Water features can add major value to your backyard setup. From generating stress relief to adding a strong aesthetic vibe to the yard, water features come in a wide variety of sizes and types for anyone’s taste whether they prefer Eastern koi ponds or European fountains.
Below you’ll find a list of twenty different backyard water feature ideas you might consider adding to your landscape. From waterfalls and sconces to pools and ponds, there are water features to fit just about any yard.
Backyard fountains are one of the most traditional water features you can install in your yard. One of the major advantages of backyard fountains is that they come in several different styles and can accommodate a wide variety of budgets.
Backyard fountains can be installed for as low as $250 up to thousands of dollars depending on how intricate they are. (Source: Landscaping Network)
Fiberglass is a popular material used in backyard fountains since it is much lighter than traditional concrete, but it’s very strong and durable. Fiberglass can also be formed to imitate concrete or rock so that it has a more natural appearance.
- Pros: Moving water deters mosquitoes, traditional aesthetic, the sound of trickling water is pleasing to most people
- Cons: Installation can be expensive, fountains can be noisy, needs to be topped off
Spout Water Features
Spout water features give a backyard design a more vintage look and these elements can involve everything from cut bamboo to copper water pumps.
In many ways, a spout water feature is similar to a backyard fountain, only spouts tend to be scaled down in scope. The cost of their installation typically reflects this too, making a spout an economical option for adding running water to your backyard landscape.
A specific type of spout water feature used in backyard gardens is a bamboo spout known as a shishi-odoshi. These fountains are designed to make a knocking noise that drives deer, rabbits, and other wildlife out of your garden. This makes this water spout a good choice for gardeners who want a water feature that will help protect their vegetable garden too. (Source: Makezine)
- Pros: Versatile styles, good for smaller budgets, can help prevent wildlife damage to gardens
- Cons: Needs seasonal maintenance
Here’s a video explaining how these water features can work:
Bubbling rocks are a water feature where a hole is drilled in a stack of rocks and a pump is installed so that water continually bubbles up from the top of the stack and dribbles down the rockface.
Bubbling rocks are a great DIY project for novice backyard landscapers since only entry-level construction skills are needed to get a bubbling rock feature running. (Source: Grand River Stone)
Bubbling rock water features can be designed to emulate a natural rock tumble or a bubbling feature can be added to a more inorganic design such as a piece of garden sculpture.
Bubbling rock water features are usually designed to spill water onto a rock bed where it is collected and pumped back up through the stone.
- Pros: Large selection of decorative stones to choose from, quieter than a fountain, easy to match to existing landscaping design
- Cons: May become clogged easily, can look overly artificial if not well-designed
Koi ponds are a great way for people to add fish and aquatic plants to their backyard water feature. While koi can be somewhat expensive compared to other types of pond fish, they can form the perfect centerpiece for a backyard with an Asian garden.
While koi ponds can make a beautiful addition to the backyard landscape design, this type of water feature also comes with a lot of maintenance.
Adding plants and animals into a water feature design means incorporating different kinds of chemicals and maintenance practices than a simple fountain or spout feature.
Koi and other pond fish also get very large and require large ponds to thrive. A pond will need to hold more than two hundred and fifty gallons of water to support even just one or two koi. (Source: Hiner Outdoor Living) Koi can also serve as a vulnerable target for raptors, raccoons, and herons.
- Pros: Great Asian aesthetic, can add movement and color to the garden
- Cons: More difficult to maintain than water features without plants and animals, expensive to install, needs a large amount of water and space for installation
Here’s a cool video walk-through of a koi pond being built:
A waterwall is a more modern-looking water feature that includes water sheeting down a vertical flat sculpture designed to look like a wall.
Waterwalls are a great way to add interest to an outdoor privacy screen and can provide water sounds and movement without the noise and splashing of a traditional fountain. Waterwalls are often made out of reflective or textured surfaces to create a unique look. (Source: DigsDigs)
- Pros: Great focal point for outdoor lighting, a good way to liven up privacy screens or outdoor borders
- Cons: May clash with a more natural landscape design, the design causes large amounts of evaporation that requires the water feature to be refilled frequently if pondless
Natural waterfalls are a great way to add running water and aeration to a backyard pond, especially ponds that contain fish and plants. For suburban yards, a natural waterfall can help give the backyard more of a wilderness vibe that aids relaxation.
Fish and plants need high levels of oxygenation to thrive, which makes waterfalls a good addition to koi ponds.
The water circulation generated by a waterfall can also help deter the excess growth of algae in a backyard pond. Waterfalls must be designed carefully to avoid looking artificial. (Source: Mark the Pond Guy)
- Pros: Helps with pond maintenance, adds a natural look to landscape design, can be scaled easily in several sizes to fit multiple backyard layouts
- Cons: Can be difficult to construct for novice landscapers, expensive to install, requires a moderate amount of maintenance
A pondless waterfall is a water feature very similar to a natural waterfall except that the waterfall doesn’t empty into a pond.
Instead, a pondless waterfall empties into a water reservoir that is typically hidden in the water feature and recirculated back up through the pump into the waterfall to fall again.
A pondless waterfall can be a good option for areas that are prone to mosquitoes or other pests attracted by standing freshwater sources. The lack of a pond prevents stagnant water and can also help conserve water over time.
Pondless waterfalls can be a preferable waterfall feature in modern backyard designs versus more natural setups since they’re economical and don’t require marginal plants to look good. (Source: Aquascape Inc)
- Pros: Low maintenance, energy-efficient, no mosquitoes
- Cons: Not deep enough for fish or aquatic plants
Here’s a video tutorial showing how to install a backyard waterfall with a kit:
A rain curtain is a water feature that imitates the look of falling rain by dumping water vertically from a trough into a reservoir that recirculates the water back up into the curtain mechanism.
Rain curtains are a great way to add the sound of falling water to a backyard garden design without investing in a large waterfall. (Source: Fountain People)
Rain curtains are a great water feature to pair with outdoor lighting since the running water can refract light in beautiful patterns and reflections. Pairing rain curtains with color-changing LED lights can take your patio design to the next level.
- Pros: Modern aesthetic, a good match for patio designs
- Cons: Doesn’t fit well with a natural landscape design
Scuppers are water features that are usually incorporated into pools with multiple levels or sections. These water features can also be used to recirculate water back into a pool from the filtration system to form a series of fountains.
Like many falling water features, scuppers often feature incorporated lighting to help accentuate the aesthetic of the water as it falls.
One way to incorporate scuppers into a backyard water feature is to use them in the transition between a spa or hot tub area into a larger swimming pool.
An advantage of incorporating scuppers into your pool design is that the extra water circulation helps to keep the pool water sparkling clean. (Source: Pool Research)
- Pros: Adds movement to pools, increases water circulation
- Cons: Increases evaporation, require regular cleaning to avoid mold build-up
A sconce is similar to a backyard fountain except that it is designed to shoot a narrow stream of water into a pool or pond. Like scuppers, sconces are a good way to add increased circulation and aeration to your pool or pond, helping to keep the water reservoir clean. (Source: The Spruce)
The jets used in scounce setups can be prone to a build-up of mildew or mold. Care should be taken to keep sconces sanitized regularly to avoid this.
- Pros: Water jets can help keep water cool during the summer, can add decorative accents to the pool design
- Cons: Require additional maintenance to stay sanitary
When it comes to decorative water features in the backyard pool, it doesn’t get much fancier than Laminar jets. These decorative jets are the same water jets used in large resort fountains for special effects and lighted water shows. (Source: Shoreline Pools)
In home applications, Laminar jets are often combined with multicolored LED lights to form a miniaturized version of the same fountain light shows installed in public and resort fountains.
Laminar jets often come pre-programmed with a variety of different light and color patterns to add a moody vibe to any backyard water feature.
- Pros: Add equity to pool, top-of-the-line decorative element, enjoyable for kids
- Cons: Expensive installation and maintenance
Here’s a salesy video, but gives you a good idea of what laminar jets are:
Unlike bubbling rock water features, which usually have water slowly pulsing out of the top of the rock feature and down across its face, a bubbler water feature has a more forceful jet flow and pushes water upwards into a low stream before it splashes down over the rest of the water feature.
Bubblers are a hybrid of bubbling rocks and fountains.
- Pros: Easy to install and maintain, maintains water circulation to avoid stagnant water and mosquitoes
- Cons: Requires pump to operate, may become clogged with debris
Like backyard waterfalls, backyard creeks and streams are designed to mimic a natural water feature in suburbia.
Some backyard water features are designed as dry creeks unless filled by excess rain and runoff, while others are supplied with a water reservoir so that they feature running water year-round.
If designed carefully to avoid artifice, backyard streams can integrate many native plants or other garden elements to attract local wildlife and add a natural vibe to your backyard. (Source: Aqua Magazine)
- Pros: Uncommon unique water feature
- Cons: Expensive and complicated to install, may draw in nuisance animals like raccoons and possums, requires attention to detail to look natural
Birdbaths may be a small water feature compared to some, but these wildlife care stations provide endless hours of entertainment while watching your favorite feathered neighbors stopping by to get a drink or take a quick dip.
Birdbaths come in a wide variety of different designs and styles. These water features are made of many different materials. Fiberglass is a popular material to use in birdhouses since it can mimic natural stone or concrete but is much lighter than the real thing.
- Pros: Draws in and supports local songbirds and other wildlife, inexpensive setup
- Cons: May draw in flocks of pest birds such as European starlings and grackles
Here’s a nice video showing how birds use bird baths:
A swimming pool serves many different functions in a backyard landscaping design. It an attractive focal point for the yard and it’s an outlet for exercise and relaxation too.
Swimming pools come in either above ground and in-ground varieties, with the more expensive of the two being the concrete in-ground installation. (Source: My Move)
Pools can encompass several different designs and construction materials, with only a homeowner’s budget to limit the luxury involved. Pools can come in both heated and unheated varieties, and can also come in saltwater variations for less chemical maintenance.
- Pros: Added home value, recreational space, backyard focal point
- Cons: Significant maintenance and utilities, expensive installation for in-ground setups
Unlike natural waterfalls and most ponds, a reflecting pool is a backyard water feature that is designed to be as still as possible so that it creates a perfect reflection of the sky and landscape surrounding it.
Reflecting pools do not include elements that could introduce movement to the water such as plants, fish, or fountains.
Compared to other water features, reflecting pools can be relatively shallow while still providing a good reflection. However, the more shallow the reflecting pool, the higher the water temperature, and the more likely the pool is to cultivate mosquito populations.
Even though reflecting pools don’t usually include fountains, they often include filtration to keep the water clear. (Source: Gardening Know How)
- Pros: Suitable for modern or traditional landscaping designs, low maintenance
- Cons: Can become stagnant without filtration, must be maintained to skim away debris such as fallen leaves
A water garden involves a variety of plant life included in a traditional pond setting. Water gardens involve both plants on the surface of the water as well as marginal plants along the edges of the water feature.
Water gardens are often designed to emulate a natural pond and may or may not include other animal life such as fish and turtles. (Source: Gardener’s Supply Company)
A major advantage of water gardens is that they can easily be scaled to meet a gardener’s time and resources. A water garden can be as small as a half whiskey barrel with some aquatic plants or as large as a 250-gallon pond.
It all depends on how much the homeowner is willing to spend and how much time they want to dedicate to planning and executing the water feature.
- Pros: Adds natural beauty, a good hobby for homeowners who enjoy plants and animals
- Cons: Involves a lot of careful planning and maintenance, can become unkempt, stagnant, or overrun if neglected
This video shows some cool water gardens to help give you ideas:
A rain chain is a water feature that is small enough to fit into almost any backyard design. Typically these water features involve a chain being hung over a pot or other water reservoir while a pump directs water to run down over the chain.
This can cause the chain to sparkle and can act as an interesting focal point on the patio or in the garden.
Along with serving as an active water feature, rain chains can also be used to help divert rain into reservoirs such as rain barrels and away from the foundation of buildings.
In this way, rain chains can act to prevent water-based damage to buildings in the same way a downspout does. (Source: Gardenista)
- Pros: Have practical as well as decorative applications, inexpensive installation
- Cons: Less water capacity than downspouts, water can freeze on chains and stress roof eaves
A bee waterer is one of the smaller water features you can add to your backyard, but it’s also one of the more important ones you can add. Bee waterers are a great way to encourage beneficial pollinators to visit your backyard garden.
They’re also a good way to keep them out of larger bodies of water like pools and other water features. (Source: Intelligent Living)
Most bee waterers can be created by choosing a decorative dish of some kind, filling it with marbles or stones, and then filling it with water.
The marbles or stones serve as a way to prevent the bees from drowning in the waterer while also giving them a place to land and drink. Bee waterers are only effective if they’re kept full of freshwater, so they do require some light maintenance.
- Pros: Environmentally friendly, can be customized to add a personal decorative element, inexpensive setup
- Cons: May be dangerous if anyone in the household has bee allergies, can attract other insects such as aggressive wasps and hornets
If you’ve got a pool in your backyard, an outdoor shower is one of the more practical water features you can add.
An outdoor shower can be a good way to ensure that people rinse themselves off before entering the pool, and it can also help swimmers rinse chlorine and other pool chemicals off themselves when they’re done. (Source: Realtor)
- Pros: Adds to the value of a backyard pool, can serve as a storage area for pool floats and other pool acacessories during the off-season
- Cons: Exposed bathing, colder than a traditional shower, can create standing water around the pool area if not drained properly