11 Best Types of Outdoor Water Features to Refresh Your Yard

Fountain made with two pots
Photo: Jay Wilde

Regardless of your garden style, yard size, or skill level, there's a water feature that's sure to make your outdoor space shine. Options range from sculptural like a fountain to natural like a stream or pond. Use this guide to outdoor water features to determine the best type for your yard.

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pond garden with koi fish surrounded by rocks
Kritsada Panichgul

Bring nature back into your backyard. A small stand-alone pond on a patio or deck or in a garden niche can be an interesting architectural feature. With ready-to-assemble kits and the wide availability of water plants, a garden pond of any size can be simple to install and maintain. In-ground ponds can subtly integrate with other water features.

Best for: Gardeners who are true nature lovers. Ponds become their own ecosystems bursting with life.

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Statue Fountain

stone water fountain in garden
Matthew Benson

Add a striking focal point by nestling a statue fountain between groups of colorful flowers or lively foliage. Statue water features are an easy way to create instant atmosphere in your backyard. From humorous and whimsical to elegant and calming, the choice is yours.

Best for: Gardeners looking for a water feature that adds an artistic, sculptural element to their landscape.

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asian style garden waterfall out door seating area
Andreas Trauttmansdorff

If you have an uneven or sloped backyard, a waterfall area could be a natural fit. Because water wants to flow downhill anyway, pools, streams, and waterfalls are ideal for changing a hillside from a problem to a pleasure. Get creative and DIY your own waterfall out of found materials or stick to a classic natural-looking waterfall.

Best for: Those who want to enjoy both the tranquil sight and sound of running water. A small waterfall can be surrounded by plants (especially those that grow in constantly wet soil) but need not include water plants.

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waterfall over stones through trees and ferns to pond
Jay Wilde

Even a short, narrow stream can create a peaceful effect as the water trickles and gurgles along. Plus, the moving water is sure to attract fascinating birds and other wildlife. If you already have a backyard fountain or waterfall, a stream is an easy way to extend your water feature. Use a longer stream to guide visitors to secret niches and resting spots.

Best for: Gardeners who want to give their landscape a naturalistic feel and who enjoy the calming sounds of water.

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Water Garden

plants in DIY container water garden
Kritsada Panichgul

Aquatic gardens open your outdoor space to a new world of plants. Essentially, a large water garden is a pond (although a pond doesn't necessarily include water plants). A smaller water garden could be used as a tabletop water feature. Blooming water plants such as water lilies, arrowheads, or water hyacinths will add a sweet scent to your garden.

Best for: Gardeners looking for a new challenge. Diving into a water garden means entirely different types of plants.

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Fountain made with two pots
Jay Wilde

Fountains come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, but no matter how big or small, a fountain gives any yard a sense of grandeur. From ready-made to DIY options, a fountain can be used as an elaborate focal point or a simple sculptural element. Keep an eye out for solar-powered fountains, which are an energy-efficient option with low upkeep.

Best for: Those who want to enjoy the trickling sounds of water while adding an artistic element to the landscape.

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Wall Fountain

large stone fountain in garden
Ed Gohlich

Wall fountains make a bold statement in any outdoor space while remaining subtle and elegant. In your landscape, a wall-mounted fountain can help dress up an already existing blank wall. Or create a wall fountain as both a retaining wall and focal point.

Best for: Gardeners looking to use vertical space or who want to add an architectural element to their landscape.

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Bird Bath

garden with birdbath at center
Carson Downing

A bird bath can serve as a simple, low-maintenance water feature option for your backyard or garden. Bird baths with a fountain installed in them can even offer an element of moving water.

Birds are attracted to just about any water source, but they most appreciate a shallow basin for bathing. Complement your bird bath with plants that provide food sources for wildlife throughout the year.

Best for: Gardeners who are wildlife and nature lovers.

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Tabletop Water Feature

Simple Tabletop Water Garden
Bryan E. McCay

Sure, backyard water features can be big and bold, but they can also be sized to match your available space and gardening time. A tabletop water garden can fit into a busy schedule or small area. Move the mini water feature around to wherever you need a fun focal point. Because they don't need a pump or power, these small water features are ideal for balconies, small decks, and other intimate dining or sitting areas. Similar to a birdbath, you'll need to empty and refresh the water on a regular basis.

Best for: Beginning backyard fountain gardeners looking for tabletop accents and a touch of nature.

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Natural Swimming Pool

A visual of a naturally made swimming pool.
Courtesy of Total Habitat

Make a statement with this eco-conscious variation of a swimming pool. Completely chemical-free, a natural swimming pool uses plants and a filtration system to maintain itself. Your backyard refuge will get all the perks of a pool with the charming look of a pond.

Best for: Those who want a water feature that can double as a swimming pool.

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wishing well in garden
Tom McWilliam

Timeless, traditional, and tasteful. Wells have been around for centuries. While you probably don't need to pump your own water, a faux well still makes a rustic addition to your garden. Since most wells in a garden setting aren't functional, a little creativity is needed. This outdoor ornament can become a water feature by incorporating a fountain or water garden nearby.

Best for: Gardeners who love the cottage garden look and enjoy a classic garden accessory.

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