There’s no doubt that landscaping a hillside requires more effort than a flat garden. That doesn’t mean your hillside landscaping ideas can’t be exciting. In fact, there are a ton of ways to fabricate a beautiful scene out of your sloped yard which would even overshadow a flat garden.
In this detailed article, we’ll give you some awesome hillside landscape ideas that can inspire you to transform your yard while also addressing the problems that you may face.
Table of Contents
Landscaping on Hillsides
A sloped yard introduces some challenges. A hillside yard is much harder to maintain than a flat one. The main problem is that soil tends to run off and down the slope. This largely depends on how steep the slope is and the aspects of the climate. A slope ratio of 3:1 or less is considered ideal and it should be easy to grow plants on it. A more extreme ratio, like 2:1 or more, is harder to deal with and planting would require extra care and maintenance. Another problem with sloped yards is that walking on a hillside can be exhausting and difficult.
Additionally, extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain may cause the slope to fail. When rain falls on the slope, soil particles gradually dislocate and fall off causing erosion. Your best bet for hillside landscaping ideas is to use woody plants that have deep, fine roots. You can also use rocks to slow down the runoff.
The types of plants you’re going to grow is also an important thing to keep in mind. Some plants grow perfectly as ground cover on a sloped backyard while others wash down easily with rain. Plants that are suitable for slopes hold the ground pretty well thanks to their strong network of roots. Shrub species are a popular choice for growing plants on a steep hillside.
Best Plants for Hillside Landscaping
As we mentioned briefly above, some plants work better than others for hillside landscaping. The plants listed below grow in clusters and have deep root systems that work to prevent erosion, while at the same time making your hillside yard look aesthetically pleasing and colorful.
- Creeping Phlox
- California Holly tree
- Creeping Jenny
When considering plants for erosion prevention, look for deep, strong root systems, vined plants, and plants that grow tightly in clusters.
Hillside Landscaping Ideas
We’ve finally made it to our hillside landscaping ideas (yay)!
1. A Rock Garden on a Hillside
A great procedure to prevent the plants from washing down the slope is to use natural stone rocks to anchor the soil. This way, the plants can hold in place till they grow. Spread the rocks randomly to give your hillside a more natural look. Maintenance might be required frequently in the early stages but once the plants spread out more, minimal maintenance would be required. This is a good alternative to creating flat areas for planting.
2. A Hillside Flower Garden
Emphasizing planting flowers in your hillside garden will add life and beauty to the scene. You can grow a variety of flower types and colors in even quantities. You’d also want to vary the growing height of the flowers on each level. Fragrant sumac, California lilac, Japanese yew, and creeping juniper are all beautiful plants that grow nicely on slopes.
3. Gardening a Yard Sloping Down the Road
While having a house that’s located on a hill is a beautiful thing as it can give you a spectacular view, sometimes this means that your yard’s slope ends at the side of a road, creating a hell strip effect. In that case, you’d have to opt for plants that don’t require extensive maintenance and cutting. Evergreen plants would be a good choice. They look lovely on their own and they don’t require frequent grooming. If you don’t want to completely block the view with high growing plants, you may want to use lower-growing perennials for the front row.
4. Landscaping a Hillside using Planters
What about using planters for your hillside garden? Planters make your garden much easier to maintain. They’re especially useful for slopes that are too steep since you obviously won’t have to worry about the soil running off. Over and above that, they also make watering the plants more convenient. You can also create a garden room at the lower level.
5. Using Stairs for Steep Slopes
Is the slope of your yard too steep? If that’s the case, you need stairs. There are a variety of materials you can use to staircase your yard. Stone, wood, and steel are all good options for that. Stone stairs are probably your best bet because they are tough and will almost never wear out. You might also consider taking extra care of the area around the sides of the stairs to give your hillside a more pleasing scene.
6. Creating a Beautifully-Shaped Garden
What about something a little out of the ordinary? Instead of just randomly planting the flowers, you can plant them in a way that produces neat shapes when you’re done. You can create square shapes like in the pictures but there are other options too like circular and spiral shapes. This will add a form of symmetry to your garden which will make it quite appealing to look at. You can mix up the colors of the flowers or you can go unicolor too. Yellow would be great in case you decided to use one color.
7. Approaching the Slope
The approach of a slope is just as important as the slope itself. In this design, the path to the slope is surrounded by plants and retaining walls. Adding a resting spot such as a bench can really polish up the design while also offering a breather before going up the stairs. Sophisticated plants such as roses, coralbells, and hostas provide a beautiful and unique visual appearance.
8. Terracing a Fruit Garden
A hillside is a very suitable environment for a fruit garden, especially if the slope is facing towards the south. Drip-irrigation would be an ideal option for such a garden as it could be difficult to provide the garden with water and supplies. You can level and terrace your garden such that each row of plants will receive direct sunlight without getting shaded by another row. You can also make use of the raised ground to plant some roses and other flowers as they will be easily viewed, creating a beautiful scene while also making good use of the garden.
9. Ground-covering on a Hillside
If you’ve got a gentle slope or berm that links a wood-covered area with your open yard, you can create a seamless transition using groundcovers that will look like a colorful mat. However, keep in mind that soil drainage is much faster on a berm. You can maintain it just like you’d maintain a rock garden. Some of the plants you can use are alpines, tiny bellflowers, creeping phlox, and perennial geraniums.
10. Making a Garden Walk out of your Hillside
What would be more beautiful than turning your hillside yard into a garden walk? You can easily accomplish this by terracing a walkway using stepping stones. You can then put some plants along the walkway and voilà! You’ve got yourself a garden walk in your yard. Gradually elevating the planting area as you climb up higher on the walkway would also be a great idea to really accentuate your garden walk. You can use pots for decoration at the beginning of the path.
11. Using Rocks to Staircase Your Yard
Don’t want to use artificial-looking stairs for your hillside yard? Try using rocks instead. This will give your hillside yard a zen look and feel. You can also add some plants around the stones as they act as a natural anchor for the soil that prevents runoff.
12. Terracing by Using Stone Walls
Stone walls are a popular method for taming and terracing hillsides. They may seem like they require a ton of work and while that holds true in the initial phase, once you’re done with the walls, you’ve got yourself a garden that both looks beautiful and is also easy to maintain. You can establish wide planting areas where you can grow plants that would be harder to grow outside of these walls. Additionally, since stones can easily heat up in hotter weather, this will be quite beneficial for the plants to grow as the stones will create what’s known as a microclimate.
13. A hillside Garden With Low Maintenance Plants
Runoff is one of the major problems that can face you with hillside gardens and even more so when the slope ends with a driveway. One way to solve this problem is to use plants that will anchor the hillside by forming a network of roots. Some of these plants are ornamental grasses, shrubs, and coneflowers.
All of these plants will prevent soil runoff and require very little maintenance when they’re growing. Moreover, you can leave them standing during wintertime. Think carefully when you’re choosing which plants to grow. This way, a hillside will be the highlight of your yard and even your whole home.
14. Planting Shrubs in Your Yard
Shrubs are an excellent choice for your hillside yard. They require little to no maintenance in addition to looking beautiful and colorful. They are not easily affected by erosion too. They look great all year round. All you need is some pruning during springtime and you’ve got yourself a garden that will look good for the remaining time of the year.
15. Using Curves for Your Hillside Yard
Forget the stairs. You can level your hillside yard using a curved path that takes a spiral shape. This would be especially suitable if your yard is too wide without being long enough and with a slope that’s not too steep. It’s also a great idea if the entrance to your yard is from the side of your home’s door. You can carpet the path with grass.
16. Adding Water to the Slope
This is another interesting idea for landscaping your hillside yard. Have you ever thought about creating a waterfall in your yard? It’s one of the perks of having a sloped yard. Using water will add motion to the scene, creating a beautiful dynamic view. Moreover, the sound of the water will create a soothing and relaxing atmosphere in your yard.
Furthermore, putting some lights into the water will make your yard look even more beautiful and lively at night. Growing some evergreen plants around the waterfall will also add a natural feel to the hillside. The steps of this garden will slow down the water flow. The waterfall can also be used for irrigation which will actually make your garden more functional and you can also use horizontal beams instead of steps.
17. Modern Garden on a Hillside
If you’re a fan of contemporary decorations, you might consider going for a cement-stepped hillside garden. This would look quite luxurious especially during night time when you turn on the lights. The symmetry will create a pleasing view and the cement will also double as planting boxes that you can use to grow all the plants you want without having to worry much about runoffs. It’s another great idea on the list for taming your sloped garden while also benefiting from a sophisticated view.
Hillside landscaping ideas involve a lot of exploring and experimentation; it can really trigger your creative thinking. There’s a lot you can do with your hillside yard. You just have to choose what seems to fit your yard the most according to the available space and how steep the slope is. You can also borrow a thing or two from multiple ideas to create your own unique hillside yard. Just make sure to keep the problems/drawbacks that were mentioned earlier in mind and you should be good to go.