Four Design Elements To Include In A Zen Garden In A Small Backyard

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Four Design Elements To Include In A Zen Garden In A Small Backyard

If you've recently decided that it's time to make your backyard into the Zen-like sanctuary you've been dreaming of for years, you're probably looking forward to relaxing in your own serene space. In recent years, the median square footage of backyards has been shrinking, making them an ideal environment for transforming into a Zen garden. The design should be simple, minimalistic, and symmetrical to create an optimal environment for contemplation, reflection, and meditation. 

Following are four landscape design elements to include in a small backyard Zen garden to pull together your peaceful vision.    

Natural Materials 

The following natural materials provide a foundation for backyard Zen gardens:

  • Rocks: Large and small rocks are used to create the landscape of the garden. These rocks can be arranged in a variety of ways, such as in a pile, a line, or a group, to create different visual effects.
  • Sand or gravel: These materials are often used to create the "sea" or "beach" in the garden. They are typically raked to create patterns that resemble waves or ripples.
  • Moss: Moss is often used to cover the ground between rocks and sand/gravel. It adds a natural, verdant quality to the garden.


Use lighting to create a sense of atmosphere and highlight different elements of the garden at night. Use low-level, subtle lighting that highlights certain features of the garden, such as rocks or sand patterns. This can be achieved by using small, low-voltage lights or LED lights that are hidden among the rocks or plants. Moonlighting is also a type of lighting that can be used in Zen gardens. This type of lighting is designed to mimic the soft, pale light of a full moon. It can be used to create a sense of calm and serenity in the garden.

Contemplation Spot

A designated seating area, like a bench or a small pagoda, can be used as a spot for contemplation and relaxation. For a minimalistic approach, you can simply place a few large, flat rocks or stones in the garden as seating where you can sit and enjoy the garden while being in close proximity to the natural elements.


Use a limited number of plants, carefully chosen for their texture, shape, and color to complement the garden design. Avoid anything messy or sloppy, such as plants that tend to drop leaves and/or fruit. Good choices include small shrubs such as Japanese maples or dwarf evergreens like miniature pine, spruce, or juniper would be appropriate choices. Bamboo is also a popular choice for a Zen garden. Ask a local landscape design specialist for more information on creating and maintaining your personal Zen paradise. 

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About Me

Tropical Truths: Tips For Creating Vibrant Landscapes Growing up in a tropical area, I saw a lot of green, vibrant plants and all kinds of tropical fruits. It led me to develop a real interest in creating backyard tropical fruit gardens and landscapes that really spoke to the warm weather and the tropical climate. I did a lot of research and talked with a few landscapers to find out the tips and tricks to getting things to grow and thrive. I created this site to help share what I have learned with others who want to create the same kind of tropical getaway in their own backyards.