How to Design Interior Courtyard Gardens


A courtyard is a small, secluded outdoor area accessed via the home. The courtyard has walls or fencing that ties it to the structure of the home and partial roofing. The design of an interior courtyard garden takes advantage of the enclosure to exhibit vertical plantings, group together large, potted plants and include sculptural elements for visual interest. With the right design, your courtyard garden will be an outdoor room used for relaxing, dining and entertaining.

Step 1

Determine the placement of your table and chairs within the space. For small courtyards, consider a bistro table with two chairs. For larger courtyards, consider a rectangular table with benches. Another option is to install a banquette, a cushioned bench attached to a wall, and place a low table in front of it.

Step 2

Choose one wall for your focal point. This wall is either the one opposite the entrance to the courtyard or, if installing a banquette, the wall opposite this.

Step 3

Determine whether you want a water fountain or sculpture placed on the wall. Choose a water fountain or similar water feature for a larger, more spacious courtyard. For smaller courtyards, a wall-hung sculpture adds dimension and interest without taking up precious square footage.

Step 4

Flank the water feature or sculpture with large potted plants that have good vertical growth habits. You want these two plants to create a framework for the focal point without overtaking it.

Step 5

Add groupings of potted plants to either side of the two plants flanking the focal point. A grouping is three to five containers with similar or the same plants. For example, a grouping may be three large containers of flowering plants and herbs. Use the same shape planters, but in varying colors and heights within each grouping.

Step 6

Choose one or two climbing vine plants for one of the other walls, but not the wall that has the entrance to the courtyard. These plants need to be trained to climb the walls and if you have a pergola for your overhead, train them to continue onto the pergola. Grape vines are ideal for this.

Step 7

Place two potted trees against the wall opposite the climbing vines. Surround the potted trees with additional container groupings.

Step 8

Place a sculptural element on the fourth wall should you have your table and chairs placed in the middle of the space. This fourth wall may be the location of your entrance. If so, hang small sculptural elements to either side of the door and place potted topiaries beneath the sculptures so they flank the doorway.

Step 9

Choose colors for the containers and flowers that reflect the color scheme in your interior rooms. For the sculptures and water fountain or feature, choose a style that suits the exterior architecture of your home. To prevent the sense of being encircled by plant life, allow for 2 to 3 feet between groupings.

Things You'll Need

  • Water feature
  • Sculptures
  • Containers
  • Plants


  • Do It

Who Can Help

  • Plants for Container Gardening
Keywords: courtyard garden design, elements of courtyard garden, design for an interior courtyard garden

About this Author

Shelly McRae is a freelance writer residing in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned an associate degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. McRae has written articles for multiple websites, drawing on her experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.