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6 Shady Backyard Landscape Ideas

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Does your backyard need a little TLC? Maybe you’ve recently purchased a home and the previous owner wasn’t much of a landscaper, or perhaps you just can’t find any good ideas for landscaping your shady backyard. Or, maybe you’re tired of the sun beating down on you all day and you’re looking for a shady backyard escape. 

Whatever the reason, fortunately, there are many options for adding a little shady space to your backyard. We’ve rounded up six shady backyard landscape ideas that you can add to nearly any backyard.

1. Plant Trees or Tall Shrubs

tree shade for backyard

Depending on your space, one of the best (or at least most appealing) ways to add shade to your backyard is to plant trees or tall shrubs in the best locations. Especially if you’re looking to escape to a backyard oasis, decorating with relaxing greenery very well might be the scenery you’re looking for. These are just a few cheap landscape ideas for your backyard.

Advantages: As long as your space allows for it, you have complete control of how you can apply shade based on the strategic positioning of plants. Plus, an all-natural addition is incredibly appealing to both the eye and the soul.

Disadvantages: The layout of your backyard may not allow for you to plant trees or shrubs exactly where or how you want them, depending on soil and other features. Plus, depending on your budget and landscaping capabilities, it could take a few years to achieve your desired results.

Tip: Bring photos of your backyard to your local nursery! Generally, knowledgeable staff can help make recommendations for the best trees to suit your needs and for the best success. Depending on your budget, you may be able to start with larger trees to offer more shade right away.

Strategically Arrange Potted Trees or Shrubs

potted trees in yard

Maybe your backyard layout doesn’t allow for you to plant directly in the ground, or you have a very specific space you want shaded. If this is your case, you can always plant some trees directly in (often very large) pots and arrange them just where you want them.

Advantages: This allows you to place your trees and tall shrubs exactly where you want them. Plus, you have room for trial and error as you can rearrange the pots if they’re not perfectly situated, an option that’s not nearly as easy if you plant directly in the ground.

Disadvantages: Relying on pots may limit your shade capabilities due to having to finagle the pots. Plus, these large pots may require a sturdy foundation, which may not work on every surface.

Tip: If you go this route, be sure to choose plants that will do well in pots. That’s not the case with every tree or shrub, and you don’t want to have to repot or end up with a plant that just won’t flourish like you need it to.

Construct a Pergola

pergola for shade

If you’re looking for shade in a very specific area of your backyard, a pergola is an excellent option. Especially if you’re looking to arrange an area for relaxation for yourself or for a group, staging the area with a pergola is a great choice.

Advantages: Once again, you can have complete control over the shady spot you’re hoping to achieve. Plus, pergolas allow for customization to make it a unique statement piece in your yard. You can truly have fun with it! Plus, you have options as to how “open” or “closed” you want to make the roof.

Disadvantages: Constructing a pergola certainly comes with a cost. If you’re looking to reap the benefits of your labor for as long as possible, you’ll want to purchase premium wood to survive outdoor conditions. Plus, you’ll need some tools if you don’t already have them in your toolbox, which will also come with a price tag.

Tip: Many online sites and DIYers offer up free plans. Or you can buy plans cheaply. There’s no need to start designing from scratch! Do a little research and find some plans you like. For example, check out Etsy if you’re willing to spend a few bucks.

Add a Sunshade

sun shade

A slightly less-involved version of a pergola is a sunshade, which has grown in popularity over the past decade. Like a gazebo, a sunshade affixes to some set fixtures and offers shade from above. 

Advantages: If constructing a full gazebo is a little overwhelming, a sunshade has a much easier barrier for entry. It’s possible you can affix the fabric to fixtures already in your yard (or even to your roof or side of your house for some of the points), or at most you’ll just need to erect a few sturdy pillars. 

Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive and come in all shapes and sizes to meet your needs.

Disadvantages: If you like in a windy area, a sunshade might not last. Or if you live in an area with lots of sap or falling grime, it could be difficult to keep clean.

We covered more shade sail ideas if you need them.

Hang Outdoor Curtains

outdoor curtains

Similar to a sunshade, there are a wide array of outdoor curtain options to add shade to your outdoor space. These generally work better paired with another element, like pillars or gazebos, though you can find different formats, like roll-up options or draped options that allow for a little more flexibility.

Advantages: Once again, outdoor curtains come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in different opacity options, allowing you to block more or less light, depending on your preferences. 

Disadvantages: Since they’re a little more rigid, you may have to find outdoor curtains to your exact dimensions, or have them made 

Add a Tiki Thatched Roof or (Tiki Bar!)

tiki roof

If you’re looking to add a little fun to your backyard, why not go all out and add a tiki thatched roof or even a full out tiki bar? If you like to entertain or just want to feel like you’re on a tropical beach all of the time, a tiki roof or tiki bar might be that focal point you’re looking for. Plus, it can double as an entertaining space!

Advantages: Adding a tiki bar not only adds shade to your backyard but doubles as a functional space for entertaining. 

Plus, you can go small or go big in both size and complexity. For a simple tiki roof or bar, you can go as stripped down as a few pillars with a tiki roof (you can purchase rolls of bamboo roofing here). Or, you can add fancy cabinets, cooking spaces, and stools and make it a much larger feature. A fun thing you can add to your tiki bar is tiki bar signs!

Disadvantages: Depending on your environment, a thatched bamboo roof could be a great choice or a poor choice for upkeep. 

Tip: This is a great option for upcycling some materials to create a truly unique space! You can find some old cabinetry or stools at a second-hand shop (just be sure to weatherproof them!). Or, start from scratch and build the tiki hut of your dreams.


No matter what route you go, adding a shady spot to your backyard will surely help create the backyard oasis you’re looking to achieve, or create that perfect spot for entertaining the masses. 

Have fun creating your one-of-a-kind space to express your creativity. Or, remember there’s no shame in using a template – someone’s already done the work for you!

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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