Mexican-style terraces and courtyards are predominantly on stone and other hardscaping materials as their base, and in their decor. Rather than a soil and outlined flower bed base as the design focus.

The style is similar to Mediterranean gardens in Greece and Tuscany, and the only differences i see are in the numbers of plants grown, more xeriscaping with cactus and succulents, and colors used. There's a very predominant liking of colorful tiles and mosaics in peach, orange,yellow and blue. One difference seems to be the much brighter colors in the plants, planters and decor, the drier "feel" of the Mexican garden.

A variety of plants can be used to accentuate the Mexican style for your outdoor space and patio. Cacti, fruit trees, and broad-leafed and sword-like plants are especially characteristic of the region. Adding a splash of color with tropical plants. As always, when designing a garden, check the USDA cold hardiness maps for plants for deserts or xeriscaping (low water usage). will grow where you live.

I see it as less the dry southwestern and xeric style, and more of a Mexican/Aztec lush garden style. 

Use containers with bold colors and lots of colorful planters, as well as stone and terra cotta. Pots displayed singly, and in groupings full of flowers and plants of differing heights and in clusters. Colorful pottery is a Mexican garden and patio design mainstay.

If you have a stone or tiled patio, you've got a great start. Pavers are available that can be loose laid and creates that new space in one weekend. I have a concrete patio, so it would be easy to just overlay it with stone or terra cotta tile. 

Plants for a Mexican style garden

Typically..... Bromeliads, bougainvillea, orchids, dahlia, agave, yucca, are all great options. Before planting,  find out which plants will grow best in your region

Bougainvillea- ornamental vine in warm climates - common colors are purple, pink and red. I would add bright orange and yellow trumpet vines. All vines mentioned end up invasive in the ground, no matter what the literature says, and are best confined to containers and trellises.

Dahlia A native of Mexico, these plants come in many colors and grow in regions with no frost. If you don't mind digging them up to store over winter, grow them. Very large and showy flowers. My neighbor has been growing dahlias for years, of every imaginable color, and they're spectacular. He digs them up in fall, and re-plants in the spring. I do not have that patience. Nor do i wish to do any more staking and tying than I already do. They get tall. Many beautiful garden flowers besides dahlias are native to Mexico.

Agave Large succulent makes an excellent focal point - drought-tolerant, endures temperatures into teens. I am searching fo the perfect dwarf Agave for my  Pa. Zone 5 climate.

Yucca A perennial shrub with evergreen, sword-shaped leaves and a white flower - native to hot, dry regions

I love Yucca plants. The sword-shaped foliage, and some striking variegated varieties, are perfect  as specimens, or as part of a grouping of raised beds and containers. It can go into a few different garden styles. I use them in my succulent and cactus garden beds, and there are a few in my zen gardens, as backdrops for my solar pottery cascading  fountains and meditating frogs. They grow tall and fan-shaped, and look amazing growing behind a buddha. And they're just the thing for Mexican, southwestern, and  xeriscape gardens. My favorite variety is "Colour Guard". Smaller and better suited for intense plantings.

Mexican Bush Sage A shrub that attracts bees, butterflies and birds - silver-grey foliage with violet blooms in late summer

Mexican Petunia 
- A beautiful, but large and invasive shrub that i've seen all over the south. If planted in pots, it's pretty, it's perennial, and it grows fast. 

My prejudice against them is due to the terrible gardening practice of the gardener not considering the size and spread of mature plants, and then not controlling them once they figured it out. These are aggressive spreaders if not contained. 

Yellow Bells A small ornamental shrub with tubular flowers

Your tropical houseplants would love a summer outdoors, too.

Cacti and Succulents
So many to choose from... Check for cold hardy plants for your region. I like to grow succulents and cactus in big clay pots. But i do stray, now and then.

My cactus bowl is pictured below. 
You can find these plaster or stone "succulent" bowls that are shallow, and they come in colors.

They look great as part of a larger garden design at ground level, or sitting on 
colorful chairs or bistro-sized tables. As you can see in the photos by the number
 of flower buds, flowers are plentiful and blooming time rotates during the year. 
You can see the Peanut Cactus in this photo blooming in the photo below this.

My Peanut Cactus below, blooms a few times each summer, and the blooms are beautiful 
in person. Good food for pollinators. These are in a big stone bowl. They'd be great
as part of the xeriscape or Mexican garden design, as an accent or in pots. 
Bright reds, oranges and yellows are part of the mexican garden color scheme.

       Click the little pics below to view photos of one of my newly-added young cactus and succulents plants i placed in raised gardens, as an example of a planting that can be used in the Mexican Garden, and these are plants that do well in most areas. These are perennials, so they return each spring, and grow well in cooler Pennsylvania climate. I forget the name of the large, leafy succulent... I think it's a euphorbia. I lose lots of plant tags.

The cactus plants in this raised bed are Prickly Pear Cactus. It has beautiful yellow blooms, and Hens and Chicks is great as its ground cover. Dried chollah cactus and Margarita Tree branches are placed for effect, and support of plants as they mature.The succulents began life in an indoor succulent bowl arrangement i created 2 years ago. After summering outdoors, it quickly grew large and beautiful. So this is its permanent abode. 

"Colour Guard" Yucca plants are a pretty green and yellow, and i like the height it adds, along with the foliage backdrop. It will grow to about 3 ft. in open plantings, and if it does that in the raised bed, it'll be split up and some moved around the garden. One in the center of the background will be all that's needed. The hens and chicks will also spread, so they will also be separated and used in other areas of gardens.

Mary's Raised Bed Cactus and Succulent Garden Mary's Cactus and Succulents Raised Garden Beds

If i were using raised planters to decorate the mid-level of a Mexican Garden theme, I could paint the boxes white or a bold color with outdoor paint. But I like the plain cedar, because once you paint over its natural weatherproofing, you will have to keep up with painting maintenance. Bright, colorful pottery planters can sit between the legs, as a lower level garden display. Plants on hooks can hover from the lattice top of the fence. This method is actually more intensive in terms of bang for your landscaping buck.... the box is in the middle, and plants in pots all around and above. Yet it only takes up 4 ft of your garden's length. Plants can grow closer together in the raised bed method, and not in rows, which wastes space. And did i mention..... NO bending!

Colorful floral and foliage xeriscape plants work very well. Check the plant hardiness map for your area before choosing your design. Exotic-looking tropical plants, cacti and succulents, lemon and orange trees in large colorful pots. Using resin or plastic pots is best. Most have draininge holes,The trees can be moved around if you change your design or add to the landscape. And they're quite inexpensive. 

Vegetables can be displayed as filler plants in raised flower beds, but they're grown in the backyard. Herbs are prettier on the hacienda, where you can sell their fragrances or snip some for your culinary endeavors.

Lots and Lots of Plants In Pots and pottery pieces in the garden.

Any bowl, urn or jar can be planted, if have a hole for drainage, or add a gravel base for plants to keep them from getting too much water.. Some can edge a wall in raised garden beds on legs, with trailing flower or succulent vines, with a tall main plant in the center as the focal point. Like a very large cactus, and brightly colored vines at the base and flowing down the front and sides of the flower bed. Choose plants native to your region, and perennials that are hardy in your planting zone. Tropical houseplants and dwarf ornamental grasses have their place, as well. Succulent bowls are a favorite of mine, as a centerpiece of a table, or in the center of a landscape. Mixing taller cacti with succulents like hens and chicks looks awesome.
In hanging pots and baskets... A bright color vine or trailing floral. 

Plants In baskets on the floor, hanging from above, and hanging on the wall. I like reed and wicker baskets, but i go for weatherproof resin wicker and woven baskets. I have a collection of woven baskets that can be used in sheltered areas. And I would use one of my large vintage picnic baskets as decorative plant and food holders. My brightly-colored enamelware, and tole-painted metalware with floral designs on light-colored backgrounds would be displayed somewhere. 

Candles in bright pottery candleholders or in the center of big, colorful serving platters. And let's not forget the centers of brightly colored pottery snack bowls.set on ledges or in non-combustible areas of the garden. For most lighting needs, i do solar arrangements.

I favor certain plants. Giant or Tropical Hibiscus for height and giant flowers with big color. Groupings of mid-size height lilies In bright reds, orange or yellow. I would use aloes, variegated hostas. I'd include annuals that grow lushly and flower profusely. I like agave, yucca, trumpet vines of different colors in pots (see my statements about the invasiveness of vines in-ground). The issue with most foliage plants is that you'll need to give those protection from the very hot sun in the summer. I've had enough hosta tragedies to illustrate my point. There are many partial shade succulents and vines that are useful, and that can be brought in as houseplants in cold regions in winter. I would have to have Yucca plants, xeriscape and desert plants and climbing vines. Carefully arranged so that they have similar maintenance needs.I'd mix certain small vegetable plants into the foliage in-ground or in pottery, and in the raised garden beds. Spiky garlic or regular chives and scallions look wonderful in any arrangement, and it's perennial. Plant once and you're done. They're non-spreading, and they love a good haircut when you need them in cooking. A few areas with mexican cilantro's a nice idea.

To see my Red Giant Hibiscus along my front yard fence click the pic below. 
Line them up against a wall or fence, or grow them individually in big pots and scatter them around the garden. 

My Mexican Garden plan would  reflect the Hispanic culture, and presents welcoming outdoor nooks or corners for dining and entertaining.  Mexican gardens, like the Mediterranean gardens in Greece and Tuscany, are generally courtyard style, most have small water features, a bistro type of dining area here and there, and containers of colorful plants on the stone patios, on window ledges and in doorways. They feel coastal, tropical and lush, yet there's that strong feel of desert and heat. Outdoor prints to prop up on sills, against chairs or propped up by plants are a feast for the eyeballs. Aztec, Mexican and some southwestern art would be my choice.


The garden at night should feel like a Mexican party. Outdoor lights on strings don't have to be very bright, rustic and colorful matching or mismatched chairs, and brightly-colored pottery and terracotta pots with succulents and cacti. Flowering succulents and cacti are very beautiful, and last a while. And they don't need much water or care. I would buy or create small solar fountainscapes (i made up that word while adding fountains to my own gardens) to add a coolness to the atmosphere and a relaxing sound amid all that color.. Probably made from stone or pottery. Pottery centerpieces full of fruits, and bright pottery tableware. Very small solar water features can be spread throughout the garden. No cords, no electricity, no hassles.

Lastly, place a large and colorful margarita pitcher on a table. A word about Mexican glassware.... Gorgeous, mouth-blown and heavy glass. Tumblers would be weighted and can be set outside with lemonade, or be ready for the bartender to work his/her magic in the evening.

Download A Courtyard Garden Plan by Southern Living
Check your USDA Hardiness Zones Map and easily substitute plants that grow in your region.
Resize to fit your space. Click for the free .pdf download.

If you'd like to download some very pretty container garden design plans, that you can adapt to your Mexican Garden landscaping ideas, just click the pics below to download a .pdf format design.
Plans come complete with the illustration, planting guide and plant list. Groupings of these styles look great, and you can switch out the plant suggestions with some of your own, that grow well in your hardiness zone.

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