21 Practical Retaining Wall Ideas for Extra Curb Appeal

A retaining wall retains a set of stairs and several plants

Do you struggle to hold the landscape together when you’re dealing with messy soil erosion, poor curb appeal, and sloping terrain? Let these retaining wall design ideas bear the weight for you. 

A retaining wall is a wall structure that retains the soil behind it. Brick, stone, timber –– your retaining wall can show off your favorite building material. These landscape features are perfect for protecting flower beds from erosion, keeping critters away from your vegetables, and landscaping on a hill. 

Whether you’re a fan of stacked stone or haven’t a clue on where to start the design, we’ve rounded up 21 retaining wall ideas that will help spice up your curb appeal and make your landscape the best on the block. 

21 Retaining Wall Ideas to Shore Up Your Yard

1. Natural stone retaining wall

A natural stone wall will blend into the surrounding environment with ease. The various stone textures and colors will help draw the eyes but won’t distract too much from attractive surroundings, such as a vibrant flower bed or giant oak tree. 

And there are several stone types to choose from, too. Big, small, bumpy, smooth –– no two natural rocks are alike. Two popular natural stone options include fieldstones and flagstones

2. Outdoor kitchen

Get creative with your new outdoor kitchen’s design and turn it into a retaining wall.

How to do this? Grow a raised herb garden right behind your outdoor kitchen’s countertops. Pick a few green basil leaves, sprinkle them onto the pizza, and then slip your family dinner right into the kitchen’s pizza oven. 

3. Retain a water feature

Just as you can have a garden without soil, you can have a retaining wall without soil. Why not retain some water for a change?

Give your landscape a makeover with water features, and use retaining walls to help you keep the water in its place. 

Water features can turn any backyard into a calming oasis filled with soothing rushing water sounds. Let the after-work stress wash away by your outdoor fountain.  

4. Gabion basket

Gabion baskets are enclosures or cages made of galvanized or stainless steel wire. Fill these baskets with inorganic materials, such as rock or brick, to create a retaining wall for the landscape. 

Gabion walls are easy to install and allow homeowners to use materials that make stacking a retaining wall difficult, such as small rocks, river rocks, or round rocks. 

Gabion baskets are also low-maintenance. You needn’t worry about correcting an unflattering crack similar to what can happen in a concrete retaining wall. 

5. Mix rock sizes

A rock wall’s different shapes and sizes will be a real treat for the eyes, especially if you’re able to mix in some fun colors, too. 

Not only will your wild rock patterns add instant curb appeal, but you also will had a chance to play a round of real-life Tetris. 

6. Build on a slope

Landscaping for a slope or hill can feel impossible. After all, what’s the point in trying to combat gravity? 

The good news is that retaining walls can trap in the slope’s soil and hold the land together. 

Your next steps?

  • Pick your favorite retaining wall materials.
  • Talk to a professional landscaper or landscape architect about the best outdoor design for your yard.
  • And transform that space-hogging hill into an area you can finally use and enjoy.

7. Highlight a tree

Does your favorite dogwood or oak tree need a spotlight? Bring it center stage with a small retaining wall by day (and some sort of landscape lighting at night). 

A retaining wall will help protect the tree’s roots from erosion. It even provides space for a decorative flower bed. Splash some color and texture around your tree’s trunk with bright blossoms and mulch for the finishing touch. 

Have more trees you need to showcase? Check out 9 ways to landscape around trees

8. Timber retaining wall

Wood retaining walls can be an environmentally-friendly, sustainable option for many homeowners. Wood has a smaller carbon footprint than standard building materials like steel or concrete. 

Talk to a landscape professional about wood sustainability options. Some landscape companies offer recycled wood materials, while others may not. Don’t be afraid to ask if the landscape timber is sustainably sourced from responsibly managed forests. 

9. Landscaping blocks

Close up of a retaining wall made of white landscaping blocks. The retaining wall supports a raised bed of green plants
Photo Credit: Armcon Precast / CC BY 2.0

Build a retaining wall with landscaping blocks for easy and fast installation. Landscaping blocks are made with a self-locking flange in the back, a lip that overhangs and grasps the block stacked underneath. 

Depending on the landscaping project, you typically don’t need a mortar or adhesive to hold these locking blocks together.

10. Brick retaining wall

Spruce up your landscape’s greenery with brick. A classic brick block and brick paver retaining wall brings a sturdy order to the lawn. A brick wall’s red clay will make your flower bed stand out.

11. Boulder retaining wall

Go big with your retaining wall and round up your favorite boulders. A retaining wall doesn’t always have to show off small landscaping blocks. Stack these large boulders to hold back soil and help control erosion. 

Note that moving boulders can be a difficult feat if you lack the necessary equipment. Contact a local landscape professional for assistance with transporting these rocks from Point A to Point B.  

12. Stone veneer retaining wall

Stone veneer, also known as faux stone, is a man-made material replicating the look of natural stone. Stone veneer offers a realistic aesthetic and various textures, patterns, and colors from which to choose. 

While some people may prefer the authenticity of natural stone, stone veneer can still make an attractive material for your retaining wall. 

13. Corten steel retaining wall

Give your landscape a makeover with the rugged look of Corten steel. This durable material is made with alloys that cause the steel’s surface to develop a protective coating of rust.

Advantages of Corten steel include it is corrosion-resistant, has low maintenance needs, and saves money on paint. 

14. Render a retaining wall

If your landscape is craving a retaining wall but doesn’t need the added texture, colors, and patterns of most hardscape building materials, render your retaining wall instead. 

Wall rendering involves adhering a mixture of sand and wet cement to a wall with a trowel. This process gives the retaining wall a solid cement appearance and can conceal existing wall material. 

15. Cinder block retaining wall

Better to put leftover cinder blocks to good use in the landscape than to dump them in the landfill. Design a retaining wall with these stackable blocks for your outdoor gardens or flower beds. You can also use them to build a vertical garden or raised garden beds

16. Living retaining wall

Wall of vegetables near a set of stairs
Photo Credit: José Sáez / CC BY-SA 2.0

With the right design and structure, your retaining wall can hold back the landscape’s soil and grow a garden from its walls. A vertical garden wall allows for easy vegetable picking and helps protect your plants from disease and pests.  

Your vertical garden needn’t only be reserved for vegetables. Grow your favorite ornamental plants to create a magnificent living green wall that provides privacy and absorbs noise. 

17. Install a fence

Building retaining walls around your property’s sloped perimeter? Install a protective fence to ensure no one falls off the landscape’s sudden drop. 

A fence also provides privacy, establishes boundaries for young children, and helps to keep out intruders. 

17. Raise the flower beds

Retaining walls not only help to hold in soil and mulch around your flower beds, but they can also raise your flower beds from the ground. Raised flower beds have many benefits, including:

  • Limited weed competition
  • Less soil compaction from foot traffic 
  • Fewer pests 
  • Less soil contamination
  • Better control over drainage

18. Raise the vegetable garden

Raised vegetable garden beds with wood retaining walls
Photo Credit: Lori L. Stalteri / CC BY 2.0

It’s not just your flower beds that retaining walls can raise. You can raise your garden beds, too. Raised garden beds include the same benefits as raised flower beds and can serve as a pleasing aesthetic in the vegetable garden. 

19. Add stairs

Build a set of stairs in your retaining wall that allows you to enjoy the perks of a retaining wall while also having the freedom to access usable space the retaining wall may block. Stairs also make landscaping on a hill or slope more manageable.  

20. Build a centerpiece

Is your front yard not catching the neighbor’s attention? Add a centerpiece or focal point with a retaining wall.

Some examples? A retaining wall provides a foundation for an elegant water feature, vibrant flower bed, or small tree. 

21. Master the waterfall

Wow the neighborhood with this retaining wall idea. A retaining wall can help support the land around a waterfall. Go big and create a waterfall masterpiece, or go small and design a peaceful outdoor area. 

Whichever size you choose, a waterfall breaking through a retaining wall creates an astounding effect. 

FAQ About Retaining Walls

How much does a retaining wall cost?

Retaining wall costs vary depending on your project’s size and the materials you choose. Some DIY retaining wall projects are simple for beginners. But advanced retaining wall projects require the hands of a professional.

Remember, hiring a professional will include material and labor costs. 

Landscaping blocks allow for fast and easy installation. Their costs typically range between $2 and $5 per block, depending on which home improvement store you shop at and the materials you choose. 

Prefer stones over landscaping blocks? Natural stone generally costs between $30 and $40 per square foot, while stone veneer averages around $10 per square foot. 

Interested in turning the retaining wall into an outdoor kitchen? You may need your credit card — or a loan — for this one. An outdoor kitchen typically ranges between $5,000 and $20,000 (though a luxury outdoor kitchen may cost as much as $100,000 or more).

Can retaining walls be built into other landscaping features?

Retaining walls needn’t always stand alone. Our list of ideas includes retaining walls built to include stairs, water features, and outdoor kitchens, but that’s just for starters. A retaining wall can be incorporated into many landscape elements, including patios, decks, outdoor living spaces, walkways, and driveways. 

How high can my retaining wall be?

Check the guidelines of your local building codes or homeowner association. These guidelines may govern how high your retaining wall, or other landscaping features, can be. You may need to acquire a builder’s permit before building your retaining wall. 

When to Call a Professional

While some retaining walls may be easy to install, you may need the skills of a professional. Call a local landscape professional near you to install your retaining wall for you.

By hiring a pro, you avoid heavy materials, costly mistakes, and potential injuries in the course of building your retaining wall.  

A professional landscaper also can provide the best material options for your retaining wall, develop landscape design plans, and perform retaining wall maintenance. 

Main Photo Credit: Redi-Rock International / CC BY 2.0

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.