Small garden pond ideas: 12 petite ponds for little backyards

These small garden pond ideas are ideal if you want to bring a soothing pool into your courtyard, patio, or other less-than-large space

small garden pond ideas - The cancer research uk pledge to progress garden by tom simpson for hampton court 2019
(Image credit: Neil Hepworth/RHS)

Even the tiniest of outdoor spaces can benefit from small garden pond ideas. So if you're looking to update your courtyard, patio, or even your balcony, then why not give one of these styles a go?

You see, garden pond ideas don't need to be vast to be effective. A modern strip of water amongst sleek paving or a chic bowl design will still turn heads and make a soothing yet certainly stylish statement. Surrounded by plants, you can transform any lacklustre scene into a relaxing oasis. Plus wildlife, such as birds and butterflies, will love it too.

Small garden pond ideas: 12 ways to introduce water when space is at a premium

We've brought together some of our favorite small garden pond ideas below, to show you all the beautiful ways that you could bring them into your plot.

1. Go for a streamlined design surrounded by plants

modern pond in the communication garden at hampton court palace garden festival 2021

'The Communication Garden' designed by Amelia Bouquet at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2021

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

This modern garden showcases a mixture of interesting textures, resulting in a visual feast that's a delight to behold. Amongst the sleek paving ideas and sections of gravel are patches of low-growing greenery. And mirroring the narrow form of the pavers is this small strip of pond, which fits in beautifully with the design.

We particularly like the way that it's been edged with larger planting – including the likes of hardy geraniums, alchemilla mollis and ferns. It makes a lovely feature point for the nearby seating spots, which add a natural warmth to the space with their timber frames.

2. Pick a Corten steel water bowl

corten steel pond in garden

This small pond may be simple but it's certainly effective

(Image credit: Ellen Rooney/Alamy Stock Photo)

Corten steel is all the rage right now, particularly when it comes to garden edging. However, it also makes a fantastic choice for small garden pond ideas and water feature ideas, as demonstrated by this display.

The russet-toned hue offers a sumptuous, antique look that works perfectly alongside acid green foliage. And due to its size, you really don't need much floor space going spare to recreate the look, so it's perfect if you're after small garden ideas. Raising it up to eye-level on a matching stand will make a greater impact, but you could always choose to keep it at ground-level for a more low-key approach. Either way, it will make a lovely feature for a patio, or a stylish accent to a border.

3. Combine with steps

steps over pond in small garden

Combine your garden steps with water for a stylish statement

(Image credit: Jody Stewart/Future)

If your small space includes garden steps ideas then this is a brilliant way to give them an extra dose of pizzazz. 

Whether they lead from your back door to a sunken seating zone, or from a path to a raised deck, positioning a pool of water beneath gives the scene a more interactive and adventurous feel. Plus, it puts what would otherwise be unused space to good use.

Border with colorful bulbs in spring (tulips are always a good choice), or opt for low-maintenance perennials like nepeta or astrantias for a romantic look come summer. Garden lighting is also a good idea so the way can be safely illuminated once night falls.

4. Create a statement seating spot

Stop and pause garden by dave green for hampton court flower show 2019

The 'Stop and Pause Garden' by Dave Green for RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2019

(Image credit: Tim Sandall/RHS)

Speaking of steps, we are head-over-heels for this gorgeous design. Curved landscaping ideas will almost always be visually pleasing, and in a small plot they can trick the eye into widening the space. Here, they're used not only for the circular pool, but also in the arch of steps that curves elegantly around it, which leads to the sculptural seating spot. Overall, the look feels harmonious. And as the seat is sheltered, the space can be enjoyed even if it rains (allowing you to watch the relaxing ripples as the rain pitter-patters below).

You could even take the look one step further by adding plenty of the best pond plants – we think the vibrant blooms of irises would make a lovely addition.

Looking for more outdoor seating ideas? You'll find plenty in our guide.

5. Embrace playful designs

wooden barrel ponds with sculpture

Give barrel designs a fun twist with a sculptural fountain

(Image credit: Future)

There are all sorts of sensory benefits to admire once you introduce water to a plot. From the splash of visiting birds washing their wings and the reflection of the morning sun to the ripple from a fallen leaf and the cool touch as you dip a hand in on a hot summer's day. But, as well as being perfect for sensory garden ideas, don't forget that ponds can be a great way to add a sense of play to your plot, too.

This cheerful fountain, for example, provides a soothing trickle of water, but will also bring a smile to any onlooker's face. The bordering greenery and rustic-barrel design allow it to organically blend into its surroundings.

6. Sink a circular pond into your patio

The cancer research uk pledge to progress garden by tom simpson for hampton court 2019

'The Cancer Research UK Pledge to Progress' garden by Tom Simpson for RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019

(Image credit: Neil Hepworth/RHS)

Looking to upgrade your patio ideas? Then take a cue from this stunning set-up.

We love how the sleek paving slopes down into a tranquil space that's perfect for relaxing or entertaining. In the center, a cool and pared-down pool provides a point of interest albeit its size.

Vivid hues of the surrounding borders soften the scene, providing a stunning contrast. Note how the raised beds also double up as a seating solution – always a good approach when working with small spaces.

7. Opt for a rustic look

water bowl in the 'Down Memory Lane' garden by The Blue Diamond team

An easy-to-recreate water bowl that's full of charm in the 'Down Memory Lane' garden at RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021, by The Blue Diamond team

(Image credit: Holly Crossley/Future)

As this pretty design shows, you can add oodles of charm to your plot without spending loads of cash or using up tons of space. In fact, small garden pond ideas like these can easily be recreated with a find from a thrift store, and propped up on an upcycled stepladder or stool. Then all you need to do is fill it with fresh water and pebbles. These will provide a perch for birds to take a dip, or if you put a few stones above the water level, for butterflies to sunbathe.

It's a wonderful choice for relaxed, cottage-garden style plots which are less than large in size. Surround with roses or potted herbs to add to the theme.

Love the look as much as we do? Our rustic garden ideas will have you even more inspired for creating a characterful scheme.

8. Accent with a chic waterfall

water feature and pond at The 'Lower Barn Farm: Bounce Back' garden designed by Consilium Hortus at hampton court flower show 2021

A luxe design by Consilium Hortus at their 'Lower Barn Farm: The Bounce Back' garden for RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival 2021

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

If rustic charm isn't quite your thing, then a look like this might well be. True, it's another sleek style set amongst pale pavers. Yet here, it's the waterfall, flowing elegantly from a stretch of stone wall, which really draws the eye. This could double up as a screening solution too – always useful to boost the privacy levels of small spaces.

If you go for a similar look, consider adding flowerbed ideas to the mix as well – we love this array of lupins amongst other summer favorites. To really turn heads, you could also think about adding black pond dye to your small garden pond ideas. This creates an enchanting 'mirror' effect which works well for modern plots.

9. Go for a minimal approach

solus decor water bowl

(Image credit: Solus Decor)

If you like the idea of a waterfall but simply don't have the space (or the budget) for the look above, then this might be a more practical solution. 

The blend of concrete and polished metal come together beautifully in this small and elegant design, which sits perfectly alongside a small pond adding an extra dimension. The minimal aesthetic and sound of cascading water will soothe away anyone's stresses – just ensure you have somewhere comfy to sit nearby to take it all in. 

Something like this works well for small modern garden ideas – our feature has more looks if you like the style.

10. Add a stepping stone

Secured by design garden by Lucy Glover and Jacqueline Poll for hampton court garden festival 2018

The 'Secured by Design' garden by Lucy Glover and Jacqueline Poll for RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2018

(Image credit: RHS)

We're a big fan of stepping stone ideas as an alternative approach to more traditional pathways. They're fun, they're charming, and depending on the material you use, can work just as well in contemporary plots as they do in more classic designs.

So, if space is tight for your backyard, why not combine a stepping stone with your small garden pond ideas for a stunning result? It's an effective way to zone a seating space, as demonstrated above, and will provide a sense of play. If you go for a pergola (or a smaller-sized arbor) on the other side, then the space will become even more of a destination point in your yard.

11. Use a floating pond in a small courtyard

small water feature and pond in paved courtyard garden

Even a tiny courtyard can benefit from small garden pond ideas

(Image credit: Mel Yates/Future)

If you've only got a dingy courtyard to work with, opt for light tones – this will help to brighten the space. Then, you can use darker hues such as charcoal black or grey to accentuate specific features, such as this effortlessly chic water feature. 

Something like this is a great way to bring water into a little backyard – it takes up no floor space at all due to its floating design. You could even add some of the best shade loving plants beneath, for an extra dose of greenery.

Our courtyard garden ideas feature has more inspiring looks.

12. Upcycle an old bath for vintage flair

tin bath amongst planting at hampton court flower show

A tin bath is given a new lease of life at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2021

(Image credit: Beth Murton/Future)

Here's another stunning design that's perfect if you're after eclectic charm for your small garden pond ideas.

This old metal bath could have once been destined for the tip, however it's certainly been given a new lease of life. Completed by a vintage tap and surrounded by a mix of the best cottage garden plants, it makes a truly beautiful feature for a plot. And it wouldn't be too tricky to DIY if you're after a project for a sunny weekend. If you don't have space for a tub, you could opt for an old Belfast butler sink instead.

To enhance the colors even further – try painting your fences or walls in a dark hue for a contrasting backdrop. It's a great trick for making the details at the forefront of a display pop.

How deep does a pond need to be for fish?

Fish make a lovely addition to a pond, but it's crucial to ensure there is enough water for them. Generally, small fish need a minimum depth of 18in (45cm) (although around 24in – 60cm– is better). This means they can hibernate at the bottom – far away enough from the icy top – when the water gets cold in winter.

If Japanese garden ideas have got you inspired to bring koi into your pond, then unfortunately a small design won't quite do. These fish can grow large, and need a depth of at least four feet in order for them to develop and overwinter properly. 

galvanised trough used to make a DIY water feature filled with pebbles and plants

It's not too tricky to make your own mini pond

(Image credit: Mark Scott/Future)

How do you build a mini pond in your backyard?

Fancy a bit of DIY action when it comes to your own small garden pond ideas? It's really quite straightforward. The RSPB explains:

  1. Start by finding your container. 'It could be a half-barrel, an old Belfast butler sink, or even a large washing-up bowl,' the team says. Just make sure it's strong to withstand frosts and other outdoor elements.
  2. 'You could use something that isn't watertight but is strong, such as a large plant pot, but making sure that it doesn't leak can be challenging,' they continue. 'If you do use a pot, you may want to consider lining it with pond liner.'
  3. Put your container into place while it's empty. Ideally, this will be somewhere that gets a good amount of light, but isn't in full sun all day. Also, decide whether you want to sink it into the ground or not – if the edges are level then more creatures will be able to get in and out – worth considering if you're interested in wildlife garden ideas. If you do want to encourage visitors, make sure there is an easy access and escape route for them by using bricks, rocks or logs.
  4. Next you'll need to seal any drainage holes. You can silicon the plughole of an old sink, or line a planter with butyl pond liner. Then add a layer of clean gravel.
  5. Then you can fill your pond. Rainwater is best due to the chemicals in tap water.
  6. Add in any of your chosen pond plants, then step back and admire your hard work.

You can find more info in our guide on how to build a garden pond.

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.