Pagoda ideas: 12 stunning structures for Japanese-inspired plots

From small statues to larger styles for shelter, these pagoda ideas will enhance the feelings of Zen in your backyard

pagoda ideas by pool with east london parasol company parasol
(Image credit: East London Parasol Company)

If you're looking to make a statement in your backyard, then pagoda ideas are certainly a stunning way to do it. These structures are based on the architectural beauties that you can find all around Asia – those that have multiple tiers and are often used for religious purposes.

Bringing smaller versions to your outdoor space is an ideal accompaniment to Japanese garden ideas. Ornamental styles such as lanterns or statues inspired by the classic pagoda shape are perfect for smaller plots – even tiny courtyards – to inspire feelings of Zen. If your space is larger, then why not use a more prominent design as a space to sit and reflect? Whichever you choose, they're bound to turn heads for all the right reasons.

Pagoda ideas: 12 striking styles

To help you get inspired for your backyard, we've brought together some of our favorite pagoda ideas below for you to peruse.

1. Choose a red-toned pagoda for classic charm

Japanese style tea house in an English garden

This colorful shelter makes a pretty feature for a garden

(Image credit: Clive Nichols/Future)

Small garden pagoda ideas like these are perfect as a dedicated space for a spot of peace and quiet. Painted in red, it evokes a bold and traditional feel. Yet, the overall look is softened by the surrounding foliage of acers and evergreens.

Wind chimes and a small bird house make lovely finishing touches, as do the containers of cloud-pruned box which frame the entrance.

If you're looking for features to add to your Zen garden ideas, this is a fabulous solution.

2. Pair with bonsai trees for an authentic look

pagoda alongside bonsai at RHS wisley garden

A smaller, pagoda-style lantern accents this line-up of bonsai beautifully at RHS Garden Wisley

(Image credit: Joanna Kossak/RHS)

Bonsai trees are ideal for small plots or, as seen here, to line larger paths, and add a quintessentially-Japanese vibe to a space. Their beautiful intricacy deserves to be shown off – so it's best to lift them up high, as close to eye-level as possible. Try adorning a small outdoor table or bench, whilst tree stumps offer a more organic alternative.

In terms of pagoda ideas, adding a smaller sculpture to the mix will extend the Japanese theme. This stone version makes a gorgeous addition to the line-up, and if you pop a candle (real or LED) inside, will glow enchantingly at night. 

Our small Japanese garden ideas feature has lots more lovely looks.

3. Pair red and black for your garden pagoda ideas

RHS Tatton Park Flower Show

The Equilibrium garden designed by Richard Heys for the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show 2019

(Image credit: RHS/Tim Sandall)

If you're after outdoor seating ideas with a Japanese-inspired twist, then take a cue from this backyard above. The small shelters provide destination points to sit, relax and take in the view from different angles, out of the glare of the sun (or the rain).

They're a little more streamlined than a classic pagoda, but still encapsulate the charm. A cool black tone paired with red adds a bold touch, and we love how the small bridge ties into the scheme. 

Stepping stone pathways wind around the ferns, acers, and other planting to finish the scene beautifully – recreating the vibe of a natural landscape.

4. Provide a shaded spot near a swimming pool

pagoda ideas by pool with east london parasol company parasol

A chic pagoda-style daybed is the perfect place to relax and goes well with the Heidi design from East London Parasol Company

(Image credit: East London Parasol Company)

If you're looking for a touch of luxury, then an outdoor daybed is a fabulous feature for a garden. And, if it's topped by a beautifully-scalloped, pagoda-style roof – even better.

Lift the look with playful features, these vivid-toned cushions and a tasselled parasol make perfect accompaniments. Add it to your decking or, if you're lucky enough to have one, to your backyard pool ideas for a sheltered spot to relax in style.

5. Dot mini pagoda-style lanterns around your plot

pagoda ideas style lantern around japanese zen garden

Mini pagodas draw the eye around this space

(Image credit: Paul Hakimata/Alamy Stock Photo)

These pagoda ideas are another example of where small designs offer so much character to a space.

Crafted from stone, they balance out all the leafy textures of verdant green by creating distinct focal points. This guides the eye around the space, resulting in a more spectacular effect.

The appeal won't be lost when night falls either, as they can also be used as lanterns. Their warm glow cast across the view is sure to transport anyone to faraway lands. Need more styling inspiration for your outdoor lighting ideas? Our dedicated feature has plenty.

6. Try an arbor-style pagoda at the top of steps

pagoda ideas style arbor at top of steps

Elevate a pagoda-style arbor for an impressive look

(Image credit: garfotos/Alamy Stock Photo)

If you've got multiple levels in your plot, then try placing pagoda-style garden arbor ideas up high. Not only will it make a more impressive statement, but it will also feel like more of a destination point – a separate garden 'room'. This will especially be the case if it's surrounded by lots of lush greenery.

It's the perfect place to relax with a good book and admire the view of your garden – climbing all those steps will be well worth it.

7. Go for a show-stopping style

pagoda at RHS wisley

A striking pagoda on a stretch of lawn at RHS Garden Wisley

(Image credit: Joanna Kossak/RHS)

Okay, perhaps a structure like this is reserved for large garden ideas, but if you've got the space, why not go all out? It's beautifully ornate and creates an impressive alternative to a more classic-style summer house. 

Bound to be a talking point, garden pagoda ideas like this are perfect if you're looking for something a little more unique for your outdoor seating. And, they will look gorgeous all year round – whether surrounded by flame-hued trees in the fall, or cold winter's snow. Of course, a blossom tree nearby won't go amiss either – our guide to the best flowering trees has lots of lovely picks.

8. Opt for something ornate and elegant

blue ornate pagoda in large garden

If you have the budget and space, intricate garden pagoda ideas like this might be the style for you

(Image credit: drmiller/Stockimo/Alamy Stock Photo)

Another gloriously grand design, we adore this elegant pagoda with its blue and gold palette and opulent detailing. Perhaps it's not one for those that are watching their budget, but it's a surefire way to turn heads.

It would look beautiful as a focal point, marking the end of your lawn ideas. Or, try tucking it amongst trees and other foliage for a more secluded retreat away from the daily hubbub.

9. Place a large pagoda lantern near a pond

large pagoda style lantern by pond

A large pagoda-style lantern provides a focal point to this cool stretch of water

(Image credit: Oleksiy Maksymenko Photography/Alamy Stock Photo)

Cool pools of water will always have a soothing effect on the senses. And, they're wonderful for encouraging wildlife too. What's more, garden pond ideas are often used in Japanese-inspired plots, so to enhance the theme further, why not bring in a pagoda or two?

Positioned on a stone, this large, pagoda-style lantern adds a striking architectural feature. Plus, when it's lit, the glow will shimmer across the ripples of the pool below – an instant ambience booster.

10. Add height with a pagoda-inspired statue

pagoda statue in zen garden

We adore this peaceful set-up

(Image credit: imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo)

This is another example which demonstrates the beauty of pagoda ideas and water combined. 

Not only does this sculpture create vertical interest to draw the eye upwards, but it also ties in with the neatly-clipped evergreens to bring a sense of cohesion to the scene. Along with the babbling waterfall nearby, the effect is that of a miniature oasis – a true wonder to admire.

A ruby-hued acer is a classic pick for this style of plot and offers a vibrant splash of color. Chris Bonnett from particularly suggests a Filigree variety, as it typically forms a sweeping, mushroom-shape and looks beautiful at the edge of a pond. 'The plant is a gorgeous green in the summer and turns to rich shades of yellow in autumn,' he adds.

Our guide on how to grow acers has lots of advice if you fancy bringing one or two into your backyard.

11. Create a tucked-away retreat

pagoda in japanese garden

Pair a pagoda with a natural pool

(Image credit: Nathaniel Noir/Alamy Stock Photo)

A larger pagoda-inspired stucture can also be a lovely addition alongside water. Not only will it add to aesthetic appeal, but will also offer somewhere to relax and enjoy the tranquil view of bobbing lily pads, flitting dragonflies, and all the other color and life that ponds and natural pools offer.

Plus, if you are opting for a swimming pond nearby, something like this can be used as a pool house – somewhere to store towels, change into your bathing suit, and shelter from the sun after a dip.

12. Let nature do its thing for an old-world feel

small pagoda lantern covered in moss

Give your space a forest-like feel by encouraging moss over your stone structures

(Image credit: Panoramic Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

It may come as a surprise to many lawn-owners in the US, but moss is a well-loved feature in many Japanese gardens. It's embraced, even encouraged, for its old-world look and symbolization of land.

The soft, cushiony green looks stunning over this pagoda-style lantern and the surrounding rocks – evoking a forest-like vibe. It grows best in well-shaded, damp areas – to encourage the growth, try painting stone surfaces with organic materials, suggests the RHS. This is also known as a 'moss slurry', and often contains two parts water, two parts moss, and one part buttermilk (although the RHS suggests using yoghurt). Blend up the mixture in a blender, then spread the thick paste over the desired area before waiting for it to grow.

What is the difference between a pergola and a pagoda?

The Hospitality Garden designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara for RHS Chelsea 2018

A tucked-away pagoda-style lantern offsets this pretty pond scene in The Hospitality Garden designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

(Image credit: Tim Sandall/RHS)

If you've seen our pergola ideas, you'll know that although their names sound similar, they are actually quite different from pagodas. 

Pergolas tend to be made from tall vertical posts then topped with horizontal beams, offering intermittent shade. Large-sized pagoda-style structures (ones meant for shade and shelter, rather than smaller statue designs) are more like a pavilion, with a solid roof.

Of course, if you prefer the more ornate look and generous shelter that a pagoda offers, you can style it similarly to a pergola if you wish. For example, as Juliette Thomas, Founder and Director of Juliettes Interiors suggests, you can still train leafy climbers around the structure: 'Grapevines work well, or for those seeking a touch of color, wisteria can be really beautiful too and will produce a wonderful aroma from May to June.'

'For a perfect and magical setting just right for the evening, add hanging bulbs twisted amongst the greenery to create an alfresco dining space,' she adds.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.