How to decorate outdoor walls – the best decor ideas for giving your backyard a boost

Transform your garden with these outdoor wall decor ideas from landscaping experts and designers

an outdoor feature wall painted in a bold yellow
(Image credit: Little Greene)

Creating outdoor wall decor can really be a game-changer for your backyard and lift the design in a simple way. A blank wall is a perfect canvas for transformation. With creativity, an ordinary wall can become a beautiful focal point.

Having fun with a garden wall is a simple way to provide a small garden with a focal point, and make the most out of the space you have. Making the most of wall space also works for all types of budgets, with a mere lick of paint doing plenty to elevate the space. 

Wall design can be both aesthetic, as well as functional, providing a place to support a water feature, accommodating lighting and even as a backdrop for an outdoor kitchen. The possibility of the garden wall really knows no bounds. Read on for our favorite backyard ideas for garden wall decor.

7 ideas for using outdoor wall decor

From paint tricks to try, to outdoor tiling, to vertical gardens that grow upwards and draw the eye towards the sky, there are ample creative hacks to try to lift your garden wall. We've rounded up our favorites below for you to give your outdoor plot a refresh. 

1. Add a sculptural planter

A sculptural plant pot

(Image credit: Meghan Beierle-O'Brien. Design: Laura Roberts)

Line your wall with a structural and sculptural planter, giving your plants a dramatic backdrop to take center stage. 

Sculptural pieces can be great accessories for an empty wall. They allow for expression that ties into the rest of the elements in the space.

In this scheme designed by Los Angeles based interior and garden designer, Laura Roberts (opens in new tab), the cacti are planted in a beautiful rust-colored planter and the backdrop of the wall helps emphasize the design.

'A well-placed planter and some greenery is a great way to dress up an understated wall,' explains Laura. 'This introduces a natural element to the space and is a relatively easy flower bed idea to do. Understanding your environment and planting things that are native to your area reinforce an idea of harmony with the nature around you. The planter helps bring dimension to an otherwise flat surface.'

2. Go for a tiled look

A tiled garden wall

(Image credit: Nancy Epstein)

Tiling is a simple way to give your outdoor wall a new lease of life. Typically reserved for the interiors, don't feel restricted by extending your interior design to your outdoor space with some joyous patterned tiles. Tiling in the garden can also help with a sense of cohesiveness, leading guests through the house and out into the garden with one unified design. 

In this example, Nancy Epstein, founder of Artistic Tile (opens in new tab) has decorated her outdoor kitchen area with a fun lily-pad motif made of stained glass. 'My outdoor space was designed to delight the eye while ensuring that everyone could really relax,' she explains. 'The tile on these walls is called Walden and is designed to offer a visual reminder to relax and enjoy the pleasures of family and friends. 

'It is also a tribute to my love of color, and specifically my love of blue. My house is known for the many hydrangea plants in a variety of colors, and the nature-inspired pattern of the tile plays nicely with the garden.'

3. Grow a vertical garden

A vertical garden wall

(Image credit: Paul Massey. Future)

Decorate your garden wall with a vertical garden idea and allow your flora and fauna to clamber up the walls, giving your garden the feeling of being a hidden oasis where you're surrounded by nature. 

Cleverly crafted, vertical gardens can take many forms. Anything from horizontal bed embedded into the wall that allows your plants to cascade over the edge, to trailing plants to living walls, to garden kitchen walls where herbs and vegetable gardens are planted vertically. The vertical garden is a great small and narrow garden idea, especially if you are in a big city where your plot of land is a sacred space. 

'Living walls contribute to a biophilic experience in indoor and outdoor spaces that provides the opportunity for people to connect with nature, which can enhance your mental well-being, reduce stress, improve your mood and even improve cognitive performance, as studies have shown,' explains David Brenner of Habitat Horticulture (opens in new tab), a company that creates and sustains distinctive living walls and botanic installations

'Once you have established what can be grown in the particular area, then you can begin the creative process which I believe I’ve only scratched the surface. There are so many opportunities to create unique living wall applications starting with the countless plant species that range in every color of the rainbow, texture, and form. Each living wall presents an opportunity to design something unique that echoes with the natural and built surroundings.

'There are hundreds if not thousands of different plants to choose from. The limiting factor is typically the light levels, but also the cold and heat tolerances of the plants. Most plants used in a vertical garden are herbaceous perennials, but sometimes small shrubs and even small trees depending on the design intent.'

4. Use a wall as part of a water feature

A garden wall gives a water feature some added drama

(Image credit: Gregory Phillips)

Your garden wall is a great support system for a water feature, so think about using a wall as a border of a pond. In this example from Gregory Phillips Architects (opens in new tab), the walls are made of knapped flint, matched to the local stone, giving the garden a geographical grounding. 

'The walls were essential to the garden design, created to form a dramatic entrance to add drama to the arrival and leaving experience,' explains Gregory. 'The texture of the wall and the flint reflects in the pool and increases the drama.' 

5. Paint your wall in an unexpected color

An outdoor wall painted in a verdant green

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Don't let paint be reserved for the interiors, and extend your interior scheme outdoors, creating a cohesiveness which bonds the indoors with your garden. Take one feature wall in your garden and add an exciting lick of paint, adding curb appeal and personality in abundance.

Remember to use a weatherproof paint, and pick a color based on flora and fauna in your garden. In the same way you would look at paint colors alongside curtain fabrics and furnishings, consider the architectural elements of your exterior too. Do you have red or yellow tone bricks, limestone or granite walls, what color are your roof tiles? Build these into your design scheme.

'I love to use color in unexpected or surprising ways to update an outside area,' says Ruth Mottershead of Little Greene. 'We are seeing a real trend towards using color to zone outdoor spaces, the creation of 'outdoor living spaces', and wall colors in greens, deep blues, teal and yellows reflect this.'

6. Try timber cladding

A wooden panel on an outdoor wall

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Timber panelling can make a nice addition to an outdoor wall, covering up any unsightly blemishes with smart panels and adding a touch of sophistication. 

'Maintaining and refreshing your exterior masonry and woodwork not only helps to protect the surfaces but is also a fantastic way of introducing colour and adding personality to the outside of your home. From subtle, natural tones through to rich, deep shades or eye-catching brights, choosing a new shade will add character and create a warm welcome,' says Helen Shaw, director at Benjamin Moore (opens in new tab).

Paint in a dark color for a sophisticated finish. Trend-wise, there has been a move towards darker exteriors, especially when attempting to create an urban feel to your garden. 'Off-blacks and deep greys have become very popular, and are often used on all exterior woodwork and masonry, making the property stand out in subtle way. Blue blacks are a particularly effective shade to utilize if you like this sleek modern finish,' adds Helen.

7. Fix lighting onto your walls

Industville lighting

(Image credit: Industville)

This garden design uses lighting in a clever way to light the wall, with large garden lamps from lighting brand Industville (opens in new tab). Garden lighting ideas come in all different ways, from uplighting, with lights embedded into the ground and lighting trees and walls from below, to these industrial lights that have been fixed onto the wall to illuminate the space. 

Outdoor lighting plays a crucial role in establishing the ambience in your garden and fixing lighting on the wall means you can enjoy the outdoor space well into the evening.

'Adding lighting to a wall doesn’t have to be complicated, and even having two or three small sconces along a length can add functionality and character,' says Kat Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC (opens in new tab).

'Up/Down or directional wall sconces create beautiful patterns of light and shadow which is great for highlighting doorways or narrow paths. However, keep in mind that these aren’t ideal for lighting lounge or dining areas as their last doesn’t cast into the space.

'Lantern sconces are a wonderful way to bring an inviting, functional glow to an outdoor lounge or dining area that abuts to a wall.

'Low voltage uplighting can be used strategically amidst plantings to cast gorgeous shadows upon a wall - ferns cast especially beautiful shadows onto walls when lit by uplights.'

8. Grow climbing plants 

a living room and garden with climbing plants

(Image credit: Tom Ferguson. Design: Porebski Architects)

When thinking about your planting to animate an outdoor wall, Adam Hunt of Urquhart and Hunt (opens in new tab) advises considering whether it is north or south facing, shady or full sun. 'From there you choice of plants develops,' he says. 

'For shady spots, we like to work with self-suckering climbers like the Hydrangea petiolaris, whereas for sun-exposed walls, we’d try the slightly trickier Trachelospermum jasminoides, which does require wiring. It’s worth the effort, though, as you get colour all year round from this lovely evergreen plant.' 

If you’re interested in something more productive, you could try using espaliered fruit trees for your garden walls. 'These need wiring but are a pleasure to grow, rewarding the gardener with blossom in spring and fruit in autumn. 

How do you brighten up a plain outdoor wall with paint?

Paint is the easiest way to brighten up your outdoor wall. When the summer weather is disappointing and you're in need a quick fix to brighten up your outdoor plot, paint is the perfect way to transform the space quickly and easily. It's cheap, cheerful, and you don't need to revamp the entire garden to make a design statement. 

The first thing you want to consider when brightening up a wall with paint is the atmosphere you want to create. 'Is it a calming and traditional feel, letting the planting deliver the color, or are you looking to give planting a boost with a bold contrasting color,' asks Ruth Mottershead of Little Greene. 

Perhaps you're not prepared to go too colorful on the wall, so maybe use your wall as a backdrop and paint garden furniture, pots and planters, creating a beautiful accent of color and fun finish. 'A pop of bright sunshine yellow will look fabulous,' says Ruth. 

'Gardens can change dramatically throughout the seasons with varying tones of spring flowers and fall leaves,' adds Ruth, 'so consider how the colors will work. My top tip is to paint A4 pieces of paper and stick them strategically around the space so you can see the effect of light. Don't ignore the predominance of greenery in the garden as this will reflect off the colors too, giving quite a different look to a color when the garden is fully in leaf.'

Oonagh Turner
Oonagh Turner

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com. 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.