitting area and a sense of enclosure through fencing and plantings,' says Giguere. 'The design intent was to add color, drought and heat tolerance (yes, even in rainy Portland), and to attract birds, bees, and butterflies.'
The designer’s solution was to build a modern slab patio that serves as a front porch with a fence surrounding the front and side yards for a sense of enclosure, and to support climbing plants like passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) and fragrant star jasmine vine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).
Giguere kept plants low-growing to not interrupt the views through windows from inside the house. The designer chose lime-hued plants to coordinate with the front door, including Lemon Fizz lavender cotton (Santolina virens ‘Lemon Fizz’); the variegated shrub Lemon Beauty Box Honeysuckle (Lonicera nitilda ‘Lemon Beauty’; the heavenly bamboo Nandina domestica ‘Lemon Lime’, and the groundcover stonecrop, Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’. Everything was given a boost with soil amendments that included organic mycorrhiza fungi.
3. Bring a front yard to life with succulents
A 1950s tract home in the Los Angeles suburb of Montebello, California, went from modest to magnificent thanks to some carefully considered front yard landscaping ideas and the addition of tropical plants.
Michael Romero of Succulent Designs trained in the gardens at the world-famous Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens near Pasadena before going into business with his wife, Danielle.
Proving that thirsty and fussy lawn ideas aren’t necessary for front or backyard landscaping ideas in drought-stricken California, Romero gave this formerly weedy yard lots of color that doesn’t rely on regular water.
Mounds of electric pink trailing ice plant (Lampranthus spectabilis) are the traffic-stoppers at the front of the landscape. Other carefully chosen water-wise plants include the bright green succulent bush senecio (Senecio barbertonicus), ashy green Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii), the red and gold pencil tree (Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire'), foxtail agave (Agave attenuata), and a palo verde tree, which will tolerate poor soil and extremes in climate.
Romero installed inline drip irrigation to make the garden even easier to maintain. The house is painted an earthy taupe, which is the perfect backdrop for such a vibrant garden.
4. Make it family friendly
A young, outdoorsy family that moved to the Brentwood section of Austin, Texas, enlisted the services of Native Edge Landscape to create livable spaces in the front and back yards of their all-new home.
A compacted red-DG entry walkway is flanked by Zoysia grass. Trees include Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), and Mexican palo verde (Parkinsonia aculeata). In addition to their beauty, plants were selected for low maintenance, minimal water use, and kid and pet-friendliness.
Set in gravel at the edge of the property are natives and several types of ornamental grass that include blue fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’), Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima), purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks’), and pink Gulf Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Plants were spaced to allow room to grow without overcrowding.
A gate and fenced private area in front is made of long-lasting cedar, which is used in a horizontal orientation for fencing and gates throughout the property. Using the same cedar for their backyard ideas, for a playset and private shower area, helps to visually connect the two spaces.
5. Add a front deck
The backyard of this one-story ranch-style house located in California’s Central Valley lacked any workable outdoor living spaces, so the homeowners asked the Sacramento-based firm of Luciole Design to incorporate some decking ideas at the front of the property instead.
With a fresh start and amended clay soil, Luciole used a mix of gray fescue; shrubby, dark green germander (Teucrium chamaedrys); strappy New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax); and two kinds of flax lilies: Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata' and D. revoluta ‘Coolvista’. Underneath is soft brown bark mulch. A patch of turf was planted for the kids to play on.
Concrete paths were poured to flow logically from the street and driveway to the front door, while leaving room for outdoor seating on the front deck. A wood bench and horizontal-slat fences at various heights create privacy for the deck along with consistency in hardscape materials.
6. Go green to create a lush entry
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston, Texas, the Heights boasts a charming mix of Victorians, bungalows, and brick cottages. The owners of a cottage tasked David Morello Garden Enterprises with a remodel that would make them feel more 'at home'. In just three months, DMGE transformed the outdoor spaces, making the inviting front yard lush and green with plants that soften the entrance.
Morello and team found it a challenge to design a year-round garden with low maintenance plants that would be able to withstand Houston’s summers, which are hot, humid, and can be oppressive.
Meeting the requirements were redbud trees like the Cercis occidentalis var. texensis; Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata); Japanese boxwood hedges (Buxus microphylla); Sunshine ligustrum (Ligustrum sinense 'Sunshine’) with year-round golden foliage; and cardamom-leaf ginger (Alpinia nutans). The vivid green lawn is St. Augustine (Stenotaphrum secundatum).
Other Houston-tolerant choices include wood ferns and foxtail ferns, lilyturf (Liriope muscari), irises, and dwarf yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria 'Nana’). Three terracotta garden planters changed-out with annuals provide seasonal color.
Working with a budget, DMGE used fieldstone set in mortar for the front landing, while Blackstar gravel (basalt) was used on the concrete driveway and service areas. Planting beds are delineated with brown steel metal garden edging ideas, which help to contain the soil, mulch, and plants.
7. Emphasize color to complement the home’s exterior
Growing tired of increasing water bills, not to mention their weed-infested lawn, the homeowners of this beach area home in Santa Barbara, California, asked landscape architect Billy Goodnick to work his special magic and create a water-tolerant garden.
Goodnick got to work reconfiguring the existing flagstone paving ideas to create a unique front pathway that gives the space some instant personality. Because the homeowners love color, Goodnick planted New Zealand flax (P. tenax ‘Bronze Baby’) along the front of the house, for their deep mahogany color and strong vertical form. A white picket fence is a smart addition across the front of the plot, with dark pink Grevillea ‘Long John’ planted behind it for added privacy.
Other plants adding more color included dark purple, mounding and trailing purple heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’); the vertical, grasslike yellow kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos ‘Bush Gold’); yellow-flowering goldmoss stonecrop (Sedum acre) and red-tipped pork and beans (Sedum rubrotinctum); and purple-flowered Santa Barbara sage (Salvia leucantha ‘Santa Barbara’).
8. Plant between pavers
This Los Angeles front garden is bursting with colorful succulents and flowers, with pockets of planting added throughout the space to soften the effect of the hardscaping. A pathway leading from the street to the front door is made of flagstone with tough ground cover plants, in this case silver carpet (Dymondia margaretae), between the pavers to soften the look.
Bosler Earth Design planted with future growth in mind. 'I always design for 80 per cent of the plant’s full growth and space accordingly,' says Catherine Bosler.
Her main goal was to turn a thirsty green lawn into a colorful cohesive landscape that would save on water usage. The palette consists of mauve, yellow, greens, burgundy, and hints of orange and blue.
Primarily a mix of Australian and South African plants (which grow well in Southern California), the garden includes purple fernleaf acacia (Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’), pincushions (Leucospermum), kangaroo paws, euphorbias, and blue fescue. A clever mix of succulent garden ideas finishes the overall scheme to great effect.
9. Move a classic potager garden to the front yard
If you're lucky enough to have a large space at the front of your property, there are endless possibilities for your front yard landscaping ideas. And as this stunning property illustrates, there's no reason why your kitchen garden ideas should be restricted to your backyard.
Conceived as a traditional potager garden with even, repeated rows, the front yard contains vegetables, fruits, berries, herbs, and cutting flowers like big, cheerful sunflowers. The garden is completely organic, with a large composting area, a small greenhouse, and potting sheds that were repurposed from existing buildings on the site.
'When you drive into the property toward the house, you pass the garden,' says landscape architect John Staab of Staab & Olmstead, LLC. 'It can even be seen from the road.'
Since a heavy deer population is part of the neighborhood in Barrington Hills, Illinois, the firm designed exquisite fencing and gates to keep them out, but be a beautiful part of the design.
Paths and circles have pavers, brick, and gravel, perfect for meandering among the vines, artichokes, tomatoes, kale, and dozens of other fresh produce. There are exquisite touches like fountains surrounded by ornamental grasses, formal planters, benches for taking it all in, and classic garden edging ideas to elegantly highlight the multitude of planting beds.
10. Add striking containers to a front porch garden
Garden gravel ideas can be a smart choice if you prefer the idea of a low maintenance front yard. The landscaping of this house in Tacoma, Washington, designed by Gardendigs, includes rainbow rock with inset rectangular concrete pavers.
Architectural tall black planters provide a nice contrast to the white porch and are filled with shade-loving Mahonia (Mahonia t 'Soft Caress') and the evergreen Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica).
Broad-leafed plants like the aralia paired with architectural planters help to increase their visual impact from the curb or street. Anything smaller or more delicate would get lost.
It's important to pay attention to the location of your container gardening ideas and work out whether they are more suited to shade, sun, or a combination of both. For curb appeal, use the same or similar planters to avoid a mismatched look. Continuity is also a good rule for the plants that go in the containers.
11. Create a tropical oasis
After an island vacation, everyone wants to recreate that feeling of paradise in their own yards with some eye-catching tropical garden ideas. Unfortunately, most of those exotic plants will only grow indoors, if you’re lucky. That is, unless you live in South Florida, which is home to a tropical climate.
For the front yard landscaping ideas in this Miami plot, landscape architect Matthew Giampietro designed pathways lined with colorful tropicals that lead to a private front patio. Horizontal wood-slat fencing and gates provide some necessary garden privacy.
In addition to assorted palms, which thrive in this environment, Giampietro carefully considered the landscaping around trees, opting for a stunning mix of colorful bromeliads, ornamental grasses, birds of paradise (Stretlitzia), crotons (Codiaeum variegatum), Chinese fan palms (Livistona chinensis), philodendrons, and variegated or shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet), among many others.
The paved patio features modern outdoor chairs surrounded by beds filled with smooth river rocks, small flowering trees, fragrant flowers, and palms, for a secluded tropical home-based getaway.
12. Design a plot with year-round appeal
While the coastal town of Asbury Park, New Jersey, is known for its beaches, boardwalk, and Bruce Springsteen, it’s also home to a few lakes.
The buyers of a run-down lakefront cottage in Asbury Park, asked Refugia to give their property a naturalistic look in keeping with the area. The landscape design and build firm created cedar decking with built-in hot tub ideas to enjoy during all four seasons. The hot tub suspends over a slope planted with meadow and native grasses that are drought tolerant and attract pollinators.
Each of the gardens become part of the Ecological Greenway Network. This is an initiative to map and track the progress of restoring ecosystems and building a network of native habitats throughout the Philadelphia area. So far, more than 100 native gardens in the region – most of them residential – work together as part of larger ecological corridors. In other words, sustainable gardens start at home.
13. Create space for socializing
Where space allows, a large front yard can offer the opportunity to create additional entertaining zones. The homeowners of this home in Arcadia, Arizona, hired Lavender Landscape Design Co. of Tempe to design a patio where they could socialize with neighbors.
Many aspects of the original yard remain, including the lawn and some of the brick paving, which became a border for newly installed silver travertine modern paving ideas. The patio is open but enclosed by a low iron garden fence and an entry gate.
Outdoor heating ideas in the form of a rectangular brick veneer fire pit take center stage in the new layout, while the existing stone veneer on the home’s exterior was replaced with brick veneer to unify the look.
A clean and modern planting palette includes waxleaf privet (Ligustrum japonicum), dwarf yaupon holly, winter gem boxwood (Buxus sinica), Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), fruitless olive trees (Oleo europaea), and several varieties of roses, including Lady Banks, white iceberg, and burgundy iceberg.
14. Swap the lawn for low-maintenance alternatives
If you're looking for alternatives to grass for a no-lawn look, there's plenty to inspire in this project's front yard landscaping ideas.
The owners of a sweet Craftsman-style bungalow in Birmingham, Alabama’s, historic Forest Park wanted a turf-free yard that reflected the home’s character. Golightly Landscape Architecture reimagined the space with a rectangular dry-laid path of Alabama bluestone up to the porch.
In an area that favors traditional lawns, boxwoods, and azaleas, Golightly’s John G. Wilson chose to use natives and more water-wise plants for a rich tapestry of colors and textures.
How can I landscape my front yard for cheap?
Get creative but not illegal when searching for inexpensive or free elements to beautify your front yard landscaping ideas. Like boulders, for example. While it’s not advised to take them from a natural habitat, park, or someone else’s yard, big rocks can be found at landscaping suppliers, for free through hyperlocal sites like Facebook Marketplace or special interest groups, Nextdoor, OfferUp, or Craigslist. Using them for some clever landscaping ideas with rocks can be a great way to quickly add some interest to your plot.
Why not consider these other cheap landscaping ideas too?
- Start with one area, like the border of an entry path or a front-porch container garden, then branch out as your budget allows.
- Create paths with pea gravel or decomposed granite, commonly known as DG. This is usually tamped down and resists weeds if installed correctly.
- Break up a dull front lawn with garden borders and edging materials. For the latter, avoid plastic and opt for a natural material like stone or wood. This creates some interest, where you can plant small or low-growing shrubs, ornamental grasses, succulents, and flowers. Make sure something is in bloom throughout the year, depending upon where you live.
- Add a tree, making sure it is positioned to frame and not compete with the view of your house from the street. You'll find plenty of suggestions in our guide to the best trees for front yards.
- Choose perennials rather than annuals when shopping for plants at your local gardening center. They will last longer and you’ll be buying fewer plants.
- If you have lots of front yard, create a patio with a surface of poured concrete, concrete pavers, pea gravel, or mulch. Add a few chairs or a settee that complement the architectural style of your home. Don’t put a dining table in your front yard unless you think your neighbors would enjoy watching you eat.
- If you have too much hardscape or softscape (plants), create balance by adding more of one or the other; it does not have to be an even mix. Too many plants can get messy and are hard to maintain. Too much hardscape can look bare and desolate.
- Many succulents can be grown from cuttings. Follow our guide on how to take cuttings from plants, or ask a friend or neighbor for cuttings from theirs – don’t snip them from public gardens.
What plants look good in the front yard?
When choosing plants for your front yard landscaping ideas, think about curb appeal. That means viewing your house from the curb, street, or passing by in a car or on foot. There are no sure-bet plants that will give you a dazzling yard. However, there are some things to consider when you go plant shopping:
- Go with natives, which means plants that are indigenous to your region and grow naturally in uninhabited areas. Check with your local university or a gardening club or society for suggestions.
- Start with foundation plants that are evergreens or at least standing throughout most of the seasons. These might be one of two of the best trees for small gardens, shrubs, or ornamental grasses. Usually, they are planted near the house, walls, fences, paths, or hardscape.
- Foundation plants enhance and sometimes repeat your home’s architectural style. For example, unfussy plants with simple lines and a sculptural quality – like some succulents or subtropicals – complement a modern or mid-century modern home, while roses and delicate flowering perennials would look out of place.
- Set a goal to have something in bloom throughout the year for season. This might take some research but is worth the time and effort.
- A lush look can be beautiful, but try breaking up the landscape by incorporating hardscape features, such as an entry path from the street or the door, a small patio, stones and boulders, wood fencing, or stone garden walls.
- Repeat plants for continuity rather than using your front yard as a test site for a vast mix of seedlings and non-natives. Also strive for continuity in form, texture, and color.
- Even devout gardeners get busy, so look for low maintenance ornamental grasses, succulents, shrubs, and perennials. You can save the dirty work for the backyard.
How do you start front yard landscaping from scratch?
If you are lucky enough to start building a new yard with a clean slate, consider hiring a garden designer or landscape architect to create a plan. This could save you money in the long run as there's less chance of you experimenting with plant and hardscape materials and making costly landscaping mistakes.
A garden designer will create a layout that you can install yourself or you can hire someone to do the work for you. Be sure to comparison shop, especially for hardscape, as these materials vary in style, price, and availability.
Part of what guides your front yard landscaping ideas will be budget, climate, your home’s architectural style, and your gardening style, meaning how much time and effort you want to invest in maintaining the front yard.
Spaces in front to socialize with neighbors are currently popular. Front yard patios aren’t a new concept – remember Grandma’s front porch? The space doesn’t have to be physically attached to your house to get the same effect. If you break your former-all-turf front yard into zones, you’ll likely find room for a patio. Instead of expensive pavers, consider using gravel or DG as its surface. For privacy, plant shrubs and taller grasses, which won’t leave your patio exposed to the neighborhood.
Lisa has a B.A. from California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, and a certificate in landscape design. She's written about gardening and outdoor living since 2008 for various websites and magazines, including About.com, TheSpruce, and Laguna Beach Magazine. Lisa and her family spend their spare time restoring their Midcentury Modern home in southern California.
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