If you love the idea of a zen garden but don’t have the room, forget the traditional sand and rocks. Instead, turn your deck into a calming oasis by using these easy tips. With these zen deck ideas, you can transform your outdoor space into the perfect place to relax and de-stress.
I have always loved Japanese zen gardens. They’re just so peaceful and relaxing.
But I don’t have much space in my backyard, so I have no room for a full blown zen garden.
Which is why when I had to re-do my deck I decided to make it into a relaxing space using the same concepts that a Japanese garden would.
And that’s where these zen deck ideas came from.
1 | Put up a Privacy Fence
This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission if you buy the products from these links (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But we only recommend products we would use ourselves. For more information, click here to see our disclosures.
A lattice fence around the deck provides some privacy from the neighbors without completely blocking the view.
It also makes the deck feel very cozy and relaxing.
Holes in the fence provide a perfect spot to hang some plants which also add to the zen feeling.
Or if you want more of Japanese feel that provides a little more privacy, a bamboo screen works well, too.
I used that on the other side of my deck to screen the view of my too-close neighbor’s house.
2 | Surround The Deck With Plants
Surrounding the deck with plants helps to soften the edges of the deck, provide some shade and add a feeling of tranquility. It’s like a mini zen garden right in your own backyard.
If you have a low deck, you can do this by leaving at least a 2-foot space around the outside of the deck so that soil can be added for planting.
Or you can build planters around the edge of the deck that are big enough to allow shrubs and perennials to survive over the winter.
To keep this space low maintenance, I filled it with shade tolerant perennials (Japanese painted ferns, astilbes, perennial geraniums, ‘Jack Frost’ Brunnera, various Hostas), shrubs (‘My Monet’ weigela, yews and a ‘PJM’ rhododendron for its evergreen foliage), as well as a couple of clematis vines to climb the fence.
If you have a little more space, another zen deck landscaping idea is to plant hedges. They are a great way to add to your privacy while providing that feeling of peace.
3 | Choose a relaxing color scheme
Using a monochromatic color scheme is very soothing, as is a blue and purple palette.
So in the garden around my deck, most of the flowering plants bloom with blue or purple flowers.
I also added large potted plants and containers of blue flowers.
All planted in blue pots. Which provides a sense of harmony.
Even the cushions on my patio furniture are blue!
4 | Set up a comfortable seating area
Speaking of furniture, the next one of our relaxing deck ideas is all about using it to create the feel of an indoor living area.
Tables and chairs with cushions make you feel like staying for a while.
Especially when they are arranged in a conversation area like you would with your living room furniture.
And I always like to include a lounge chair which is perfect for relaxing outdoors.
If you don’t have room for a lot of furniture, built-in benches are great for small decks. Add some pillows to make them more comfortable.
5 | Use all natural materials
To get that zen feeling on your deck, use all natural materials that blend in with nature and create a sense of calm.
Wood, bamboo, cotton, linen, clay pots, stone and metal accents all work well.
Avoid plastics and other man-made materials that don’t provide the same level of serenity.
6 | Add a Soothing Water Feature
A pond is a common feature in large Japanese gardens, but most urban yards don’t have that much room.
So a water fountain is a great way to add the soothing sound of running water without taking up a lot of backyard space.
I built a tiled water wall in the corner of my deck that doesn’t require much maintenance and helps to hide the downspout coming from the roof.
7 | Provide an outdoor dining area
There’s something about outdoor dining that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed.
Which is why I made sure to include an eating area on my zen backyard deck.
And this little table in front of the fountain is the perfect place for al fresco dining.
8 | Create some shade
If your deck is in a sunny area, you’ll want to create some shade to make it more comfortable during hot summer afternoons.
If you have the space (and the budget), a Japanese-inspired pergola or gazebo is a great way to do this.
But an umbrella or two will work just as well for smaller areas.
9 | Install Landscape Lighting
Low wattage lighting and lanterns installed among the plants gives the garden around the deck a magical feeling at night that definitely adds to the zen ambience.
It also provides enough light that you can still enjoy the outdoor space in the evening.
Using citron candles in strategically placed holders to ward off the bugs helps make it even more enjoyable!
10 | Build Wide Steps
If you’re building a new wooden deck as part of your next home improvement project, the deck design can have a big impact on how relaxing it feels.
Multi-level decks with wide steps give the impression that you can take a leisurely stroll to get the top.
To make them more interesting on my deck, the 2”x 6” pressure treated deck boards were installed on the slant in opposite directions on each level.
I love this new outdoor area and enjoy relaxing there from early morning to evening. With the comfortable seating and dining options, I am also finding it a very easy spot to entertain guests.
Other relaxing garden ideas you might like
- How to create an outdoor space you’ll want to hang out in
- Small patio decorating ideas
- How to make a secret garden in your backyard
Have comments or questions on our zen deck ideas? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on September 15, 2016 but was updated with new content on April 16, 2022.