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Mediterranean Garden Style: Planting, Landscaping and Design Advice for Any Space (Complete Guide)

mediterranean garden style featured image

The Mediterranean garden style embraces the dry, hot climate of the Mediterranean region. (This region includes countries such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece.)

Plant choices in Mediterranean gardens are drought-tolerant and adapted to minimal care. Instead of lawn, gravel gardens and natural stone features are incorporated among informal plantings. Ornate tile work and cooling water features round out the décor and give an old-world feel.

Mediterranean gardeners focus on the conditions of the garden itself.

What will grow in such a hot and dry climate?

Where can we go for rest and shade from the brutal sun during high summer?

What permanent structures can be incorporated into the garden design?

These questions inspire and influence the function of the Mediterranean garden style.

The Mediterranean garden style isn’t just for the countries of the Mediterranean anymore!

Nowadays, this garden style is popular worldwide. It’s super easy to make adjustments to the plant choices based on climate and still get the desired Mediterranean influence.

mediterranean garden style cobblestone village
Terracotta flowerpots brighten up the facades in the village of Majorca Valldemossa, Spain.
photo of a mediterranean style garden from Phipps conservatory
This is a Mediterranean garden style display from Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by Pretty Purple Door.

Mediterranean is just one of the many different garden styles! Check out a complete list of the different garden styles you can use your own yard.

In this article, I’ll provide a complete guide on how to create a Mediterranean style garden in any space, no matter the climate!

Mediterranean Garden Style

History of Mediterranean Gardens

The very first gardens of the Mediterranean date back to the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries BCE.

These ancient gardens were not only beautiful & functional, but also powerful places of prayer.

This aspect lent to more formal design characteristics and features. Ponds and shrines evoked spiritualism and purification. Greek, Egyptian and Islamic religions significantly influenced the design and purpose of the ancient Mediterranean gardens.

The Mediterranean garden style continued to evolve through the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Some of the formal traditions remained, while new and more informal design practices began.

During the 19th century, the influence of the Mediterranean garden style moved westward toward Europe and the UK.

Architecture of the Mediterranean
The architecture of the Mediterranean region is very ornate and delicate.

Today, the Mediterranean garden style takes on a mostly naturalistic approach.

The planting style is informal. There is more focus incorporating the surrounding landscape and leading with ecology & sustainability.

This garden style is especially popular in regions with a climate similar to that of the Mediterranean, like California and Australia. But this garden style is achievable anywhere, with a little tweaking to the plant choices based on climate and conditions.

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Download my FREE Garden Style Lookbook for 2-page summaries of EACH garden style, including naturalistic, cottage, traditional and modern. 

Easy to print out and reference as you create your “uniquely you” dream garden!

Maintenance Needs of the Mediterranean Garden Style

Since most Mediterranean plants are of low watering need, this garden style can be considered low maintenance. 

Of course, there will always be some level of maintenance required for every garden style, no matter the plant or material choices.

Gardeners should prune plants and deadhead flowers as needed. Gravel gardens, which are common in the Mediterranean garden style, can be very needy for weeding during the first few years. Water features also need cleaning and maintenance.

Quick Tip: For more tips on reducing maintenance, check out my article about how to get a low-maintenance landscape!

Conditions Needed for the Mediterranean Garden Style

A lot of Mediterranean style gardens are designed for a climate like that of the Mediterranean region. This means plants that thrive in dry-hot summers, mild winters and not much rainfall. These types of plants also prefer nutrient-poor soil.

If you love the Mediterranean garden style but live somewhere with more moisture and/or cooler temps, simply look for plants that thrive in your planting zone with similar texture & structure to those of the Mediterranean.

Be sure to include Mediterranean style hardscaping and décor to reinforce the style in your garden. 

mediterranean garden style plantings

An Overview of the Mediterranean Garden Style

These are the main characteristic features of the Mediterranean garden style:

  • Shaded areas. Many gardens of the Mediterranean have high walls to protect from the sun. Having lots of trees is another way to provide more sources of shade.
  • Water features can offer another cooling aspect to an arid Mediterranean style garden.
  • Outdoor spaces for resting. The modern outdoor garden room evolved from the Mediterranean garden style.
  • Drought tolerant plants (or plants for your climate that look similar to Mediterranean plants).
  • Gravel gardens to replace grass, since lawn isn’t featured in Mediterranean style gardens.
  • Informal planting style. Gardeners of the Mediterranean create clumped communities of plants in a lively and charming fashion.
mediterranean garden style shaded seating area
Shaded seating is essential for a Mediterranean style garden. This seating space under the canopy of trees is so inviting, even the kitty couldn’t resist.
mediterranean garden style water wall
A cooling water feature can be a refreshing sight for the eyes on a hot summer day. It also adds tranquil sound to any garden.

Color Palette for the Mediterranean Garden Style

Mediterranean gardens often include warm and earthy colors like terracotta, ochre, coral and green. But, there’s no “official” color palette for the Mediterranean garden style. You can use any color scheme you’re drawn to.

mediterranean garden style pops of color
The complementary color scheme of teal + vermillion in this Mediterranean style garden adds so much personality.

If you need a little guidance, try the ones I recommended! Or, use an inspiration piece you love and build your garden around that.

By the way, this is exactly what I teach in my Garden Style Mood Board Workshop! You’ll learn how to sort out your creative ideas, funnel them into a garden style (or 2!) and make it easy & fun to design your garden landscape. Check it out today and get inspired!

What to Plant in the Mediterranean Garden Style

If you live in a hot and dry Mediterranean climate, you’ll obviously choose plants that are drought-tolerant.

But, if you live in different conditions, just select plants adapted to your climate that look similar to the ones usually found in the Mediterranean!

Use foliage that has needles or is finely textured for a Mediterranean look. Plants with leaves that have a white, fuzzy coating will give the garden a light-catching and shimmery appearance.

Water-wise Plants for Mediterranean Gardens

In this section, I’ll share some examples. These plants are adaptable to many climates!

karl foerster feather reed grass from nature hills nursery
Ornamental grasses are common in Mediterranean gardens and give a soft, hazy look. Check out the Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora, zones 4-9). Karl Foerster grows and blooms during the cooler months, but does just fine in hot and dry climates too. Mature size is 5′ H x 2′ W.
'blue glow' agave from nature hills nursery
The ‘Blue Glow’ Agave (Agave attenuata x Agave ocahui, zones 8-11) is a great choice for locations with high temps and low moisture – similar to the Mediterranean. But, if you live somewhere with frequent rain, this is one of the more moisture-tolerant succulents. Be sure to bring it inside during the colder months if you live somewhere below zone 8. Mature size is 3′ H – 3′ W.
color guard yucca
‘Color Guard’ Yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard,’ zones 4-10) is an ornamental plant that keeps its color through every season. Thin filaments curl off the edges of the pointed leaves, giving a texture like many plants found in the Mediterranean. Yucca is a hardy evergreen and great for cooler temps. It is also tolerant to moisture, as long as the soil is well-drained. Mature size is 3′ H x 3′ W.
wormwood silver mound from nature hills nursery
Wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana, zones 4-8) is a gorgeous silver lacy plant that looks great in pots or bordering a pathway. This one needs fast-draining soil to avoid fungal infections to the stem and roots. As a rule of thumb, allow the top inch of soil to dry out before adding more water. Mature size is 1′ H x 1.5′ W.

Edible Plants for Mediterranean Gardens

The Mediterranean garden style has incorporated food production since ancient times. To add allure to the garden, grow edibles close to living areas, where the fragrance can be enjoyed by residents and guests.

mediterranean garden style olive trees
Olive trees are a staple in Mediterranean gardens. Most species love the heat, but many can grow in climates as low as planting zone 6. Mature size depends on species – the Little Ollie dwarf olive tree (Olea europaea ‘Montra’, zones 8-11) only grows to about 6′ H x 6′ W. While the Manzanillo olive tree (Olea europaea ‘Manzanillo’, zones 8-10) can reach 30′ H x 20′ W.
mediterranean garden style orange tree
Citrus trees like orange, lime and lemon trees are fun, fragrant additions to any garden. If you live somewhere that gets very cold in the winter months, simply keep your citrus tree in a pot. As the temperatures drop, bring your potted citrus tree inside to an enclosed patio or another sunny, warm indoor space. Then bring it outside again next summer. Mature size depends on fruit type and species, anywhere from 4′ – 40′ H.
3 blocks with lavender, basil and rosemary herbs
Strongly scented herbs, like lavender, rosemary and basil are common. Be sure to check the planting zones and conditions needed, as they will be different for each herb. Check out my article on pruning and harvesting your herbs! Mature size is anywhere from a few inches high to 10 feet depending on the herb.
mediterranean garden style grapevines through an overhang
Can you even picture a garden in the Mediterranean without a few grapevines?! Many species love the warmth, but some are hardy up to -10 degrees F! You can also look into other types of climbing vines that would do well in your zone for a similar effect. Mature size is anywhere from 10′ – 40′ H depending on the species.

You can even add a pop of bright color from seasonal flowers like Yarrow (Achillea millefolium, zones 4-9) and Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa, zones 5-9) to add a focal point to your planting plan.

Note: It’s important to make sure you understand your planting zone and what works in your climate before choosing plants.

Hardscaping for the Mediterranean Garden Style

“Hardscaping” refers to any permanent structures of a garden, like pathways and walls. The ancient Romans passed down the tradition of using structures such as pergolas, loggias, arbors and arcades.

Consider sourcing locally for your structures. Picture the steep cliffs of Italy and Greece. Rocky hillsides and stone walls are common and gardeners of that region believe in using those features! This is an informal and resourceful way of linking the garden to its surroundings.

mediterranean garden style climbing vines on a wall with a reflection pool
Climbing vines ascending a wall or trellis is an easy way to marry the planting with the hardscaping. It also creates an informal and romantic touch.

Gravel gardens take the place of lawn in the Mediterranean style. Gravel comes in many sizes and styles from smooth, small pea gravel to larger, lightly-colored marble chips.

blue Mediterranean style patterned tilework
Ornamental tilework has been a staple of the Mediterranean garden style from the very beginning. This tradition lasted through the years, and modern Mediterranean gardens still incorporate tilework.

Furniture & Décor for the Mediterranean Garden Style

mediterranean garden style indoor/outdoor rug with tile pattern from overstock
This Indoor/Outdoor Mat has a Madrid tile pattern and a gorgeous pop of azure blue, totally reminiscent of the Mediterranean Sea.
mediterranean garden style tiered fountain in flowery archway
This ornate four-tier fountain would add a formal touch to your garden. 
mediterranean garden style window trellis with ivy
A flowering vine would look enchanting climbing up this window trellis.
mediterranean garden style raised planters with embossed design
These embossed raised metal planters boast a Portugal-inspired pattern. These are sure to reinforce the Mediterranean style in your garden.
mediterranean garden style ceramic bowl with iron handle from overstock
Add candles to this decorative bowl and use it as an accent to your outdoor spaces.
mediterannean garden style outdoor daybed from overstock
A Mediterranean style garden is simply not complete without a place to relax in the shade! This outdoor daybed would be the perfect place to unwind and take in the beauty of your space.

Tips for Getting the Mediterranean Garden Style at Home

Be sure to remember these tips as you design your Mediterranean style garden:

  • Use structural and textured plants like ones native to the hot/dry climate of the Mediterranean region.
  • Use hardscaping materials like tilework, natural stone and gravel.
  • Incorporate a water feature (here are some great water features ideas).
  • Include a shaded seating area or resting space for refuge from the sun.
  • Plant edibles like lemon trees and olive trees. Plant herbs like lavender and rosemary.
  • Add informal communities of plants, similar to that of the naturalistic garden style.

Combining the Mediterranean Garden Style with Other Garden Styles

Don’t feel the need to adhere to every single rule of the Mediterranean garden style, even if it’s your favorite. Not everyone loves tilework, or has the climate for the plants so often featured in this garden style.

You can easily mix the Mediterranean garden style with other garden styles, like cottage for example:

mediterranean style hardscaping with cottage style planting
This is a great example of a garden with Mediterranean hardscaping style and cottage planting style.

My biggest tip is to keep it simple at first, because you can always add more later.

My favorite way to combine garden styles is to take the planting design elements of one style, and the hardscaping choices of another.

So, as an example: include a Mediterranean-style gravel garden, but add cottage or naturalistic planting style as the border. It’s a fun way to make your garden totally yours, but to have enough guidance that you’re not overwhelmed.

The “rules” of the different garden styles can be helpful as a guideline, but ultimately it’s YOUR garden to design how you choose. Make sure your choices truly appeal to you. Just have fun with it!

Wrapping Up

The gardens of the Mediterranean feature drought-resistant, textured plants that provide interest through even the hottest and driest months of the year. But, the Mediterranean garden style is easy to adapt to any location by choosing similar-looking plants that are suitable for the climate. 

Instead of lawn, gravel and stone make up most of the resting space. Planting style is charming and informal, and no Mediterranean garden is complete without a place to sit in the shade.

collage of items for garden mood board.

Are you struggling to sort out all of your creative ideas? Just beginning to if you’ll ever fit into one single garden style?

Be sure to check out my super fun Mood Board Workshop! Here, we’ll go in depth about all of the different garden styles and figure out which one suits you! You’ll conquer the first stepping stone to designing a beautiful landscape that’s infused with your personality. Check it out today!!

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Co-Authored by Kady Volpe

Kady is a pro-gardener-in-training. She’s in the process of learning all of Pretty Purple Door’s frameworks and landscape design techniques.

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