If you want to turn your backyard garden into Mediterranean heaven, keep reading to discover more about this gardening style and how to create it.
From Mediterranean plants to design features, you’ve come to the right place if you wish to turn your garden into a Mediterranean piece of heaven, specific to the countryside in Italy, Greece or France. Don’t be surprised if, as soon as you are done, you will feel on cloud nine, as if you truly are on a terrace in one of these beautiful dreamlike Mediterranean countries with picturesque landscapes and views that take your breath away.
Indeed, this gardening style has the power to enchant you completely. And it isn’t surprising – Mediterranean gardens are incredibly famous worldwide for a reason: their power of seductiveness through plants of strong fragrance like lavender, citrus plants or olive trees that provide shade. So, wishing to create a Mediterranean garden of your own in your backyard or front yard is not surprising at all. Who wouldn’t want to have such a paradise surrounding their home?
Mediterranean gardens aren’t too high-maintenance. However, it is of the utmost importance to make sure all the plants included in this type of garden will have the conditions they need to thrive. But don’t worry, we are here to help. From knowing what kind of plants to include in a Mediterranean garden, how to plant them in order to maximize their growth and allow their best features to stand out to knowing all the design elements of Mediterranean aesthetics, you will be equipped with all the necessary information by the time you finish reading this article.
It is understandable you are impatient to create your Mediterranean paradise as quickly as possible. However, it is crucial to take all the time you need to assimilate the information, gather your tools, find your favourite plants, and purchase all the other elements specific to Mediterranean styles. You will soon see all the pieces coming together in a cohesive way, creating an aesthetic – and your Mediterranean garden from paradise – that will make you feel like you are in Italy or Greece.
In the following article, you will be able to acquire more knowledge on anything related to a Mediterranean aesthetic. So, keep reading to uncover interesting facts and learn how to create a garden that feels taken from the Mediterranean countryside.
Let’s start your journey together!
10 Plants That Create a Mediterranean Garden
To create a Mediterranean garden, you will need heat-loving plants tolerant to drought. If you think about Mediterranean countries, you think about Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, Spain, Monaco, Cyprus and many more. The Mediterranean climate is characterized by hot summers with dry air and cool winters. So, during the warm seasons, the temperatures can get relatively high. For this reason, you need plants that will thrive in such a climate.
The best zones for all-year growing when it comes to Mediterranean plants are 8 to 11. In colder climates, you can grow your Mediterranean plants in containers, as annuals, or you can opt for species that can survive the cold.
The following list features various plants, trees, and fragrant herbs that make a typical Mediterranean garden. To create the aesthetic accurately, an essential mention is to choose terra cotta pots, as these are a characteristic of this type of garden. Terracotta has a warm earthy shade and a tactile feel.
Coreopsis, commonly known in the gardening world as tickseed or basket of gold is an ideal plant to include in your Mediterranean garden. This flowering plant is sun-loving and grows best in sandy and well-drained soil. With its flowers blooming in various shades, from red, yellow and orange to pink and white, your garden will definitely look like a summer dream.
These flowers are really easy to grow and care for and all they need is full sun exposure, well-drained loamy or sandy soil, and some water every now and then. Once established Coreopsis plants become quite drought-tolerant, which is why they make perfect additions to gardens in warm climates. Learn more about growing and caring for these plants from our Complete Guide to Coreopsis.
Many Mediterranean gardens feature lavender. The intense fragrance is most potent in the warm air of hot seasons. The countryside of France is known for its lavender hills, so you really cannot go wrong by planting lavender in your garden. In the Mediterranean style, you will see a lot of fragrant herbs. So, in addition to planting lavender, you may also want to consider including rosemary and thyme.
These will look excellent near some citrus trees. By planting these versatile aromatics, you’ll soon have Mediterranean heaven in your backyard. You can also plant lavender in containers, so you don’t need to have a lot of space to enjoy its wonderful smell. In addition to its eye-catching foliage and blooms, lavender comes with numerous other benefits – it can be used to make lavender bags and potpourri, you can make tea, infusions, and tisanes, you can use it as a condiment for food, etc.
3. Olive Trees
Did you know that the olive tree is the oldest cultivated tree, dating all the way back to ancient Greece? Not only is this tree of a unique aesthetic with its green silver foliage and characteristic twisted trunks, but olive trees grow some of the most widely used and flavorful fruits.
So, it is a no-brainer. Having an olive tree in your garden will undoubtedly be the focal point as well as create the Mediterranean aesthetic immediately, being such a fundamental element of this type of garden. Olive trees require a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight per day and well-drained soil. These trees can’t tolerate heavy soils, so you need to choose their location based on this requirement.
If you live in a climate that isn’t very friendly towards olive trees, we have great news! You can grow olive trees in containers that you can move indoors during the cold months. In fact, a potted olive tree might even produce fruit if the growth conditions are suitable.
4. Citrus Trees
In addition to the beloved olive tree, you should also consider including a few citrus trees. When you think about orange or lemon trees, what comes to mind? Whether found in small towns in Greece or on the way to the beach in Mallorca, the Mediterranean climate and countries are an excellent environment for citrus trees. How wonderful would it be to go to your garden and pick an orange, lemon or grapefruit? Apart from being sustainable, it is also incredibly rewarding.
There are many citrus trees that you can grow outdoors, but also indoors in containers. In general, all types of citrus trees have similar environmental needs – full sun exposure, zero tolerance to frost, well-draining soil that is kept evenly moist, and fertilization. Some examples of the best citrus trees that you can grow are Moro blood orange, sweet orange trees, clementine mandarines, Owari Satsuma mandarins, and tangerine trees. Learn more about these exotic trees by reading our Lime Tree Guide, Orange Tree Guide, and Lemon Tree Guide.
5. Black Grapes
The black grape is native to the Mediterranean region. It is one of the most common and strong grapevines, known as Vitis vinifera or Common Grapes. The fruit is sweet and full of flavour, and it is widely used in the production of wine. The black grapes provide fragrance in your garden and a tasty and healthy snack for you and your family.
Grown on a vine, the Vitis vinifera would look amazing on a pergola. Black grapes are rich in antioxidants and have many health benefits, so having access to these amazing freshly-picked fruits will surely be extremely rewarding. There are thousands of varieties of black grapes that you can choose from, some being large, sweet and perfect to eat, others more suitable for making wines such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. It doesn’t really matter what type of grape vine you choose, the important part is to use it in a Mediterranean way, by letting it cover parts of your outdoor area in order to enjoy its shade.
6. Morning Glory
Ipomoea, commonly known in the gardening world as Morning Glory, this plant is another excellent choice for your pergola. You can train the plant’s vines and support them to climb up your pergola. An arch would look beautiful as well. The plant’s flowers come in a lot of vibrant colours, such as pink, magenta or violet-blue, and their shape resembles a trumpet. The morning glory plant will definitely liven your entire Mediterranean garden.
Not to mention that this stunning plant attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, so this will surely be a sight to see. These flowers thrive in sunny gardens and, once established, require little attention. If you want your garden to look perfect, you’ll probably have to do some pruning and trimming, as flowering vines such as these have a tendency to look a bit unkempt when left to their own devices. However, morning glory can hide any less attractive parts of your garden, so if you’re not happy with a wall, fence, or corner of the garden, you can use these plants to your advantage. Learn more about growing and caring for them by reading our Morning Glory Guide.
7. Italian Cypress Tree
Cupressus Sempervirens, commonly known as the Italian cypress tree, Tuscan cypress or Mediterranean cypress has become one of the symbols of Tuscany. For your Mediterranean garden, this should be an option to consider. However, it is of the utmost importance that these trees can grow really tall, as high as 40 to 70 feet (12 to 20 m).
Therefore, it is crucial to make sure you have enough space in your garden for the majestic Italian cypress tree. Apart from this, the Tuscan cypress needs hot and dry climates. Like all trees that thrive in Mediterranean environments, the Italian cypress tree will require full sun exposure to thrive. You won’t need to prune this tree, so if you have plenty of room for it in your garden, you won’t have to do much to keep it healthy and happy.
You can also grow this cypress tree in large containers that you can keep on a sunny patio and bring indoors during the cold winter months. It is important to mention that this won’t be an easy task, as these trees are quite big and will need regular repotting.
8. Bay Laurel
Laurus nobilis, better known by its common names bay laurel, Grecian laurel, sweet bay, true laurel, or simply laurel, is an aromatic evergreen shrub or tree, that grows natively in Mediterranean regions. You’ve probably used its aromatic foliage – bay leaf as a seasoning for cooking, but you might not know that growing this amazing plant isn’t very difficult.
The ideal growth environment for bay laurel is a sunny garden with fertile soil. In cooler regions, you can grow bay laurel in pots and bring it indoors over the cold winter months. Although it is a slow-growing tree, bay laurel can become an 8m tall tree, but you can keep it smaller through regular clipping and pruning. Bay laurel trees are sold in different shapes, so you can opt for a standard lollypop tree, a spiral stem tree, or a cone, and you can use it as an alternative to Buxus.
9. Common Fig
Ficus carica a.k.a the common fig is a staple Mediterranean fruit shrub that can be grown outdoors without much effort in environments that are similar to its natural habitat. Similarly to the olive tree, the fig tree is also one of the oldest trees to be cultivated by humans.
Thanks to their low-maintenance nature and delicious fruits, fig-trees became popular worldwide. The ideal environmental conditions for fig trees include sunny climates, rocky locations, porous soil with good drainage, and can thrive in poor soils and inhospitable environments. It is important to mention that the fig tree is a fast-growing tree with strong roots that spread quickly. A spacious garden is a must if you want to grow a common fig. You can grow a common fig in a container, but you will have to repot it every two years. Read our Common Fig Guide to learn more.
10. Cherry Laurel
Prunus Laurocerasus commonly referred to as cherry laurel, English laurel, or common laurel, is an attractive evergreen shrub that grows natively in many regions of southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, and is often found in gardens near the Black Sea. Perfect for temperate environments, these shrubs can be used as hedges, screening plants, and landscape plants. The best thing about cherry laurels is their tolerant nature – they don’t need much to thrive.
A cherry laurel will thrive in full sun or partial shade, won’t mind prolonged periods of drought, and won’t be picky about its soil. The ideal soil for cherry laurels is well-draining and nutrient-rich, and the shrub will benefit from occasional fertilizing. It is important to mention that the cherry laurel is not edible and it does not belong to the same plant family as bay laurel. In fact, cherry laurel is highly poisonous for humans and animals, so make sure you handle it with care. Learn our Guide to Cherry Laurel to learn more.
The plants mentioned above are quite low-maintenance and versatile and can help you start your Mediterranean garden. But if you love plants as much as we do, you are probably curious to learn what other plants are common in Mediterranean gardens around the world. If you’re dreaming to bring the charm of the rustic tavernas found on the hillsides of Greece into your own backyard, you might want to become more familiar with other Mediterranean plants.
Common Plants in Greek Gardens: oleanders, crape myrtle, juniper, greek oregano, rosemary, lavender, sage, euphorbia, bulb flowers, bougainvillaea, chamomile, Santolina, wild saffron crocus, honeysuckle, thyme, chives, parsley, strawberry tree, Tamarix, pelargonium, Greek peony, mount Juktas St. John’s wort, Olympus yarrow, poppies, ivy, jasmine, kumquat (Corfu), peach tree, cherry tree, mastic tree, roses, date palms, citrus trees.
Common Plants in Italian Gardens: rosemary, fennel, chives, basil, tansy, lavender, Thuja, boxwood, wall germander, clematis, Italian cypress, daphne, eucryphia, summer jasmine, holly, myrtle, bay tree, osmanthus, yew, star jasmine, laurustinus, hydrangeas, azaleas, rhododendrons, olive trees, oleanders, mastic, carob, Aleppo pine, citrus trees, viola, sea marigold, dianthus, irises.
Common Plants in Spanish Gardens: agapanthus, gladioli, irises, roses, anemones, dahlias, asters, clematis, buddleia, palms, geraniums, bougainvillaea, hibiscus, hypericum, kalanchoe, passiflora, plumbago, yucca, ficus, Aloe, lavender, rosemary, oregano, crassula, eucalyptus, ornamental onion.
Valuable Tips and Design Features for Creating a Mediterranean Aesthetic
These plants must be chosen correctly, as they are the principal elements that make a garden Mediterranean. An essential and noteworthy mention would be that, unlike other garden types, you can use the same plant more than once to create a Mediterranean aesthetic. You can use lavender across pathways and a multitude of olive trees at the back of your garden, among which you can stroll on a hot summer’s day.
In addition to the correct plants, it is crucial to use various characteristic elements to create the aesthetic up until the most minor detail. This includes core elements like mosaic tiles and pergolas, specific colours, water features, and certain outdoor furniture elements that are known to be used in Mediterranean gardens.
Core Elements for Mediterranean Gardens
As mentioned earlier, unglazed terra cotta pots are a classic element for Mediterranean gardens. Fill them with trailing, heat-loving plants that make the space a Mediterranean dream. Place them by a wall decorated with mosaic tiles, and the aesthetic will become even more accurate.
Mosaic tiles are synonymous with Mediterranean design. You will see them on walls, patio floors, as well as tables. You can even decorate your pots with a colourful mosaic tile design if you feel creative. What’s more, the colourfulness of mosaic tiles complements the gravel characteristic of Mediterranean gardens very well. Unlike other garden styles, lawns aren’t a specific feature in the Mediterranean garden. Instead, you will likely see gravel pathways or a combination of gravel and paving. This way, the garden needs less maintenance, and you reduce water usage significantly.
However, if you want a bit of greenery added to the ground as well, you could choose a ground cover that doesn’t require much attention and can thrive without frequent watering. You could use Stachys byzantina, also known as lamb’s ears, given that this perennial spreads gently and grows slowly.
Another core element found in Mediterranean gardens is the pergola. Thanks to the warm climate necessary to grow a thriving Mediterranean garden, one needs a seating area or a space where you can bask in the sun. At the same time, this climate can have high temperatures, which is why having a place with shade is crucial. This is where pergolas come in. They can provide overhead shade while also creating a seductive aesthetic thanks to the stunning and fragrant climbing plants used. In spring, a wisteria pergola in your Mediterranean garden will simply take your breath away. Read our Design Ideas for Patio Areas article to find tips and tricks on creating a great outdoor space.
Outdoor Furniture Designs for Mediterranean Gardens
As mentioned earlier, having an outdoor seating area in your Mediterranean garden is a must. For this reason, it is vital to discuss the outdoor furniture design that brings this type of garden style to life. A set of chairs and a table made of iron and decorated with mosaic tiles would look excellent under your charming pergola decorated with wonderful climbing plants.
Speaking of mosaics, another common technique used in Mediterranean gardens is to add pavements with an intricate design made of cobbles and pebbles woven together beautifully. Such elements and typical design can be seen in various Mediterranean cities to this day. So, this would look beautiful in your seating area. A pro tip would be to place your fragrant herbs around your seating areas. This way, the Mediterranean perfume will be more powerful.
Specific Colours for Mediterranean Gardens
The warm orangey colour of terra cotta, with earthy tones, is a known Mediterranean feature, as well as being a vital colour of this palette. Therefore, for your garden design, earthy tones would look excellent. And, if you want to have a bolder Mediterranean design, you could opt for vibrant colours like blue and red that draw attention and create a focal point.
On the other hand, if you want, you could use pastel shades for your patio and walls, as these would create an excellent contrast with the vibrant flowers included in your garden or create a cohesive aesthetic with your herbs, such as lavender.
For Mediterranean gardens, having water features is a must. This usually means installing a water fountain that requires little attention and care and complements the Mediterranean style perfectly. Water features are so common in this type of garden because they provide a refreshing element, cooling the warm air of the summer and giving you a calming relief from the heat.
Hence, you should consider adding a small fountain with a rustic aesthetic. With your plant collection, core elements beautifully mixed together, and your cooling water fountain, your Mediterranean garden will be an oasis of peace, tranquillity and joy.
So, have we convinced you to create a Mediterranean garden in your backyard or front yard? Honestly, this doesn’t need much convincing, given how enchanting, seductive and tranquil Mediterranean gardens can be. With sun-loving plants in terra cotta pots, extremely fragrant herbs, climbing vines that offer much-needed shade, shrubs with attractive foliage, vibrant, beautiful colours and timeless elements of design such as wooden or iron furniture and mosaic tiles all around, who could not want such a one-of-a-kind paradise at their home?
Just imagine waking up on weekends and having your coffee or tea on the patio or under a pergola where your morning glory provides comforting shade. Mediterranean gardens are a multi-sensory piece of heaven, they don’t require a lot of attention and yet offer so much. Thankfully, now you have gained the necessary knowledge on Mediterranean gardens and what you need to create such a paradise in your yard. So, all that is left to do is for you to begin this journey and create the gardens of your dreams that will seem as if they were taken from a Mediterranean country.
Please, tell us all about your experience and let us know how your Mediterranean garden turned out in the comment section!