19 patio gardening ideas: bring your outdoor space to life

Transform spaces big and small with these inspiring patio gardening ideas

Patio gardening ideas: patio surrounded by raised beds with a shed at the far end and festoon lights
(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

Looking for patio gardening ideas to turn your patio space into the perfect garden retreat? Whatever the size of a your patch of patio, introducing plants and greenery is a great way to add life to your outdoor living space and create a patio garden you’ll love to spend time in. Plant life will soften the hard edges of the most basic square of paving slabs, to transform it into a mini oasis that’s perfect for relaxing in. 

Whether you dream of country meadows, you’re after more of a tropical vibe, or you just fancy having a low-maintenance mini herb garden on hand so you can add a fresh herbs to your summer sundowner, we’ve got ideas for every patio space.

Head over to our garden design ideas gallery for even more inspiration for your outside space.

1. Create interest with a combo of container pots

patio area with pretty table and chairs and colourful plants in pots

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Clusters of large pots holding a variety of lush plants are an easy way to bring nature to your patio space. Mix and match your containers for a laid-back look – galvanised steel pots are perfect for a country garden mood – and group different sizes and heights to add impact and create the impression of a sprawling and abundant garden. Add to the immersive vibe with climbers creeping up trellises. 

2. Plant a mini succulent garden

small succulent garden set in a decked area

(Image credit: Jamie Mason)

Striking succulents are all the rage when it comes to indoor plants, but there are hardier varieties of succulents that are well-suited to growing outdoors so you can bring this trend out to your patio, too. Look out for sempervivums and sedums and plant using a quick-draining soil blend (add around 25 per cent builders sand to a regular potting soil). If you fancy adding in less hardy succulents such as echeverias, plant these in pots, then bring them inside over the colder months. 

3. Dress a fence or wall with climbing roses

Garden makeover, detail of pink trellis with climbing rose against brown wooden fence.

(Image credit: Jamie Mason)

Nothing says English country garden quite like a climbing rose, and they’re a great way to create a living screen for a wall or fence. Climbing roses are sun-lovers and prefer a sunny, sheltered spot, adding colour and scent with their repeat blooms. They aren’t self-clinging so need to be given a support structure such as a trellis or horizontal wires or train over. For an extra hit of colour, paint trellis – muted shades are perfect for a country look, or go for brights for a modern edge.

4. Add height with potted trees

Dining area on a large patio surrounded by potted trees

(Image credit: Amara)

Transport yourself to the Med, with small trees such as olive or fig, which grow well in containers on patios or decks. These small trees are a natural focal point and create a more enclosed, intimate feel on a patio, as well as offering dappled shade in high summer. Olive trees like a sunny spot and although they’re naturally drought tolerant, when planted in pots they need regularly watering – don’t let the compost dry out. 

5. Display pots on a ladder

plants displayed on a rustic ladder step

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

If space is tight on your patio, think vertically when it comes to planting ideas to free up an area for plants. A vintage step ladder offers multiple spots for potted plants – mix and match containers and plant up with summer bedding plants to add texture and colour.

6. Plant a bamboo screen

Trio of planters with bamboo

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

Fast-growing plants like bamboo and grasses work brilliantly in planters against a wall or fence to create an area of green without taking up too much space. Plant in a long, narrow planter, or line up matching pots for a smart, modern way to frame a patio area. 

7. Go high with planters

Raised veg planter with terracotta pots and a garden fork

(Image credit: Tim Young)

While you might not have space for a full vegetable patch, a raised garden trough offers up the perfect spot to grow veg or herbs. If you’re planting veg, it’s a case of the more sun, the better, so a raised wooden trough or planter is ideal because you can position it in the sunniest spot on your patio. Check out more ways to grow fruit and veg in a small space in our guide

8. Create a wildflower haven

Decked area with raised wooden benches and a painted blue wall

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Allow grasses and wildflowers to spill over the tops of low walls or fencing to soften hard edges or garden borders. This planting idea has the added bonus of upping your eco gardening credentials at the same time, creating a paradise for bees and other insects. You'll find all the best plants to encourage pollinators in our guide to choosing bee-friendly plants.

9. Go green on your wall

Salad grown in pockets on a living wall

(Image credit: Future/Leigh Clapp)

Still one of the hottest garden trends, living walls will bring a patio wall to life. Simply fit the planters to the wall or fence, fill with your chosen plants (a pick and mix of fern varieties is a winning combo, or try using them to grow salad leaves) and enjoy the wall-to-wall greenery. Try Dobbies for planters.

10. Frame the space with raised beds

dining space surrounded by raised beds with a shed at the end of the garden

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

Raised planter beds bordering your patio offer a feast of colour and scent at eye level when you’re dining alfresco. Paint the concrete a modern shade of grey for a contemporary look, or fresh white to evoke the feel of a Mediterranean courtyard. An added bonus? Your back will thank you when it comes to weeding.

11. Be inspired by the tropics

modern garden space with paving and decking and large tree ferns

(Image credit: Alasdair McIntosh)

Who needs to travel halfway round the world when you can conjure up that tropical forest vibe right in your own back garden? Leave an area of patio free to create a bed for a striking tree fern (or two!). These beautiful trees are happiest in a sheltered, humid and shaded position, and their architectural fronds create a fantastic feature for your patio.

12. Blur the edges using grasses

patio edged with ornamental grasses

(Image credit: Alasdair McIntosh)

Edge the patio with ornamental grasses to add height and movement. Calamagrostis, a reed grass that comes in a host of different varieties, looks great all year round, is hardy and low-maintenance and will give you a block of low-growing foliage for an informal prairie-style border with plenty of texture – just plant it in a block all the way along the patio edge.

13. Get your DIY on

Upcycled chest of drawers turned into a garden planter with dahlias in the drawers

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Knock up a planter with a difference, and transform an old chest of drawers into an eye-catching colour explosion on your patio. Paint the chest in shades of your choice (use an exterior wood paint), drill drainage holes in the bottom of the drawers and apply a sealant such as polyurethane to the inside of the drawers so they don’t rot (you could just use pond liner). Then all you need to do it plant up the drawers generously with your favourite blooms.

14. Upcycle tin can hanging planters

trellis with tin can planters painted in bright colours

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

Decorate trellis with this simple tin can DIY. Make sure the can is clean and dry before spray-painting it (do this outside if you can to allow plenty of ventilation). Punch a hole each side of the opening and thread through a loop of wire for hanging. Flowering plants will add colour, but this is also a great idea for a simple herb garden.

15. Pick a colour scheme 

patio space with dining table, chairs and a parasol with pink cushions and flowers

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

Group colours together and then repeat them around your patio on blooms and soft furnishings. Sticking to a small palette of colours will have a calming feel. For a pretty look, a combination of pink, purple and white works well, or if you’re more of a minimalist pare it right back and just pair green foliage with white blooms.

16. Achieve balance with symmetry

Stone wall with a bistro set dining space and striped cushions

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

Symmetry has always been a hit in formal garden design and you can use it on even the smallest patio to create a sense of visual balance. Mirror container planting, by repeating the same pots and plants either side of the opening, a table or another focal point to give the space an impression of order and structure.

17. Grow a vertical herb garden

pocket planters used to grow a herb garden on a wall

(Image credit: Simon Scarboro)

Knock up your own, budget version of a living wall by making use of a pocket shoe organiser. Pour a little water into one of the pockets to check the drainage, and add a few holes if needed, then it really is as simple as filling the pockets with compost and adding your plants or seeds.

18. Go for formal hedging, but keep it low

cobbled paving leading to a water feature with a pergola

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Offering that winning combo of looking good and being easy to maintain, box hedging is the ideal species for formal, low hedges or borders thanks to its dense evergreen leaves that can be easily trimmed into a neat shape. 

19. Line with lavender

garden room with decked terrace edged by lavender

(Image credit: Claire Lloyd-Davies)

Lavender might be at its absolute best over the summer with those amazingly fragrant purple flowers, but its foliage looks good year-round, so it’s an excellent choice for an easy-to-grow border shrub for your patio. And wildllfe loves it just as much – lavender is a big hit with bees with its nectar and pollen on the menu.

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