16 Great Patio Ideas

If you're looking for ideas to spruce up your patio, check out these tips.

By Kelly D. Norris

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terra cotta fountain on tile patio
Make it Soothing with Water

    There's something about water that's serene and peaceful. Be sure to add it to your patio. Enhance those relaxing moments with a patio-size water garden. Find one with a small recirculating pump so you can enjoy the sound of water trickling over stones or through a bamboo spout.

Site it in the Shade

    Have a large shade tree? Why not consider building your patio under its canopy? You'll enjoy the cool, shady retreat in the heat of summer when you need a quick break from your afternoon gardening chores. You can also plant your favorite shade plants, such as hostas and caladiums, around your patio for summer-long color and interest.

Plant a Fragrant Path

    Don't forget the power of fragrance. When you're relaxing on the patio at the end of the day, enjoy a rich aroma or subtle perfume. Consider planting a fragrant path that leads up to the patio from the garden. Tall, arching stalks of flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) or licorice-scented sprays of hyssop (Agastache rupestris) could greet you alongside a small trellis with moonflowers (Ipomoea alba). This combination will create a "scentsational" experience for you and your guests.

Add Cover with a Pergola

    Summer is the perfect time to be outdoors. Fire up the grill and invite friends or neighbors over for a backyard barbecue amidst your collection of containers in your lush backyard. Choose durable furniture that withstands the elements. Create a table piece that highlights blooming flowers from your garden, bringing it right onto your patio.

Soften the Edges of Your Patio with a Flowering Border

    Patios often look like they've just been plopped in your yard. To avoid a jarring feel, plant a border of flowering annuals, perennials, and shrubs around the edge. Create a lovely addition to your landscape and enjoy your favorite plants up-close and personal.

    Tip: Use taller plants to offer more privacy.

Carpet for Your Patio

    Throw down a rug. There are more and more high-quality, weather-resistant rugs for use outdoors. They come in a variety of colors and styles, so you can find one to suit your tastes. Select rugs made from recycled materials and be environmentally friendly at the same time.

Using Light on the Patio

    Give your patio personality at night. Whether to illuminate a dark space or add ambiance to your favorite seating area, outdoor lighting can be just the touch of nighttime pizzazz your patio needs. Choose solar products or low-voltage, energy-efficient bulbs to conserve resources and protect the environment.

Grow Tropicals in Containers

    Tropical plants are favored because of their flashy blooms and lush foliage. They're perfect patio accents when planted in large containers. If you live in a southern climate, leave your tropicals outside all year. If you live in a northern climate, you'll need to bring them indoors in fall. If you're going to be bringing them in and out of doors, keep them in containers that are easy to move.

Use Charming Accents

    Almost everyone had a wagon they grew up with. But as we grew older, wagons became clutter in the shed or garage. No more! Haul out that old wagon and make it into a decorative holder for your collection of container gardens. A fresh coat of paint will spruce up your wagon, adding a classic, rustic element to your patio.

Create Privacy

    A pergola is the perfect patio addition for privacy. Use a kit from your local home-improvement center, and make it a quick weekend project. Soften your pergola with climbers such as clematis (Clematis sp.), chocolate vine (Akebia quinata), wisteria, and ivy (Hedera helix). Once established, these vines will provide a cozy, shady respite after a hard day's work.

Add a Planter Box

    Planter boxes are a timeless, classic accessory. Whether wrought iron or barn wood, they're a charming patio accent -- and they're a great way to showcase your favorite small plants. Colorful new annuals come onto the market every year, so the design possibilities are endless.

Build a Fire Pit

    Gather around the fire with the kids late at night. Perfect for toasting marshmallows in summer or warming your outdoor space in spring or fall, fire pits are a gathering place on the patio. Make your fire pit from anything from flagstone slabs to small boulders.

    Tip: Research your local fire code and ordinances before beginning this project.

Just Add Wind Chimes

    Enjoy the sounds of music on your patio. Wind chimes are a traditional, yet stylish part of the outdoor lifestyle. You can find wind chimes made from bamboo, teak, and stainless steel to create the windy, musical melody that best fits your home.

Plants for Stone Patios

    Accent the edges, nooks, and crannies of your stone patio with low-maintenance, drought-tolerant succulents such as sedum and hens-and-chicks.

Create a Patio with Curving Edges

    Don't be square! Create a patio with curving edges to add character and a sense of informality to your outdoor living area. Curves are more relaxing and visually appealing than straight lines.

Feed the Birds

    Attract a variety of birds throughout the year by adding birdfeeders to the perimeter of your patio. Put out different types of feed to attract different birds. Use an open-tray feeder and wild-bird mix to attract a variety of songbirds and seedeaters. Hang fresh fruit out in the summer for orioles and in the winter for robins and waxwings. Here's the chance to invite nature right onto your patio!

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