Front yard landscaping ideas - 12 fresh new designer-approved looks for urban spaces

Boosting curb appeal has never been easier than with these clever front yard landscaping style overhauls

front yard design
(Image credit: Numis Marty/Getty Images)

Getting your front yard landscaping ideas right is key to first impressions. A sleek and carefully thought-out design, smart hard landscaping and neat planting will combine to create the most stylish welcome to your home.

Good landscaping is about setting the scene. Your ideas should encapsulate your own personal style as well as celebrate the architecture of your home. But while a lot of great front yard landscaping ideas improve the look of your front yard they can end up being high maintenance too.

As your front yard is on display 24/7 the answer is to choose simple landscaping design hacks that look good without demanding too much input from you. And remember that good lighting is everything so be sure to free up some budget to allow for a sleek scheme that works the look at night too.

So whether you'e looking to revamp your front yard or simply spruce it up with an easy refresh here are all the inspirational looks you'll need.

12 front yard landscaping ideas

1. Use statement pieces to frame an entrance

modern front door with oversized planters

(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

First impressions count so go grand to give your front yard landscaping ideas stand out. Consider how your front garden will look at night too as it sets the scene when you're hosting. 

The over-scaled pots by this front door have real impact. 'The addition of uplights shows off the ribbed nature of each pot while at high-level wall-mounted spotlights cast a warm glow over the planting,' says Sally Storey, creative director of John Cullen Lighting (opens in new tab). 'The climbing plants either side are lit with spiked floodlights which can be repositioned as the planting grows and changed according to the season.'

A lantern either side of the door creates a welcoming effect or alternatively a central light overhead works well too. 'Whichever solution you decide on, these lighting elements are best dimmed and combined with some other concealed architectural lighting features such as uplights to the door surrounds, square lights to skim light over steps or spiked spotlights in your planting,' explains Sally, adding that it's best to avoid security lights which are 'glary and will wash the space with harsh light'.

2. Add an eyecatching topiary planting design

modern garden bed by front entrance

(Image credit: U J Alexander Getty Images)

Small landscaped beds with evergreen planting that lasts through the seasons is a go-to look for front yards, especially when those beds are positioned close to the front door. After all if you pass by several times a day the design needs to look good all the time. 

Multi-tasking topiary is perfect for creating a strong punctuation point in your front yard. Tree landscaping can be used to introduce rounded cloud shapes and to add definition to low maintenance beds. If you love the look of clipped evergreens, choosing geometric shapes adds smart sculptural definition. 

Topiary is a low maintenance form of gardening that's a great choice for enhancing entrances such as gates, doorways and porches. It makes a bold statement that works all year round, adding impact without hours of maintenance. Although often associated with grand country estates topiary works in small urban spaces too.

3. Go large with an oversized planter

front garden with oversized planter and tree

(Image credit: Paul Upward/Bowles & Wyer)

The front garden offers a great opportunity to make a statement. 'As a front yard is often small in footprint, it’s usually better to opt for one big design statement, rather than a piecemeal effect of many different elements together,' says John Wyer, CEO of landscape designers Bowles & Wyer (opens in new tab)

In other words, keep things simple by paring back your choices. 'In this design we opted for an enormous Atelier Vierkant (opens in new tab) container, planted with an equally enormous Acer palmatum, which quickly became the centrepiece of the front garden,' explains John.

When choosing a tree for front yard landscaping ideas be sure to check its ultimate height and width as well as the growth rate. Including trees in your front yard design adds shade and structure, as well as being great for wildlife but you don't want to take on something that will swamp you. 

Multi-stem specimens such as shapely acers - one of the best trees to grow in pots - work well in small spaces because you can see through them so they don't feel claustrophobic.

4. Choose a smart symmetrical design

front yard design with symmetrical trees

(Image credit: Myers+Co Landscape Architecture)

Symmetry is key when it comes to designing a smart front yard. Get the structure right and the rest will slot into place easily. Well-defined beds, solid planting and straight lines are a good starting point. Plant a structure of evergreens as the backbone and use low box hedging as the signature look. Break up the planting with sections of gravel to create interest. 

The main entrance to these apartments in Louisville, designed by award winning landscape architects Myers+Co (opens in new tab), features a terraced bluestone garden path and small concealed courtyard garden adjacent to the front entry. 

'The garden has an urn as its focal point framed by circular bluestone banding,' explains garden designer and founder Josh Myers. 'The bluestone curbing detail was used to delineate the garden space and crushed gravel path that intersects the front walk. The garden is layered with a 'Green Velvet' boxwood hedge, 'Bobo' hydrangea, and dwarf Korean lilac standard trees. A stunning Bloodgood Japanese maple (acer) anchors the front of the yard.'

5. Design a night-time look with landscape lighting

front garden with lighting

(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

Design a different look for your garden at night using clever lighting landscape ideas. The trend is for a wash of light achieved by combining different lighting techniques to illuminate your front yard in a way that looks spectacular.

Soft, subtle lighting that's well positioned can be used to focus on a few key elements such as steps or planters. Knowing how to position landscape lighting means you can highlight different textures and contours, while at the same time helping to pull together a cohesive look.

'Two decorative lanterns set the scene but this doorway would look flat without the hard-working architectural lighting,' says Sally Storey, creative director of John Cullen Lighting (opens in new tab). 'The porch lights add depth coupled with spiked spotlights to light up the brickwork which also throw the box balls into silhouette. The paving - just seen in the foreground - is lit with in-ground floor washers that add light to the hedging.'

6. Include gravel in your landscaping

front garden design with trees and gravel

(Image credit: James Kerr/Charlotte Rowe)

Gravel is such a versatile material that you should definitely consider it as part of your front yard landscaping ideas. Available in a wide range of colors and sizes it works really well in contemporary settings. As hard landscaping materials go it's generally the most budget friendly option too.  

Use gravel to break up and soften larger areas of paving or paths. It can then be planted into with low growing plants to enhance the look.

'In this front garden in London, design and sustainability are carefully balanced,' explains landscape designer Charlotte Rowe  (opens in new tab). 'Rich planting in front of the house and under the Catalpa tree gives seasonal interest, and the sweeping gravel driveway provides a sustainable drainage system, which is an increasing requirement now.'

7. Plant masses of colorful blooms

white picket fence with blue and white agapanthus

(Image credit: Sabine Hortebusch/GettyImages)

When considering planting ideas if you want dramatic shape and color opt for agapanthus. Enlivening the flower bed, they come in every shade from white and pale powder blue to dark inky midnight and purple. 

These big pompom blooms will add a touch of glam to your front yard landscaping ideas. Their exotic good looks (they're also known as African lilies) suggest they might be high maintenance but in fact they’re easy to grow. To get the best effect plant loads of them in a sunny position then wait for these show stoppers to pop up.

Grow them in tall pots by the front door or along boundaries to add an architectural note that works really well with modern and contemporary garden designs.

8. Create an on-trend porch display

succulent plant display by front door

(Image credit: Solomiia Kratsylo/GettyImages)

Succulents thrive in desert-like conditions in dry air and bright sunlight where daytime temperatures are high, so if your front yard fits this description you can work up a look like this at your entrance. Most succulents, including aloe plants, will in fact thrive outside in summer in a sheltered spot so if you have a collection indoors think about giving them a holiday outside when it's warm. 

Succulents like well-open and free-draining compost similar to their natural habitat. This prevents waterlogging, which is the quickest way to kill a succulent. Add grit to the compost to aid drainage and feed your succulents once a month with a houseplant feed from from spring to early fall for best results. 

The plants that take centre stage here are paddle plants (Kalanchoa thysiflora), which have huge sculptural matt green leaves. Paddle plants are not cold hardy, so pot them up in a container that can be brought indoors when temperatures dip. 

9. Enhance your entrance 

modern porch with trees and lighting

(Image credit: Philips Hue )

The aesthetics at the front of your home are important. With the right outdoor automated lighting, you can create the perfect welcoming ambience for your porch. Set your lights to greet you as you come home, automatically illuminating your front yard when you arrive. And when you're out, use lights to make others think you're still at home for added security. 

There are also ways of using lights to make your front yard look bigger. 'Using light to create depth in a small front yard is key to giving the illusion of a bigger space,' according to the experts at Philips-Hue (opens in new tab). 'If you have a tree, use spotlights to create an effect called moonlighting: place the spots high up in the branches and point them toward the ground. This washes the tree - and the ground below it - in light to pull the eye up and create the feeling of a larger area.'

10. Make a tree the focal point in your landscaping

modern front garden with gravel and small trees

(Image credit: Rudolf Geiger/Getty Images)

The right tree in the right position will make a beautiful statement and provides interest throughout the year, whatever the size of your front yard. A small ornamental variety with an interesting shape will add a strong structural design element without swamping the space. 

Landscaping your tree into a bed of gravel with other smart shrubs enhances everything around it and works a really modern look. As part of a simple and understated planting design a well-chosen tree creates a strong lead.

modern front yard design with rocks and plants

(Image credit: Colorado Paul Hamilton/Alamy Stock Photo)

Ideally your garden should be a natural fit with its surroundings. Landscaping your front yard with rocks is a creative way to forge a connection between a manmade landscape and the natural world around you. 

This cool and contemporary front yard design in Colorado shows how rock gardens can be  designed in different layers. Utilizing boulders, river rocks and gravel, it picks up on the rocky aesthetic of the surrounding landscape.

A well as adding year-round structure, landscaping with rocks and sympathetic drought-friendly planting such as ornamental grasses creates a look that feels very contemporary as well as being easy to maintain.

12. Introduce pattern to your hard landscaping

painted front door with patterned wall panel

(Image credit: Sadolin and Sandtex)

The feature wall is big news in interiors so why not in the front yard too? Paint is the simplest and most affordable way to update a wall if you want fast front yard landscaping ideas. 

Be sure to choose the right product for your wall design. 'Choose a paint that’s been designed for masonry and offers guaranteed protection,' advises Matthew Brown, technical consultant at Sadolin & Sandtex (opens in new tab). 'The same formulation of masonry paint can also be used on window ledges, door surrounds, steps and gate posts to create a uniform look.' 

It's a quick way into the current garden trend for wall murals and will bring color, texture and creativity into your front yard in a way that's uniquely yours. 

What are the best front yard landscaping plants?

When choosing front yard landscaping plants do your research before buying to pinpoint low maintenance options that look good for months without needing constant input from you. Look for varieties that are easy to keep under control.

Make sure the planting segues with the exterior of your home, so match the clean lines of modern architecture with structured linear planting, say, or an apartment in a Victorian block with classical-style urns.

It's also a good idea to come up with a list of plants to avoid. This should be based around which ones can get out of hand fast and leave things looking messy. 

Here are some of our favourite plants for front yard landscaping ideas:

  1. Start by including a selection of smartly clipped evergreens such as box, bay, hebe and laurel for year-round structure. These can be planted in beds or containers, or in both to create a visual link for continuity.
  2. Plant perennials wherever possible. Annual flowers add color and wow but they only last a few weeks then they're over. Invest in perennial plants which look good year after year for months on end such as penstemons, heuchera and lavender.
  3. If you want to work in some annuals for some instant color fill pots and planters with them and switch up the look periodically by adjusting seasonally. Try pelargoniums, pansies and fuchsias as the main act in your container gardens.
  4.  Layer up spring bulbs in pots and beds as they will be repeat performers every year.
  5. Include a small ornamental tree such as an acer or magnolia to add sculptural definition to your front yard and work as a focal point to anchor the planting.

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Her first job on glossy magazines was at Elle, during which time a visit to the legendary La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence led to an interest in all things gardening. Later as lifestyle editor at Country Homes & Interiors magazine the real pull was the run of captivating country gardens that were featured. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own garden where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.