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Popular California Landscape Design Features

Every backyard looks different. Depending on climate, lifestyle, and environment, different homes will prefer different outdoor living space styles. Trends in outdoor landscape design are largely influenced by region. In California, some landscape design features are far more popular than others. From planting trends to pools and lighting, here are some of the most popular California landscape design trends.

Low Water (Drought Friendly) Plantings

California is in an epic drought. While things have not always been quite this dry, the region is known for its progressively drier and drier climate. Climate-conscious homeowners have taken notice. While native plantings are an environmentally friendly choice in every part of the country, they become more important in the face of climate change.

Low water, drought friendly planting plans have taken the forefront in California landscape design. Driven by both Earth-aware homeowners and pure necessity. As water levels continue to drop and water conservation becomes imperative, drought-resistant planting plans are simply more practical solutions for homeowners who don’t want a dust bowl for a front or backyard.

Plants such as Hummingbird and White Sage, California Buckwheat, geranium, rosemary, and more are all fragrant, colorful options for homeowners. If you’re looking to plant trees, opt for options such as fruitless olive trees,

Artificial Turf

In line with the drought resistant plantings, another avenue many homeowners are exploring in light of the drought is artificial turf. Fake houseplants have been popular solutions for those without a greenthumb for decades. Known for their ability to look great with no care at all, fake greenery has always had a place in indoor design. However, in areas of the country where water is scarce, like California, artificial plants have become popular in the form of artificial turf.

Among the many California landscape design trends that are popular today, artificial turf is among the most divisive. Some people think fake grass is a cheap solution that is not as environmentally friendly as is advertised. After all, laying down plastic in your yard doesn’t sound eco-friendly. However, as watering lawns becomes more and more of a burden on the already low California water supplies, artificial turf no longer seems like a crazy idea.

Many artificial turf options on the market today are lightyears better than their predecessors. Still, homeowners should keep in mind many of the significant drawbacks to a fake lawn. Among common complaints is artificial turf’s durability, drainage issues, and issues with discomfort underfoot. To make the most of a fake lawn, talk to a landscape designer or contractor you trust for recommendations on if turf is the right fit for you.

Citrus Trees

When you think of citrus trees, what state comes to mind? If you said Florida, you’re probably not alone. The sunshine state has been famous for their orange trees for as long as we can remember. But would it surprise anyone to know that California actually grows the most citrus fruit in the US? In fact, as recently as 2021, reports have shown that California tops Florida in orange production as well. So when it comes to popular California landscape design trends, citrus trees are near the top of the list.

If you could grow your own oranges, lemons, or grapefruit, why wouldn’t you? This is the mindset for many California homeowners while designing their outdoor living space. Fruit trees, especially citrus trees, are becoming increasingly popular in residential yards.

Among the many options for citrus trees, Californians looking to grow their own should investigate varieties such as the White Grapefruit, Improved Meyer Lemon, and Washington Navel Orange.

Custom Pools

There’s nothing more “California” than a swimming pool. In sunny, southern California, you often use a backyard swimming pool year round. People continue to upgrade their outdoor spaces, including their swimming pools. Custom pools are a California landscape design trend that have only continued to grow. In recent years, the boundaries of what a custom pool can look like have expanded dramatically. 

Whether you’re looking to install an infinity pool to enjoy your view, looking into a perimeter overflow design, or eager to tan on your very own baja shelf, there’s a custom pool design that will fit the bill. Homeowners should remember, however, that a custom pool does not come cheap.

In order to understand whether or not you have the budget to complete your dream pool, reach out to landscape design or a pool contractor that you trust. Not all companies are created equal. Unfortunately, a deal that seems too good to be true probably is. Scheduling a consultation with a landscape designer can help you estimate how much a custom pool will cost you.

Sunken Fire Pit


The next popular California landscape design trend we want to cover today is sunken fire pits. Fire pits are extremely popular in outdoor living spaces. This makes sense. There’s nothing better than gathering around a fire on a cool evening, roasting marshmallows, and watching the fire burn. But as years have gone on what started as a basic fire pit has evolved into many different takes on the classic feature.

Sunken fire pits are just like they sound. Instead of keeping the fire pit or feature level with the rest of the decking, designers carve out a space in the patio, creating a cozy “conversation pit” feel. Reminiscent of conversation pit living rooms, this is a retro idea with a modern take. Not only does sinking the fire pit create separation from the rest of the space, but it takes any basic design and kicks it up a notch. 

We think the sunken fire pit will continue to be a trend in California and the rest of the country for a while as we continue to bring the coziness of indoor living into our own backyards.

Outdoor Lighting

Last but not least on our list of popular California landscape design features is outdoor lighting. We know what you’re thinking–hasn’t outdoor lighting always been popular? Yes, it has. However, while past iteration of outdoor lighting has been excessively focused on practicality and safety, modern interpretations have left room for some more interesting aesthetic choices.

Today’s outdoor lighting is not limited in the way that past incandescent lighting plans have been. Advancements in LED bulbs have made it possible to create lighting that is not only incredibly custom, but also energy efficient. Today’s homeowners can create “mood lighting” in their outdoor space that far exceeds anything that was possible even ten years ago.

From remote control lights that you activate from your smartphone, recessed pergola lights, to pool lighting that changes color depending on your mood, if you can dream it, you can pretty much install it. To know what lighting changes are possible in your backyard living space, talk to a designer. Not all homes can support the same lighting plans, and the most custom options available may become pricey. To find out what outdoor lighting plans fit your budget, consult a professional landscape designer.

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