How to Landscape with a Pergola

A pergola is a structure that is somewhere in between an arbor and a gazebo. It has much more substance than an arbor, but is architecturally distinct from a gazebo.

Typically pergolas have several posts that hold up slats with wide spaces between them which form the “roof.” These can cover a broad amount of space or simply a corner. Ideally, the pergola is used to support vining plants that will provide shade and charm in an outdoor space.

Use a pergola to create a comfortable sitting room, outdoor kitchen, or quaint resting space along a garden walkway. Pergolas are simple tools for adding interest to an outdoor landscape.


Attach a pergola to a home or restaurant patio to create shaded seating for an outdoor dining room. Hang lanterns or lighting from the slats overhead to create a starry, romantic atmosphere for an evening dinner party. Fill outdoor containers with fragrant herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage to add to the ambiance and whet appetites.


Create a cool sitting space in a garden. Grow vines over a pergola structure to create a shady space for lounging. Include lounge chairs, rockers, or even outdoor couches in your outdoor landscape. Don’t forget small end tables so you can set down your drinks or reading material. The transpiration from the vines has been known to cool the area under a pergola by as much as 15 degrees. With this natural air conditioning, an outdoor room will be enjoyable even on a hot summer afternoon.

Fast Growing Vines

Vines that grow quickly to act as shade include wisteria, white potato vine, bower vine, clematis, jasmine, golden hops, chocolate vine, and climbing roses. Be sure to use plants that are hardy in your climate zone. Combine several plants that bloom at different times for continued interest throughout the season. You can even use vines that produce colorful foliage in the fall.

Accent Containers

In addition to colorful vines, add containers full of shade loving annuals to your pergola space. Impatiens, begonias, caladiums, and coleus can all be used to arrange attractive planters that will augment your outdoor room. You can also add hanging baskets for another dimension of flowers and foliage in a pergola space. Fuchsia is a shade loving flowering plant perfect for hanging baskets. Some ferns can also thrive in the shade of vine covered pergola.

In the Garden

Use small pergolas as stopping points along paths and tucked into gardens. Face a pergola towards a pond or other water feature so that onlookers have a shady space to enjoy the view. Use a pergola to cover an otherwise unshaded stretch of walking path.


Pergolas are only limited by your imagination. The simplicity of structure and affordability make them easy to include in any landscape. Restaurants, coffee shops, and backyards alike will benefit from their functionality and beauty.

How can you use a pergola in your landscaping? What are your favorite climbing vines?



“Patio Cover Plants.” Landscaping Network <>
“Fast Company: 8 Vigorous Vines” HGTV Gardens.  <>

“Ten Best Annuals for Shade” Missouri Botanical Gardens. <>
“Pergola Climbing Plants.” Gardening Know How. <>
Image: Pergola and morning glory by Jimmy Thomas. 



Melanie is a plant enthusiast and expert contributor at and Melanie's experience in internet marketing, business management, and horticulture allows her to bring a unique perspective to the community. Melanie received a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Leadership from Purdue University and is the Marketing Director at NewPro Containers.

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