Garden Design Mistakes To Avoid: Expert Tips For A Flawless Outdoor Space

I have a confession: I am terrible at shopping. I’m always looking for the perfect pair of shoes but never find them, and I can’t get out of my house without at least three pairs on my feet. When it comes to gardening, though, I’ve got no problem making multiple trips to the store or digging through piles of dirt in search of just the right plant. 

There’s something about a garden that makes me feel relaxed and inspired; it’s like therapy without any awkward silences or eye contact!

5 top garden design tips – and 2 mistakes to avoid
Overplanting can lead to a cluttered and unbalanced garden.
Neglecting soil quality can result in poor plant growth and health.
Choosing the wrong plants for your region or type of garden can lead to mediocre results.
Ignoring the natural flow and shape of your outdoor space can make it feel awkward and uninviting.
Failing to create a focal point or design feature can result in a bland and unremarkable garden.
Not considering the effect of light and shade can limit the potential of your garden design.
Avoiding these mistakes can help you achieve a flawlessly designed and enjoyable outdoor space.

Choosing the Wrong Location

When it comes to plant selection, you should always keep the location of your garden in mind. You may have heard the term “north-facing” or “east-facing” when it comes to house placement, but this same principle applies for gardens.

Plants need to be in the right place for sun and shade:

Plants can’t grow without sunlight! Sun-loving plants need direct sunlight throughout most of the day. If you don’t get enough sun in your yard, they will struggle to survive or thrive as well as they could with more light exposure (and vice versa).

Shade-loving plants need dappled sunlight or partial shade throughout most of their growing period. These types of plants will grow best if planted under trees or shrubs that provide some sort of protection from strong direct rays from above (like a tree canopy).

It’s important to make outdoor spaces as eco-friendly as possible, especially with the increasing concern for the environment. Check out our article on How to Create a Beautiful Eco-Friendly Outdoor Space to learn how to make your outdoor space sustainable and beautiful at the same time.

Not Wearing The Right Shoes

Shoes are a must in the garden. They’re the first thing you put on in the morning and the last thing you take off at night, so it helps to choose a pair that is comfortable, functional and durable.

Two things to keep in mind when buying garden shoes:

Comfort – You want your feet to feel supported but not squeezed or pinched. There should be enough room for your toes to wiggle around and stretch out as needed during long days of weeding and planting.

 Make sure they aren’t too tight across the top of the foot; this can cause blisters between your toes if left unchecked!

Protection – Your feet need protection from sharp objects like rocks or glass shards (and there are plenty of those hiding out among all those plants). Thick soles provide cushioning against these hazards while also preventing slipping when walking over wet surfaces like mud or wet grass/garden beds

Using Inappropriate Plants

Drought-tolerant plants are great for desert gardens, but not for areas with moderate rainfall. They’ll look like they’re wilting and in need of more water than they actually need, making them a decorative dead giveaway.

Shade-loving plants will fare poorly in the bright sunlight of an open garden space. If you have a large tree or several trees shading your outdoor area, be sure to choose shade-loving plants that will thrive under the conditions where they’re planted.

Native plants are native to your area—not just local! If you live in an arid climate, don’t plant tropical fruit trees; instead, go with citrus trees or other types of fruit that grow well in dry conditions.

Invasive species can wreak havoc on native ecosystems by choking out other flora through overgrowth and naturalizing themselves within existing ecosystems (meaning they’ll take over any land they want). 

These types of invasive species should never be cultivated purposefully because their spread could seriously harm an ecosystem’s health as well as cause problems for humans who live nearby due to increased allergies caused by pollen counts rising year after year due to these new plant life forms taking over more territory than was originally intended when first introduced into environments around them!

Ornamental grasses make beautiful additions where there’s room outside each springtime until fall comes around again later that same year; however if grown indoors during winter months without proper care taken beforehand then chances are good your lucky bamboo may die before spring arrives again next year–so only use indoors if necessary!”

If you’re looking to renovate your outdoor space, there are a few things to keep in mind. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Landscape Renovation: What You Need to Know for expert tips on landscape renovation, from design to implementation.

Neglecting To Weed & Water

Weeding is a good thing, and so is watering! This may seem obvious, but if you don’t weed your garden, it will slowly become overrun with weeds and then your garden will look messy. 

You should weed at least once a week to keep things looking nice and tidy. Similarly, if you don’t give your plants enough water (or get the temperature wrong), they won’t grow very well at all! 

So since weeding and watering are both necessary for maintaining a healthy garden…why not do them together? If you can fit some time into each week that’s devoted purely toward tending to your outdoor space, then there’s no better way to spend it than by making sure everything looks its best.

WeedingRemoving unwanted plants promotes plant growth and eliminates competition for water and nutrients.
WateringProviding adequate amount of water helps plants grow healthy and strong, and improves overall plant productivity.
Irrigation SystemsDrip irrigation can be the most efficient and water-saving method for delivering water to plants.
Smart SensorsSmart sensors like Rachio’s Wireless Flow Meter can help monitor water usage and automatically adjust watering schedules based on water usage and soil moisture.
MulchingMulching is a great way to keep garden soil moist and suppress weed growth.

Spacing Focal Points Too Close Together

If you’re building a garden, it’s important to leave room between your focal points so that they don’t get lost in the scenery. 

If they’re too close together or all on the same level, it will feel like a mini-maze instead of an outdoor space. This can also create confusion for guests who may not know which way to turn next!

  • Not enough space between them:

The focal point should be able to stand out from its surroundings and draw attention away from other parts of the garden if needed, but it shouldn’t take up all the room either, especially if there are multiple focal points within proximity. 

Make sure there is enough space around each one so that people can enjoy their surroundings without feeling confined.

Choosing the right plants for your yard is crucial to making it beautiful and flourishing. Our experts have put together some of the best tips in Expert Tips for Choosing the Right Landscaping Plants for Your Yard to help you make the right choices for your outdoor space.

Not Considering The Height Of Your Plants

When planning your garden, consider the height of your plants. “If you have a plant that’s low-growing and another one that’s tall, they’re going to compete,” says Gertsch. “You don’t want to have them right next to each other.”

Instead, she suggests planting in layers. That way, everything has its own space in which it can grow at its own pace without stepping on other plants’ toes or being stepped upon by others!

“The most common mistake I see people make is not using the right plant for the right spot,” says Gertsch. 

If you want your garden to look lush and lovely year after year (and who doesn’t?), make sure every plant has enough room so it can thrive rather than wilt away from neglect or suffocate under too much competition from neighboring flora.

Not Planning Proper Drainage

While it’s not the sexiest part of any garden, drainage is critical to a healthy outdoor space. Waterlogged soil can drown roots and suffocate plants. 

It’s easy to plan for natural drainage in your yard simply put in a slope at least 1 inch per foot but if you’re looking for more precise results, consider adding gutters or downspouts to direct water away from your house.

If you’ve already begun landscaping and are noticing water pooling up near your foundation or seeping into the ground around the base of trees or shrubs, don’t worry: there are ways to fix this problem. 

If there isn’t enough slope where the runoff meets hard surfaces like concrete walkways or driveways (or if those surfaces dip into the ground), driving wooden stakes around their bases will help direct excess moisture away from them during heavy rains without requiring costly repairs later on down the line; just make sure they aren’t too close together as they could damage plant roots if they’re planted too closely together!

Designing your outdoor living area can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Check out our guide for 15 Secrets to Successfully Designing Your Outdoor Living Area to learn how to design a cozy and inviting living space that you’ll love spending time in.

Trying to Do the Whole Garden At Once

Planning is crucial for any project, but it’s especially important when you’re designing your garden from scratch. 

If you are working with a new home or property and want to build your garden from scratch, it’s critical that you plan things out beforehand so that everything comes together in the end. 

Otherwise, there is a good chance that not only will you make mistakes but also end up wasting money and time on things that may not work at all.

Prioritize Key AreasIdentify key areas of your garden, such as entryways, focal points, or gathering areas, and focus on designing those first.
Divide Your Garden into ZonesDivide your outdoor space into distinct zones or areas, such as vegetable gardens, seating areas, and play areas, and tackle them one at a time.
Use Containers for FlexibilityUse containers, such as those by Bloem or Terra Cotta, to create temporary or portable gardens that can be easily moved or adapted as your design plan evolves.
Take Time to PlanSpend time planning and researching different plant species, materials, and design options, writing down notes or creating sketches of your ideas.
Consider Hiring a ProfessionalIf you’re feeling overwhelmed or need expert guidance, consider hiring a professional garden designer or landscape architect to help you develop a phased design plan.

Not Taking Advantage Of Vertical Space Or Ground Covers

You don’t want your garden to look like an empty space. Ground covers are a great way to fill in any gaps and give your yard a lush feel. 

They can also add color and texture, create foundation beds for flowers, hide unsightly areas, and even create paths!

When planting ground covers consider these questions:

  • What is its appearance? Some plants spread out quickly while others remain smaller. Think about how much space you have to fill up so that it doesn’t become overgrown!
  • Is it hardy enough to withstand the weather conditions where you live? If not then do some research on which types will thrive there before putting them into your garden design plans.
Use Trellises and PostsUse structures like trellises, posts, and arches to support climbing plants, vines, and pollinators.
Install Wall PlantersUtilize empty walls and vertical surfaces with mounted planters, such as those from Woolly Pocket, for herbs and trailing flowers.
Grow Hanging BasketsTake advantage of vertical height with indoor and outdoor hanging baskets, great for flowers from brands like Bloem or herbs like AeroGarden.
Plant Edible Ground CoversPlant ground covers such as thyme, mint, and clover, which not only add greenery but also provide fresh herbs and pollination for bees and other insects.
Use Living WallsInstall a living wall, such as those by Floraframe, to create a vertical garden that can be a focal point and conversation starter.

Having a Lack of Texture and Color Variety in Your Garden

  • Texture

When it comes to texture, you want a mix of hard and soft elements. Hard materials include brick, stone or concrete; soft elements include things like grasses, mosses and ground covers. The more varied your texture is, the more depth your garden will have.

  • Color variety

Color is one of the most important aspects of any garden design! You want to aim for both contrast and harmony with your color choices in order for them to be effective — this means choosing plants with different hues from each other (and keeping them in separate areas), but also ones that blend together nicely into one cohesive look overall.

Lighting is key when it comes to creating a warm and inviting atmosphere in your outdoor space. However, there are common mistakes to avoid. Check out The Top 13 Landscape Lighting Mistakes to Avoid for expert tips on making the most out of your outdoor lighting and avoiding common mistakes.


We hope that this list of garden design mistakes has given you some insight into what not to do, and how to avoid them. Remember that your garden is a source of joy and relaxation, so make sure it’s done right!

Further Reading

10 Common Garden Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them: Houzz Ireland presents 10 common mistakes to avoid when designing your garden space, along with expert advice on how to correct or prevent them.

Garden Design Mistakes: PlantPlots discusses the most common mistakes that gardeners make and provides practical tips to avoid or fix them, such as overplanting, neglecting soil quality, and choosing the wrong plants.

Garden Design Dos and Don’ts: Homes & Gardens shares expert advice on what to do and what to avoid when designing your garden, from creating focal points to balancing colors and textures.


What are some common garden design mistakes?

Some common garden design mistakes include overplanting, neglecting soil quality, using too many garden ornaments or features, not taking into account the local climate, and not considering the natural flow of the space.

How can I improve the soil quality in my garden?

You can improve soil quality by adding organic matter such as compost, mulch, and manure. You can also use mineral-rich soil amendments like rock dust or seaweed, and avoid adding too much fertilizer or synthetic chemicals.

What are some ways to create a focal point in my garden?

Some ways to create a focal point in your garden include using a large plant or tree, placing a sculpture or water feature in a prominent spot, or creating a seating area with a unique view.

How can I balance colors and textures in my garden?

You can balance colors and textures by using contrasting or complementary colors in your plants, adding different shapes and textures to your foliage, and layering plants of different heights and sizes to create depth and interest.

What are some important factors to consider when designing a garden in my local climate?

Important factors to consider include the average annual temperature and precipitation, the soil type and quality, the amount of sunlight and shade, the topography and elevation, and the native or adapted plant species that thrive in your area.