The Best Plants for a Tranquil Patio — Landscape Designers on What to Choose for Calm Outdoor Spaces

If you're looking to foster a sense of calm in your backyard, these are the landscape designers' top five picks

A patio with various relaxing plants
(Image credit: Brett Ryan Studios. Design: Paul Sangha Creative)

Perfect patios are slithers of outdoor space that help link the indoors with the outdoor world, providing a smooth transition underfoot that introduces surrounding nature. A well-designed patio is peppered with plant pots, but plants are more than mere decor, and can help enhance your mood. 'Visual cues, such as bloom color, plant form, leaf texture, and shape, typically provide our initial understanding of what creates a serene environment for an individual. Selecting a plant that inherently emits a specific fragrance can effectively enhance the sense of tranquility. In temperate regions, plants with calming and herbal scents, such as Lavandulas, Salvias, Trachelospermum jasminoides vines, and Rosas, offer a diverse range of botanical fragrances that can be appreciated by anyone,' says horticulturist at Paul Sangha Creative, Christian Bendsen. You want plants and flowers that help you feel a connection with the change in the seasons, leaves that unfurl to reveal dramatic foliage that can help create that feeling of seclusion and privacy, and plants that are renowned for their therapeutic properties to help you unwind the moment you step outside.

Of course, the perfect patio plants for you are largely dependent on size and style. 'The aspect of the patio will determine a lot here,' points out Alexander Symes of Alexander Symes Architect. 'Important things to consider that will affect plants on a patio are the amount of light it receives and the amount of wind exposure - which can dry out soils fast.'

We've spoken to the backyard experts to find out their favorite patio plants that will help your outdoor space feel soothing and relaxing.

1. Lavender

There is something soothing about the gentle sweep of silvery blue lavender, making it number one on our list of tranquil patio plants.

'I find that its light purple color and soft, silvery foliage lend a feeling of tranquility to a space,' says Katherine Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat. If you have sleepers around the perimeter of your patio, a lavender bush can be planted directly into the soil, softening the space, but you can also add lavender to your patio in a pot. 'Just make sure it is planted in a pot with ample drainage,' suggests Kat, 'and keep it in a spot that gets full sun.'

Lavender also has strong associations with aromatherapy, and the smell released by this plant can also add to your patio's calming vibe. 'Selecting a plant that inherently emits a specific fragrance can effectively enhance the sense of tranquility,' says Paul Sangha, principal of Paul Sangha Creative.

The good news is it's a relatively hardy plant, meaning if you're looking for a low maintenance garden idea, lavender might just be the plant for your patio. Just make sure you prepare it for the colder seasons as they don't deal well with sudden changes in temperature.

2. Palms

A patio surrounded by palms

(Image credit: Richard Chivers. Yard Architects)

Palms are evocative of far-flung holidays and bring a tropical flair to your patio. With their oversized fan shape, palms are also a great way to use plants to create privacy in a backyard, and keeping your patio guarded from prying eyes will also create tranquility and calm, especially useful in small backyards in urban settings.

'Go for the strelitzia nicolai or wild banana,' recommends Alexander Symes of Alexander Symes Architect. These palms span an impressive size and can be planted along the perimeter of the patio. The plant features large, paddle-shaped leaves with a distinctive ribbing that grows outwards in a pleasing fan shape, and they're easy to look after. 'Rhaspis palm and Dypsis lutescens palms are also good species for a full and tropical feel,' adds Alexander.

3. Fountain grass

Ornamental grass wrapping a patio in Brooklyn

(Image credit: Design: Khanna Schultz Architecture and Design DPC)

Ornamental grasses are a great addition to your backyard and can foster a calming feel to your garden owing to the grass's wispy, sweeping, bushy look, transforming ordinary edges of your patio into lush garden borders. Some ornamental grasses are evergreen and stay green throughout winter, which means they can help your patio feel abundant throughout the year.

'I love using Pennisetum “Hameln”, or fountain grass as a compact ornamental grass in containers on a sunny terrace or patio,' says Kat. 'I find that ornamental grasses provide a special combination of color, lushness, and movement that adds an especially peaceful quality to a space.'

4. Delicate flowers

Jasmine flowers around a patio

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking for some more dainty, delicate flowers to add interest to your patio, jasmine is a beautiful and fragrant plant that can transform the space into a tranquil oasis. With its striking yet delicate white flowers and dark green foliage, jasmine adds a touch of elegance to any outdoor space. But it's not just about looks, and jasmine has a calming scent that promotes calm.

'The sweet perfume of jasmine flowers is intoxicating and has been shown to have sedative effects that can lead to more peaceful sleep,' says Lina Cowley, master botanist at Trimmed Roots. 'Star jasmine, an evergreen vine, will cover an arbor or trellis with glossy leaves and fragrant white flowers all summer long.'

Jasmine prefers well-drained soil and regular moisture, but it can handle some drought once established. It grows well in full sun to part shade. Feed it with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in spring. Prune jasmine after flowering to remove any dead or damaged growth and to shape the vine.

Another plant that's perfect for creating a relaxing patio atmosphere is chamomile with its dainty flowers. 'Chamomile is a breeze to grow from seed and will often reseed itself, providing you with a constant supply of blooms year after year,' says Lina. 'Chamomile is a great companion plant, thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal properties that help prevent disease in fruit trees and vegetables.' It also attracts beneficial insects like hoverflies and ladybugs, encouraging biodiversity in your backyard.

5. Ferns and hostas

Ferns surrounding a patio

(Image credit: Staghorn)

There is something about ferns and hostas planted together that makes you feel close to nature, and bringing these plants to your patio will bring a forest feel to your outdoor space. Both plants have a graceful form and finely-textured foliage.

'Ferns as well as ornamental grasses can provide texture and movement when added to a patio space,' says Cate Singleton of Tilly Design. 'The holly fern is the most common, but the wood fern can bring a gentle swathe of color, just make sure you have added mulch to the soil before planting to ensure it has a good level of moisture.'

In shady spots on your patio, hostas, and ferns provide a lush and tranquil backdrop of greenery. 'Japanese painted fern, with its graceful fronds in shades of silver, purple, and green, is a stunning addition to any shade garden. Hostas, too, come in a variety of leaf colors like blue, chartreuse, variegated cream, and green,' says Lina.

When it comes to fern care, both ferns and hostas are low-maintenance and will thrive for years with regular watering and occasional division.

3 plants to turn your patio into a tranquil haven

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.