Design Your Outdoor Living Space with Purposely Chosen Plants

Category: Article     Tags: Design, How-To, Tips

Enhancing Your Outdoor Living Space with Strategic Plant Choices Softscaping is the soul of any landscape design, including your outdoor living and patio areas. It involves incorporating live horticultural elements, such as trees, shrubs, and flowers, which breathe life into your space, offering aesthetic appeal and often functional benefits. Let’s delve deeper into softscaping and learn how to choose the right plants for your outdoor oasis.

Your softscape plan should roughly follow this article. You want to plan and plant from largest to smallest. Basically, you plant trees, then shrubs, then flowers. Of course, there are grasses that can be substituted in every category. But start with the structure and move down to the decoration. You may not have the time and money to do it all in the first year. Be sure to plant from small to big, though. That way, you can stand in the shade of your trees behind the privacy of your shrubs and hedges when deciding on what flowers to add to your space.

Working in the garden is relaxing and has many health benefits.

Majestic Trees Anchor Your Outdoor Living Space

The role of trees in shaping an inviting outdoor area cannot be overstated. They offer privacy, shade, and visual interest, making them essential elements of any patio design.

While trees can add significant beauty and functionality to your patio or outdoor living space, it’s essential to make your selections with care. Several factors can influence how well a tree will integrate into your landscape, and it’s crucial to consider these before making your choice.

Tree roots can spread quite extensively, often far beyond the width of the tree’s canopy. This spreading can potentially cause issues with hardscaping elements like patios, walkways, or retaining walls if the tree is planted too close. In addition, some tree species have aggressive root systems that can invade water or sewer lines. Therefore, understanding a tree’s expected root spread and planning accordingly can prevent future landscaping challenges.

The amount of leaf drop is another important consideration when choosing a tree for your patio area. While all deciduous trees shed their leaves annually, certain species may produce substantial leaf litter or drop large, potentially hazardous, seedpods. This might require more frequent cleanup and maintenance of your outdoor living space.

Specimen trees can add as much color as they do structure to your garden.

Also, pay attention to the growth rate, mature size, and overall shape of the tree. Remember that a small sapling can grow into a large tree, so ensure you have enough space for the tree’s full-grown size. In general, slower-growing trees tend to live longer and be more robust, but they will take more time to provide shade or privacy.

Lastly, consider the tree’s overall hardiness, susceptibility to pests and diseases, and its water and sunlight needs. The right tree, when planted in the right place and properly cared for, can greatly enhance your outdoor living space, providing years of shade, beauty, and enjoyment. While improperly planted shrubs and flowers can be easily removed, trees require more thought and care. Be sure to do your research. I recommend shopping at a local greenhouse- especially one that specializes in trees and shrubs. You may pay more than you would at a local big-box retailer, but getting the proper tree will be well worth the small investment.

Privacy Trees Keep Your Patio Secluded

Creating a secluded retreat is often a key goal when designing outdoor entertaining spaces. Privacy trees form natural screens, blocking your oasis from neighboring views. Evergreens like Arborvitae and Leyland Cypress are perfect choices, courtesy of their lush, tall, and dense foliage.

Shade Trees Keep You and Your Guest Cool

Shade trees are a must-have for outdoor patios, especially in hot climates. They protect your outdoor living space from the harsh sun, making it more enjoyable throughout the day. Deciduous trees like Maples, Oaks, or Elms are popular for shade, thanks to their broad, spreading canopies. Many times, properly planted trees can negate the need or want of a pergola or sailcloth.

Plant specimen trees for visual interest that won't outgrow their space.

Specimen Trees and Visual Interest and Beauty to Your Backyard

Specimen trees are standalone stars of your landscape. These can be ornamental varieties with striking flowers, unusual foliage, or interesting forms. Japanese Maple, Dogwood, or Magnolia trees are examples of great specimen trees, adding a unique touch to your patio area. Of course, If you live in a tropical or subtropical region, your picking palm trees. The rest of us aren’t jealous at all.

Shrubs are the Versatile Foundation of Your Patio Space

Shrubs are the workhorses of your landscape, offering a plethora of benefits, from privacy to color, texture, and year-round interest. They are often used in layers to create a lush, tiered look in your landscape design. These structural elements should be the second layer of softscapes you add when designing and planting your outdoor getaway.

Anchoring Shrubs

Anchoring shrubs serve as a backbone of your landscape design, often providing year-round interest. Evergreen shrubs like Boxwood or Holly offer a constant splash of green throughout the year, while deciduous shrubs like Hydrangea or Spirea show seasonal changes and often feature stunning flowers.

Differently Sized Shrubs Have Different Uses in Your Backyard Oasis

Shrubs come in all shapes and sizes, serving various purposes in your landscape. Small shrubs like Lavender or Sage can line walkways or serve as a border, while medium-sized shrubs like Rose bushes or Rhododendrons can create a beautiful, flowering hedge. Larger shrubs or small trees like Lilacs or Viburnums can provide privacy or serve as a windbreak.

Outdoor lighting easily elevates your space and adds safety.

Remember that shrubs should be thought of as structures when planning your dream outdoor space. You can use structures in different ways. They can be used as architectural elements. Or, you can use them to separate areas or create an entrance. Shrubs can also help soundproof your patio and leisure areas, or they can even provide a layer of safety- think shrubs with thorns.

Hedges add structure you your Outdoor Living Area

Hedges can define your outdoor living space, serve as a privacy screen, or even muffle noise. For a formal look, Boxwoods or Privets can be sheared into neat hedges, while for a more relaxed feel, you could use Forsythias or Azaleas, which have beautiful flowers in spring.

Flowers Add Color and Charm to Your Patio

Flowers bring a garden to life with vibrant colors and often sweet fragrances. They come in annuals, perennials, and groundcovers, each offering unique advantages. Most people want to jump to planting flowers- they are the most vibrant elements in most landscapes. But try to hold off on planting flowers until your Trees and shrubs are planted. Even if you have to wait a year, it is better to have the shade, privacy, and structure of a great outdoor living space instead of a hot expanse with pops of color.


Annuals bloom for one season, bringing a riot of color to your garden. They’re great for filling in gaps or adding a fresh look each year. Popular annuals for patio gardens include Petunias, Marigolds, and Geraniums.


A well designed outdoor living space welcomes guests and comfort.

Perennials are plants that return year after year, often expanding in size. They offer a continual structure and require less work than annuals in the long run. Examples of perennials include Hostas, Daylilies, and Echinacea, which are perfect for creating a low-maintenance, yet vibrant patio space. You can always opt for pollinator-friendly stunners like Butterfly Weed (now being rebranded as Butterfly Flower – avoid Butterfly Bush), Asters, and Alliums. Don’t get overwhelmed by your options. Choose what grows well in your area and requires the level of maintenance you are willing to contribute. which reminds to include grasses and sedges

Ornamental Grasses and Sedges are A Dynamic Addition to Your Outdoor Patio Space

Ornamental grasses are an invaluable addition to any garden setting, including patio and outdoor living spaces. With their unique texture and sense of movement, these plants bring your garden to life, offering visual interest throughout the year.

Adding ornamental grasses and sedges to your patio garden design is an excellent strategy for introducing movement, unique texture, and an extra layer of intrigue to your landscape. Their year-round appeal and versatility will undoubtedly enhance the beauty of your outdoor living space.

Never Overlook Grasses When Planting Your Backyard Retreat

Grasses offer remarkable versatility, with options ranging from tall, dramatic species to low, mounding varieties. They can serve as a picturesque backdrop for other plants, create a privacy screen, or stand alone as an attractive feature in your landscape. Grasses are so versatile that they can be like shrubs and flowers in your landscape. Of course, they can even be groundcovers. Whatever your vision for your patio area, be sure to remember grasses as a vital component. Species like Switchgrass, Feather Reed Grass, or Blue Fescue are excellent choices for adding texture, color, and dynamic motion to your patio garden. Their changing hues across seasons infuse your outdoor space with a lively, evolving character.

Sedges might be The Unsung Heroes in Your Patio Landscape

Often mistaken for grasses, sedges are an entirely different group of plants characterized by their triangular stems and unobtrusive flowers. Depending on the species, they can thrive in a variety of conditions, making them a valuable addition to diverse garden scenarios.

The genus Carex, a broad group of sedges, has numerous species that perform well in garden situations. These range in color from brilliant golds to deep greens and even blues, with variegated varieties adding an extra layer of visual interest.

While many types of grass prefer sunny spots and well-drained soils, numerous sedge varieties are adaptable to less ideal conditions. They can prosper in shadier locations or in wetter soils where other plants might struggle. This adaptability makes them a precious asset for challenging areas of your garden, where they can provide a visually soothing continuity.

Groundcovers Solve Issues in Your Yard and Add Beauty

Groundcovers are low-growing plants that spread quickly to form mats, effectively covering the soil. They are ideal for tricky areas such as slopes or areas where grass won’t grow. Groundcovers like Creeping Thyme, Sedum, or even taller varieties like hay-scented ferns can add texture and interest to your patio and are a great way to prevent soil erosion. I love to use groundcovers to replace as much mulch as possible. It’s more work and money upfront, but they save both in the long run.

Sedum can make a great low maintenance ground cover.

Many groundcovers can even grow between paving like flagstones and steppers. There are groundcovers that grow in dry shade under trees. One tip to remember is that groundcovers don’t have to be short like mats and carpets. Groundcovers can be over a foot tall. Just be careful, sometimes what makes a groundcover seem great (spreading and fast-growing) can make a groundcover a nuisance or even invasive!

The Importance of Choosing Native

It wouldn’t be a Cornerstone post without preaching about using native plants! Selecting native plants for your patio not only ensures they’ll thrive in your local environment but also promotes biodiversity, supporting local wildlife like birds and pollinators. Native plants usually require less maintenance and are more resistant to pests and diseases. Consulting with local nurseries can offer you a wealth of knowledge about native plants suitable for your area.

Plant native pollinator friendly plants when possible.

Softscaping plays a pivotal role in creating a balanced and beautiful outdoor living space.

Softscaping is pivotal in creating a balanced and inviting outdoor living space. A thoughtful combination of trees, shrubs, and flowers can significantly enhance your patio, creating a retreat you’ll relish for years to come. Whether it’s for shade, privacy, or aesthetics, the right selection of plants can transform your outdoor space into a natural extension of your home.

Remember, softscaping is an art, and like all arts, it takes time to perfect. Don’t hesitate to reach out to professional gardeners or landscape architects for assistance. Your ultimate goal is to create an outdoor space that resonates with your personal taste and harmonizes with the natural beauty of your surroundings.

Stay tuned for our next blog post, where we’ll delve into choosing the perfect furniture for your patio to create an inviting and comfortable outdoor living space.

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