You know that landscaping a hillside is more difficult than a flat garden, but your ideas for hillside landscaping don’t need to be boring. There are many ways to create beautiful scenes out of sloped yards that would even overshadow flat gardens.
In this detailed article, we’ll give you some cool landscaping ideas for hillside yards that will both change your view and solve some common problems.
Landscaping On Hillsides
A sloped garden has some challenges. A hillside garden is much more difficult to maintain than a flat one. The main problem is that soil can always run off the slope and down through the yard, largely depending on how steep the slope is and aspects of the climate.
A slope ratio of 3:1 or less is the ideal design for a landscaped area, and plants are comparatively easy to grow on these slopes. Slopes with ratios closer to 2:1 or more require extra care and maintenance. One issue of hillsides is that walking can be strenuous, making them hard for people who may not otherwise have an issue going up and down inclines.
Additionally, the slope may not be stable during heavy rain. When it rains on the hillside, soil particles gradually dislocate and fall off, causing erosion. Your best option for beautifying a sloped landscape is to use woody plants with deep roots or rocks to keep the runoff from accelerating downhill.
When choosing the plants that will go in your hillside landscape, you need to consider how difficult they are to grow. Some plants will be more durable than others for a new garden, and others won’t survive if there is heavy rain.
Plant species that are suitable for sloping hillsides can hold the ground because of their deep root network. Shrub species are popular in slope-side gardening.
List Of Hillside Landscaping Ideas
Creating Alpine Hillside Garden
If your hillside is basically pure rocks, hold on to that thought. You can design a beautiful alpine garden and draw the eye upward. Follow these tips from this gardener and use the existing large rocks in a different configuration while still using them in their original place.
With the use of larger slabs as steps and platforms, hypertufa blends nearly invisibly with the natural stone to create a verdant landscape that is both artful and aesthetically pleasing. Pea gravel is used during landscaping as mulch, preventing runoff for a more attractive environment.
The planting is anchored by large evergreens and allows self-sowing perennials, such as corydalis, to fill in where they’ll grow best.
Turning A Hillside Into A Garden Walk
The elevated planting area and the stepped or tiered walkway can create an enclosed feeling. Instead of stepping stones, this garden uses plaster tiles with just enough traction to keep people from slipping on their walk.
The colorful perennials lining the walkway are given additional focal points using containers and pot stands on the lower levels, making them the centerpiece of someone’s journey down. And drivers passing by on the road have a full view of the hillside garden, unlike in a flat garden where they can only see one or two large plants.
Creating A Beautifully-Shaped Garden
What about trying something different? Instead of just planting the flowers randomly, you can plant them in a way that creates beautiful shapes when you’re done. You can create square shapes like in the pictures or circular or spiral shapes.
For those of us who want to enjoy landscaping with an artistic touch, this might work best. You’ll get a sense of symmetry that makes your garden look lovely from the outset. You can mix colors or greens if you go the one-color route, and bright yellow will make for inviting surroundings.
Shallow Terraces Using Light-colored Stones
This modern home uses terraces on a gentler slope, which has less of an impact. Light-colored stones blend in with the siding of the house and the trunks of the trees, while shredded bark mulch creates a natural appearance.
Evergreen plants are a popular choice for woody shrubs and trees when growing on a hill because they can provide beauty and cover during all seasons.
Terracing A Hillside Vegetable Garden
A sloped garden, specifically a south-facing slope, is ideal for planting vegetables. Grady organized his vegetable rows in terraces so that each row will be on its own level and get direct sunlight without being shaded by the one in front of it.
A hillside can pose challenges about getting water and garden supplies to the area. Design a drip-irrigation system for the hillside plants, and make sure you have an easy way of transporting tools and hoses from your house to where they need to go.
This west coast garden offered by the Pacific Horticulture Society displays the best way to utilize the elevated ground by planting flowers at eye level.
Gardening A Roadside Slope
Living in a house on top of the hill can have its perks, but it creates challenges. It causes your yard to slope down to the street or driveway below, which gives you a hell strip effect in front.
When planting your hillside, choose hardy plants that won’t require a lot of upkeep. Shrubs and evergreen are great for this situation. Try filling the front side with low-growing perennials like hostas and ferns, which will not need frequent division but still allow passersby to catch glimpses of the landscaping.
Curves for Hillside Landscaping Ideas
Why would you need stairs when there’s a curved path to the hill? The spiral shape of this landscape is perfect for yards that are wide but not long. The crooked pathway on a not-too-steep slope is also suitable.
The grass requires constant care–frequent trimming, raking, and watering. This doesn’t have to be a garden, but a little greenery will impress guests. To achieve some variation, you can add curved paths that allow for spatial variety.
A Rock Garden On A Hillside
One technique that can prevent plants from washing down the slope is to use natural stone rocks to anchor soil into place. When combined with planting various plants across the slope, this will help create a more natural look and feel.
Maintenance may be required frequently in the early stages, but little to no maintenance is needed as this area spreads out. This is a good alternative for when you don’t have flat areas for planting crops.
A Hillside Flower Garden
Planting flowers in a hillside garden will add life and beauty to the scene. You can grow different types of flower varieties, with plenty on each level. Different heights for your blooms are also necessary. This will help mirror the natural aesthetics of our hilly landscape.
Many plants grow well on slopes. The best include fragrant sumac, California lilac, Japanese yew, and creeping juniper.
Terraced Hillside Makes A Stunning Visual Display
The use of stone walls on a sloped hillside, combined with curvy beds crammed together in varying widths, produces an awe-inspiring visual display. Evergreen plants create an ordered border across the entire slope that feels natural and comforting to those viewing it.
A series of small ponds connected via waterfalls and a few scattered garden statues provide an elegant, whimsical effect on this hillside.
Low-maintenance Plants For A Hillside Garden
Hillside gardens often struggle with runoff, and this can create problems for the driveway. Choosing plants that will anchor in places, such as shrubs, ornamental grasses, and prairie plants like coneflower may help mitigate these problems.
Planting all of these plants (many of which retain soil and offer winter interest) requires minimal maintenance during the growing season. They can even be left standing for additional landscaping later.
Covering Ground On A Hillside
For a gentle transition between an open lawn and a wooded area, try groundcovers that naturalize the difference in slope. The soil at this level drains quickly, so think of it as a rocky garden with plants such as creeping phlox, alpines, perennial geraniums, and tiny bellflowers.
To keep the dark and cool feel of a woodland, try using flowers with white and soft pastels. If you want colors in your yard later in the season, many varieties include variegated leaves that offer different colors over time, like this garden from State by State Gardening.
A Four-Season Hillside Garden
When you have a view of your house framed by a sloped yard, colorfully investing in shrubs will maintain attractiveness throughout most of the year. While this requires very little maintenance or labor from homeowners, it provides tons of value.
Spring is the best time for hillside pruning to keep a healthy look throughout the year. Also, shrubs can be planted to control erosion, and summer plants such as Summersweet, California Lilac, and Prostrate Rosemary are excellent choices.
Landscaping A Fruit Garden
Having a fruit garden is a fantastic hillside landscaping idea. It needs watering, but even better if that slope faces southward so it can get direct sunlight. Level out the ground and terrace to make sure each line of plants has enough water flowing through at all times.
Plant some flowers on the hillside to add a beautiful scene to your fruit garden. It is an aesthetically appealing way to transform an otherwise barren landscape. When it’s time, you can harvest the entire crop and turn your attention elsewhere.
A Natural Hillside Rock Garden
One drawback of landscaping a sloping lawn is that it may be difficult to get plants established. Plants need water to become established, but watering a barren slope could invite runoff down the hill.
If you will not level the hillside and create flat areas for planting, large rocks or boulders can anchor the soil while plants take hold.
Improving your hillside landscape is possible. For example, this gardener managed to make the rocks appear natural by allowing them to tumble and fall where they may. As plants grow in, it looks as though the whole garden evolved independently with minimal weeding or maintenance involved in the early years.
Sloped Yard With Waterfall
Check out one of these hillside landscaping ideas; adding a waterfall to your backyard. They sound beautiful and would be an awesome addition to any yard, especially when dealing with a sloping environment.
The sound of flowing water is calming and can be an excellent complement to outdoor living. Add lively nighttime lights to the river for a beautiful look at any time of day.
Ground-Covering With Rocks
Covering the ground layer with stones will change the mood of the garden. It is a great treatment for a gentle slope or berm. The color transition between the arrangement of rocks looks like colorful matting.
Gardening A Yard Sloping Down The Road
While a house on the side of a hill is usually advantageous because it offers scenic views, this, unfortunately, means that your yard slopes down into the street. In that case, you should opt for plants that grow slowly and require low maintenance, such as wildflowers.
Evergreen plants would be a good idea. They look lovely by themselves, and they don’t require frequent upkeep. If you don’t want to cover the view with large-growing plants completely, consider using only low-growing perennials for the front row.
Using Stairs For Steep Slopes
If your yard has a steep slope, have stairs installed to make movement safer and more convenient. There are many types of staircases that you can use, including stone, wood, and steel.
Stone stairs are probably your best bet due to the resilience of this material. You might also want to consider taking extra care of the sides of the stairs, which can aid in giving a more pleasing scene for your backyard.
Hillside Landscaping Ideas And Tips
If your yard has a sloped landscape, there are specific ways of dealing with the unevenness and make an amazing backyard. These tips don’t rely on budget nor maintenance but instead, provide general guidelines for hillside landscaping.
The First Thing Is Create A Vision
The first step of a successful hillside landscaping process is envisioning the project. Consider what you want it to look like before beginning the task in earnest. The steps outlined below will help address various problems that hillside projects often face, so be sure to read them through carefully!
If you have any artistic ability, sketch what the garden will look like. Otherwise, just envisioning your dream yard is enough to know where to start.
Level The Ground With Retaining Walls
One of the best ways to level out a slope is by using retaining walls. You can line them with flowers and plants at the edge or create a series of steps that would make for an excellent hillside garden.
There are many different ways to create retaining walls, which can be one foot or up to three feet high. Wider constructions over six feet tall should only be attempted by skilled professionals.
Add Gravel With A Border
Gravel is essential for hillside landscaping. It can be spread over the bottom of the hill, planted around its perimeter, or used as a flower bed. But no matter what you do with your gravel, you’ll need to make certain it has a border.
Like the time you made a pea gravel patio, you need to have something in place to prevent the gravel from falling on your landscaping and messing up your hard work. You can spend some time digging down or put outside wood around the area for an instant border.
Work With Your Climate
The most important factor to take into consideration is plant selection. Planting plants that only look good one or two months out of the year can ruin a sloped yard’s landscaping effect.
Your climate will determine the kinds of plants that work best on your hillside. Plants for cold climates are evergreens, and those in warmer climates can be perennials or annuals. Check with regional gardening organizations for more information.
Make A Path
You can create a pathway with gravel or stones in your hillside to effectively tie together the whole scene. It will provide an identifiable path people can walk on. Begin at the bottom and work your way up.
Gravel is usually cheaper than stone, but it’s not the only affordable option. For a less expensive and more practical path for dirt, you can opt for dirt without plants. Wooden paths are also an option that packs a big punch at a higher price because of their awe-inspiring character.
Build Stairs Over The Paths
To minimize the risk of injury and soil erosion, stairs are the best choice for landscaping a sloped area. Stairs are usually safer and more practical than footpaths in this case because people will not be slipping down or disturbing below-ground surfaces when using steps as their route up the hillside.
They are more expensive than traditional pathways and often fail to mimic natural landforms accurately. However, if you sink the stones into the ground, it’s possible to make them appear as though they exist in nature.
Hillside Erosion Control Plants
Plants work well in addition to or instead of the anchoring methods listed above. But remember that seeds can wash away before the plants you want them to grow in new areas become established. In more steep areas, it’s best if you start with seedlings for a greater chance of stability.
Wildflowers and other native plants are generally more adept at adapting to hillsides, which often have poor soil conditions. Groundcovers and creeping shrubs spread quickly and widely to maintain the ground’s stability in both heavily rain-soaked or arid landscapes.
When setting up a hillside garden, choose perennials over annuals, as they develop stronger root systems. Perennial plant choices for erosion control include:
This is a native shrub that prefers shade most of the day.
For humid, shady slopes.
These plants produce a bright carpet of flowers in the spring.
These plants are popular evergreen border plants.
Shorter sun-loving evergreen shrub.
A tall plant with red flowers that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
is drought- and shade-tolerant.
A little Bluestem
is a form of prairie grass that is attractive.
included among plants that are hardy, tolerant of shade, and easy to divide
A type of plant that is a quick-growing vine, and its leaves turn red in fall.
When planting or cultivating plants for your hillside garden, avoid invasive species. These plants can crowd out other species and take over the environment.
What Can We Grow In A Hillside Vegetable Garden?
Yes, vegetables can be grown on a slope. While working with gradual inclines may mean managing the garden bed naturally over the slope’s contour, hillsides will require raised beds or even terraces to prevent erosion.
Utilizing the right type of bed is key to making a hillside vegetable garden successful. Known for their resilience, leafy vegetables like spinach and chard grow best on pitches that face north.
A benefit of south-facing slopes is that they generally receive more sunlight and will often be warmer, making them ideal for a crop like corn. Keep in mind that its cooler air may collect at the base where, specifically if it’s on this type of slope, cool-season vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc., will grow better.
These are some ideas of how to landscape a hill. Even with the risk of runoff, there are still ways you can solve it. The key is choosing plants that anchor well into the ground or adding rocks on your hillside. Hillside landscaping may be less worrying if you know what to do!