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Mexican Garden Design

Ideas for creating a Southwestern style courtyard

Maureen Gilmer in Morongo Valley, CA
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A Mexican or southwestern garden is centered on family and friends. The purpose of the space is to provide a place for people to relax, dine and socialize. Mexican garden design is influenced by Spanish Colonial, Moroccan, and Moorish architecture and style. The most notable characteristic is the vibrant color scheme. Plants, pottery and other outdoor décor are bursting with sunny yellows, bright blues, and warm reds.

Traditional Mexican houses surround an inner courtyard, creating an intimate outdoor living space. Patios are often paved with ceramic tiles in warm reds, browns and terra cottas. Historically, these courtyard gardens have been used for many activities, including cooking, relaxing, working and playing. The ability to cook outdoors is essential to a Mexican courtyard. Food is often prepared in a traditional chiminea, or you can install a modern barbecue decorated with Talavera tiles. Another essential element to incorporate into a Mexican garden is water. For the native cultures of Mexico, wells and fountains were gathering places that symbolized the livelihood of the community.

Get these tips:In this section, you'll find tips from landscaping professionals on:

  • Ideas for paving a Mexican-style patio using ceramic tiles, concrete stamped in a tile pattern, Mosaic patterns made with small stones, or concrete pavers.
  • Good plant options for accentuating a Mexican-style garden, particularly those that are characteristic of the region and add color, such as cacti, bromeliads, bougainvillea, and fruit trees.
  • Selecting patio furniture that reflects a south-of-the-border theme, including traditional Mexican equipal furniture (made from cedar splits and tanned pigskin), custom furniture built to look like natural adobe, and Mayan-style hammocks.
  • How to accentuate patio furniture with brightly colored cushions and pillows with bold stripes and festive colors.
  • Outdoor cooking options for a Mexican garden, including wood-burning clay chimineas or barbecue grills encased in natural stone, stucco or decorative tiles.
  • Ideas for Mexican-style water fountains, including decorative concrete enhanced with natural stone or tile, multi-tiered circular fountains, and fountains lined with colorful hand-painted Talavera tiles.
  • Options for warming up your outdoor southwestern retreat using a traditional kiva fireplace made of adobe or a custom fireplace faced with brick, terra cotta tiles, or stucco.
  • How to accent your Mexican garden using brightly colored pottery, wrought-iron light fixtures, woven rugs, and Mexican blankets.
  • Suggestions for using vibrant paint colors to creative a festive atmosphere and help pull the whole look together.

Even if you don't have a courtyard area and your outdoor space is large and open, it's still possible to create the intimate feel of a Mexican courtyard by installing tall hedges or adding architectural details, such as walls or trellises.

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