Choosing a Water Feature for Your Landscape Design

Water features can turn a boring landscape design into an oasis retreat. Because the addition of such an element can be the biggest decision that you’ve ever made in regards to landscaping, take your time when planning a water feature installation so the finished project seamlessly blends into the surrounding elements.



Before installing a water feature into your landscaping, have a purpose for it. Do you want to drown out the noise of traffic? Perhaps you like the look of aquatic plants. Whatever the reason you have for wanting a water feature, make sure that it’s well thought out so your project stays on budget and maintains a unified theme in your landscape design.

Types of Water Features for Your Landscape Design

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There are several types of water features and elements that you can add. The following are among the most popular:

  • Containers: A container water feature can provide you with many color and size options at a very reasonable price.  Almost any container can be modified to become beautiful water feature.  Containers are great if your landscaping space is limited, but also work well in large spaces.
  • Waterfountains: There are an unlimited number of water fountain designs for ponds and water features. Moreover, the fountains don’t have to shoot water upward. The water can flow over or out of walls, out decorative faucets and even gently spill out of rocks.
  • Asian inspiration: Make a water feature the central attraction in a landscape design. Create a large pond in the center of your landscape and surround it with decks. Incorporate aquatic plants and large stepping stones to add interest.
  • Pondless Water Features: Imagine water that falls from boulders above on to river rock and disappears under the surface.  Pondless waterfalls are gaining in popularity not only for their dramatic looks, but also for their ease of maintenance.
  • Reflectionpools: Not all water features bubble or cascade. Some have seemingly still waters that reflect their surroundings, making them perfect for water lilies and other aquatic plants.
  • Intricately flowingfeatures: There is no rule that states that you have to seclude a water feature to the corner of your yard. If space allows, a water feature could begin with a fountain that spills over rocks, encircles a patio, flows beneath a short bridge and empties into a pond.
  • Pools and hot tubs: A water feature can be functional. Give a landscape design a touch of luxury with a place to take a dip.

Landscaping Space and Lot Considerations

A water feature can easily overpower a landscape design or become a mere afterthought. Choose a feature that’s large enough to enjoy, but gives you enough space to work in your garden and entertain your guests. Also, consider the slopes and bumps in your lot. Depending on the type of feature that you want, you may have to excavate, flatten or build up the land.

Plants and Decorative Items

Water features that have plants and fish in them are harder to maintain than those that do not. When planning your feature, determine the amount of time that you have to maintain it and the elements that you add. In some cases, you may benefit from hiring a landscape contractor and design expert to perform the necessary regular maintenance.


If you have children or know that children will visit your property regularly, design a water feature that’s safe for curious little ones. Take special care to make sure that you provide a gate or rail.  The other alternative is to make the collection pools shallow (less than 1 foot deep).

Water Feature Maintenance

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Regardless of the type of water feature that you have, maintenance is the key to keeping it pristine. The following are techniques that landscaping experts use to combat common maintenance issues:

  • Algae: A properly designed pond with the right plant material should not generate a lot of Algae.  If you do have algae, use a low impact algaecide to control the growth.  UV lights are also great options for controlling algae.
  • Foam: Use a hot tub de-foamer, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Winterization: Depending on your location, running water features year round is the best winterization option.  If your climate is extremely cold, you may need to drain and winterize it.  If you have any questions, consult your local contractor.
  • Evaporation: Evaporation is normal in a water feature. If necessary, use an auto-fill valve to keep the water level constant.
  • Pump cavitation: Your pump may cavitate if the water level gets too low or debris gets lodged in it.  Check the pump occasionally to make sure it sounds the same as when it was installed.
  • Fish-nappers: Raccoons and waterfowl are notorious for snatching expensive fish out of water features. Use a sheer net over the feature and keep the water clean using a filter to detract predators.  Another option is to provide rocks or deep pools to allow the fish to hide from their natural predators

Think of a water feature as miniature landscape and use it to mimic a natural scene.When you match the feature to the size of your available landscaping space, it will look like a natural element in your landscape design that’s easy on the eyes and brings years of enjoyment.

 Author Bio:Guest authored by Steve Stewart at Landscape East & West, Portland, Oregon’s award-winning landscape design experts. Visit to learn more about water feature design and maintenance, outdoor kitchen design, covered structures and more.

Erin Emanuel


  1. We are updating our backyard and I really want to add a water fountain. I’m thinking of going with a pondless water feature. I like that this is a safer option because there is no water for children or pets to fall in. the ease of maintenance will also be nice. Thanks for sharing all this information!

  2. Thanks for the tips on choosing a water feature. My wife and I are planning on redoing our backyard soon to make it more beautiful and easier to entertain guests in, but we haven’t been able to choose a water feature. I like that you mentioned to make sure you choose a water feature that has a gate or fence if you have kids around. That is something we will definitely have to take into account.

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    Thanks again for a great article!

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