22 Inspiring Garden Retaining Wall Ideas

Xeriscaping with white walls and white modern home

VJ Von Art / Unsplash

Retaining walls have both practical and design-related purposes in gardens. In sloping spaces, they play an important role to help prevent soil erosion and help make the space more functional. They're also perfect for use as a design element—many ways retaining walls add interest and cohesion to a landscape.

Depending on the retaining wall's material, height, and size calling in the pros to help with the job could be a smart move—especially if you are incorporating walls to help prevent erosion. You may also need to obtain a permit from your local government agency for walls above a certain height and specification.

Here are 22 garden retaining wall ideas to offer some inspiration.

  • 01 of 22

    Modern Poured Concrete Walls

    Garden with poured concrete retaining walls

    Greg & Lois Nunes / Unsplash

    The white poured concrete retaining walls give this modern garden a clean and light feel. Using them as easy-to-keep raised beds works well in this low-maintenance Mediterranean-inspired space. The drought-resistant palms and shrubs add color and interest.

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    Timber Retaining Walls

    Timber teracced retaining wall example

    Supreme Green Landscaping

    While stone or concrete are the most common construction materials for retaining walls, sometimes, as in this example from Supreme Green Landscaping, they can be constructed from timber.

    It's worth noting that timber walls will likely need replacing sooner than more durable stone varieties.

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  • 03 of 22

    Dry-Stack Walls

    Dry stacked retaining wall example

    Andover Landscape

    You don't need to use any mortar when building dry-stack retaining walls. They add visual interest, drain naturally, and are one of the easiest types to DIY build.

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  • 04 of 22

    Home Entry Retaining Walls

    House, retaining terraced wall and pool

    Kate Marker Interiors

    The stone retaining walls used in this garden have created terraced interest leading from the pool to the modern home's entry.

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  • 05 of 22

    Cottage-Style Garden Walls

    Flowering spring yard with pink magnolia tree

    Wonderlane / Unsplash

    It's common to use retaining walls to add texture and character in informal cottage-style gardens. Let the moss grow over the rustic stonework or create a living wall with hardy flowers growing from the cracks. Flower beds often sprawl over the edge of the walls in a riot of color. Here they complement the beautiful pink flowering magnolia tree.

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  • 06 of 22

    Retaining Walls in Xeriscaping

    Xeriscape landscape with Cacti in front of white modern Mediterranean home

    VJ Von Art / Unsplash

    Xeriscaping is a way to landscape a garden in regions that practice water conservation or are prone to drought. The plan typically avoids or minimizes lawns and uses a variety of drought-tolerant plants. The walls create additional interest in a simple design.

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  • 07 of 22

    Sunken Patio with Retaining Walls

    Sunken patio surrounding by retaining walls

    Melanie Rekola Landscape Design

    This sunken patio is surrounded by natural stone retaining walls to create a lush, hidden country garden feel. Once the retaining wall is done, you can even DIY a firepit.

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  • 08 of 22

    Multi-Tiered Design

    Multi-terraced garden with raised flower beds

    laughingmango / Getty Images

    If you have a large sloping garden, using tiered retaining walls to create multiple terraces can add interest and help to prevent erosion. This clever design has walls that also act as raised beds to add interest, make good use of the space, and keep the garden relatively low-maintenance. Shrubs and hedges smartly differentiate between the spaces.

    When a garden has multiple tiers, think carefully about the plants you choose and where you plant them. Position the taller plants at the back and be aware that the higher levels typically dry quicker. Placing moisture-loving plants in the lower terraces for better results.

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  • 09 of 22

    Terraced Flower Beds Soften the Pool Landscape

    Terraced flower beds above a pool and a gazebo-style shelter

    Melanie Rekola Landscape Design

    The natural stone steps and terraced retaining walls with a variety of flowers and shrubs soften the hardscape around this beautiful pool.

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  • 10 of 22

    Ornamental Grasses Take Centre Stage

    Ornamental grasses in retaining wall terraces

    Melanie Rekola Landscape Design

    These wide retaining walls are home to beautiful shrubs, flowers, and dramatic ornamental grasses for year-round interest and differing heights.

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    Cohesive and Functional

    Raised flower bed in front of grand home

    Doug Vos/ Unsplash

    Integrating the retaining wall into the stair design leading to the house's front door combines functional and design elements and gives a focus to the garden with the bright raised flower beds.

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  • 12 of 22

    Dramatic Terraced Retaining Walls

    Multi-terraced, tall garden

    Ash Ashley / Unsplash

    This elevated house has a very steep, sloping garden with limited horizontal space. The multi-terraced space uses retaining walls and a mix of shrubs and flowers to create a dramatic but functional space.

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  • 13 of 22

    Create Cohesion With Other Garden Elements

    Stone built fire pit and pizza oven with matching retaining wall

    oneillbro / Getty Images

    The stonework on the retaining walls is purposefully matched with the impressive pizza oven and firepit in this garden, giving it a cohesive appearance. The wall also helps retain the fire's heat, creating a cozier space for outdoor dining and socializing.

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  • 14 of 22

    Integrating Existing Landscape Elements

    Modern architecturally designed home with a retaining wall contained front lawn

    R ARCHITECTURE / Unsplash

    This distinctive house and its surrounding outside space were designed to fit around the old, large gum tree already in the landscape. The retaining walls prevent soil erosion and offer a degree of privacy to the rooms on the house's lower floor.

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  • 15 of 22

    Style That Matches The House Design

    Grand house with a retaining wall below the front porch

    J. Remus / Unsplash

    The gray retaining wall built at the front of this grand, imposing house matches the paintwork and accommodates shrubs to soften the hard lines around the property's entry. It also creates a buffer between the sidewalk and the home.

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  • 16 of 22

    Curved Appeal

    Landscaped garden with curved retaining wall and Phoenix Saguaro Cactus

    TriggerPhoto / Getty Images

    This curved retaining wall adds elegance and structure to a large, uniform landscape. Keeping the wall's design simple and low draws attention to the large Saguaro Cacti in this drought-resistant design.

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  • 17 of 22

    Create a Vegetable Garden

    Large vegetable plot with a low retaining wall around it

    Tayla Kohler / Unsplash

    The low retaining wall around the entire perimeter of this vegetable garden creates a large raised bed. This allows greater control of soil, more veggies in one space, and better drainage.

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  • 18 of 22

    Integrated Water Features

    Beautiful landscaping with waterfall, koi pond, and stone patio with wooded surroundings

    Tim Abramowitz / Getty Images

    This sloping garden has cleverly integrated a pretty cascading waterfall and pond as part of the retaining wall design. This leads into a functional patio area for dining with matching the stone for a cohesive look. Integrating an elaborate water feature like this usually requires the help of professionals.

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  • 19 of 22

    Poolside Walls for Shade and Privacy

    kate marker interiors pool retaining wall

    Kate Marker Interiors

    The white retaining walls used around this pool create a feeling of privacy, offer shelter from the wind and sun, and make the surrounding landscape more visually appealing by providing an accent. It is the perfect way to create usable space from the sloping area descending to a pool.

    Carefully select any plants you use in retaining wall beds to be sure they are suitable for use around your pool. You don't want anything messy that will leave lots of debris in your pool. Plus, they should be ones that can cope with sun and humidity levels.

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    Retaining Wall Around a Pond

    Retaining wall used to enclose a garden pond

    Stephen Barnes / Getty Images

    If you want your garden pond to be a particularly eye-catching feature, you could build a retaining wall around it. It can also be helpful for safety and to prevent the sides of the pond from eroding.

    If you are building the pond wall yourself, be aware that loose, natural stones are difficult to stack, and the wall shouldn't be too high making pond maintenance more of a challenge.

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    Poolside Interest

    Ornamental grasses in retaining wall beds beside house and pool

    Melanie Rekola Landscape Design

    This is another example of multi-height retaining walls being used to create interest and soften the landscape around a pool. Here the low-maintenance beds are filled with ornamental grasses of differing heights.

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    Intricate Stonework

    Natural stone steps and retaining wall, planter and garden border framing home entrance

    jirivondrous / Getty Images

    The intricate, mixed-color stonework is an eye-catching feature in this classic multi-tiered garden. The shrubs, roses, and other flowers fit with this traditional style and let the showy stonework shine through.