A Guide To Home Water Fountains

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Few additions to your backyard can match the sight and sound of moving water for creating peace and tranquility. From the pleasant trickle of water in a fountain and the way the light reflects off a backyard pond, to the hypnotic appeal of a sheet of water rushing down a water wall, all of these add to the value of your yard and greatly increase the pleasure it will provide you.

When choosing a water feature, there are several questions to consider.

  • How much space do you have?
  • What is your style or landscape look? (For more information on landscape designs, see Pick The Perfect Garden Theme For Your Yard.)
  • What is your budget?
  • Is there existing electrical wiring for the feature, or will you need to install electrical outlets?
  • How much time do you want to devote to maintenance?
  • Will you install the feature yourself, or hire a contractor?

Whether the answer to these questions lead you to install a backyard pond, or just set up a birdbath in a corner of your flower bed, adding water to your backyard will increase your outdoor enjoyment.

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Most likely, when you think of a garden water feature, you think of a fountain. Available in a multitude of sizes and styles, backyard fountains can range from a wall-mounted lion’s head spitting water, to a small ground basin with a traditional sculpted figure pouring water from a pitcher.

  • When choosing a fountain, keep its size in scale with your backyard. An overly large fountain in a small yard will look out of place and silly.
  • Look for a design that mirrors your landscaping style. A roughhewn, stone fountain will complement a rustic, woodland yard, while an elegant, contemporary landscape will look best with a sleek, geometric design.

While a very large fountain will require professional installation, most backyard fountains require little beyond plugging the pump into an electrical outlet, and filling the basin with water.


Backyard waterfalls can recreate a rushing, mountain stream, or be simple constructions of brick or tile with water pouring through a low wall, into a basin below. There are even “pondless waterfalls”, with water rushing down a low fall, then disappearing into a gravel bed, and recirculating through a buried pipe to reflow down the fall.

In a small yard, you can tuck a tiny waterfall into a corner of a plant bed. There are preformed waterfalls available, requiring little more than plugging into an electrical outlet. Surround your waterfall with perennials and small shrubs for a realistic appearance.


A peaceful pond with graceful koi swimming in the water is the ultimate in backyard tranquility. A large pond requires a major investment of preparation, installation and maintenance, but you can simplify the job with a preformed pond liner. You can tuck a tiny pond into a plant bed or create a raised pond on the patio, but a pond that is to contain fish needs to be at least 2 feet deep.

Generally, you will be the most pleased with the largest pond you can fit in the space allotted. A larger pond will support koi and a wide selection of plants, and will be more able to withstand changes in weather and temperature extremes.

Water Wall

A water wall features a sheet of water pouring down the fountain face, which is usually tile, slate, stone, brick, or glass. A water wall has the advantage of taking up little room, mainly needing space for the basin at the bottom of the wall. Dramatic lighting can play up the water wall at night, and the appearance is usually modern and minimalistic. You may very well have seen one of these installations in a high-end hotel lobby or office building, as they are able to be installed indoors as well as out.

You can position a water wall on your patio, in a plant bed, or near your home’s front or rear entrance. The combination of dramatic appearance and soothing sound makes a water wall a focal point for any yard.

Urn Bubbler

Another solution for a small backyard or garden area is an urn bubbler. These fountains feature a large to medium urn or ceramic pot with a fountain bubbler pump inside. Installation is as simple as positioning the urn, setting the fountain kit inside, running the cord to an electrical outlet, then filling the urn with water and turning it on. With no overflow, there is no need for a basin. The bubbler provides pleasing movement along with the sound of splashing water, and you can position it wherever it will provide the most enjoyment. Depending on the style of urn you choose, the look can be country, Asian, modern, rustic or Mediterranean.

Water Garden

You don’t have to install a full pond to enjoy a display of water plants in your yard. You can create a water garden as small as a half whiskey barrel on your patio. There are plastic liners sized to slip right into a whiskey barrel, which can then be filled with your choice of water plants. Dwarf papyrus, water lilies, flowering iris and water lettuce will all be beautiful in your small water garden.

If you prefer something a bit larger, look for a kit containing everything needed to build a small, raised water garden on your patio. It will not be large enough to maintain koi, but you can raise goldfish or mosquito fish, along with a larger selection of water plants.

You don’t need a pump or electrical wiring for a small water garden, but if you have a nearby electrical outlet already handy, you can install a small bubbler in your water garden for motion and sound. The movement will also help fight the formation of algae.


A birdbath adds a small touch of water to your yard, but a big impact in songbirds that will appreciate a chance to bathe and drink. Set a feeder or two nearby, and enjoy the chance to watch birds up close.

Be sure to change the water daily in your birdbath, and occasionally scrub it out to remove algae and germs. Place the bath close to trees or large shrubs, where birds can perch safely while their feathers dry.

Whether you have the room for a large pond with a dramatic waterfall, or just want a small urn bubbler or water garden on your patio, the addition of a water feature to your yard will bring enjoyment, relaxation and tranquility to your garden.

Last Updated: January 17, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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