Many people will look at a pergola and wonder why it even exists. They are probably thinking “You forgot to finish the roof!” or “Where are the walls?” However, there are some good reasons to build a pergola in your yard, since a pergola does have its uses if you look closely enough.
So, what is the purpose of a pergola? A pergola provides comfortable outdoor living space for entertaining. A pergola also makes your home more attractive and increases its value. You can even use a pergola to provide support for grapes, vining vegetables, or flowering plants to climb.
Of course, not all pergolas are the same. You have plenty of options in terms of the materials you use, the size, the location, and which plants you cultivate to grow up the supports of the pergola. Let’s take a closer look at pergolas and how they can improve your home and garden.
What Is The Purpose Of A Pergola?
First, we should make sure we know exactly what a pergola is.
A pergola has sturdy posts to hold up a flat roof, which provides partial or full shade for a deck, patio, or garden area. A pergola can be a freestanding structure, or it can be attached to a house. You can encourage plants to grow and climb up the supports of the structure, but these plants are not required to call it a pergola.
Now that we know what a pergola is, we can get to the uses of the structure. One important use of a pergola is to provide an outdoor entertaining space.
A Pergola Provides Outdoor Entertaining Space
One huge advantage of a pergola is that it provides an outdoor entertainment space for both large parties and small gatherings.
A pergola creates a defined space in your yard, providing a focal point where people can gather to dine or chat. You can build your pergola near your grill to make it convenient for serving at summer barbecues.
A standard pergola provides some protection from the sun, due to its partial roof, without completely eliminating the sunlight.
Of course, you can use a canopy or retractable roof on your pergola to offer more protection from the sun. In that case, you can even entertain outside in the rain, since your guests will be covered by the canopy.
The open sides of a pergola allow air to circulate, which is a welcome relief when a breeze comes by on a hot summer day.
A pergola can also be used to create a shaded path or walkway between your house and garden, serving as a conversation starter if you want to show off your garden.
A pergola can also provide partial or full shade for an entire patio, deck, or pool, which is great for avoiding sunburn on the hottest summer days.
Finally, a pergola can also make for a more private space for relaxation if you have a hammock or hot tub under the pergola.
A Pergola Improves The Value Of Your Home
In addition to providing a beautiful outdoor entertainment space, a pergola will also add value to your home.
Every homeowner values privacy, and you can easily create a private outdoor space with a pergola. Once you build the basic pergola structure, you can place vertical lattices (trellises) on some of the sides of the pergola.
Then, put some plants in pots or in the ground near the sides of the pergola. When these plants grow up along the pergola, they will create a “living wall” that provides natural privacy and blocks noise from neighbors or nearby roads.
A pergola can also add significant beauty to your yard, improving the view of the yard from inside the house, and the appearance of the garden from outside.
In addition, a pergola extends the living area of your home, creating an inviting and functional outdoor space, with as much or as little shade and protection from the elements as you want.
Finally, a pergola can create a sheltered place to relax in your garden, such as in a corner or in the center.
These benefits come without the added expense of building and then heating and cooling a new home addition.
Even if a pergola does not directly add value to your home, it will certainly heighten the appeal for many buyers. This can help you to sell your house faster if you ever decide to move to upgrade to another home.
A Pergola Gives Plants A Place To Climb
One of the most interesting and potentially beautiful uses of a pergola is to give plants a place to climb. All pergolas have supports (beams or posts) to hold up the roof.
You can let plants climb freely up these supports and across the partial roof of the pergola. This will add visual appeal while also increasing the amount of shade that the “living roof” will offer.
You can grow plants in the ground around the outside edges of the pergola, or you can put them in pots at the corners.
Some of the best climbing plants to adorn a pergola include:
- Roses – a perennial flowering plant with thorns and flowers that come in white, yellow, pink, and red. They can get up to 20 feet tall!
- Clematis – another climbing, flowering plant that prefers full sun. Its flowers can be white, pink, red, blue, and maroon. Choose a tall vining variety for your pergola, rather than a shrub variety.
- Wisteria – this flowering plant is technically in the legume family along with beans, peanuts, and alfalfa. The flowers are purple, violet, pink, or white. Wisteria can climb as high as 66 feet (20 meters) and as wide as 33 feet (10 meters), although I would not recommend building a pergola that tall!
- Bougainvillea – this climbing, thorny ornamental plant comes in vine, bush, and tree forms. Its flowers are pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, yellow, or white. A bougainvillea can grow from 3 to 40 feet (1 to 12 meters) tall.
- Ivy (Hedera) – an evergreen vine that will climb or creep along the ground, so encourage it to climb. With support, ivy can climb up to 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground. Its flowers are greenish-yellow, and it produces a greenish-black berry. Pollinators love ivy flowers, so plant some if you want to encourage bees to come to help pollinate the rest of your garden.
- Grapes – a great choice if you like to make your own raisins, juice, wine, or jelly. You can also grow them simply to enjoy the bunches of fruit as they ripen underneath the shade of your pergola.
- Beans – pole beans will grow tall, right up the supports of a pergola. They also produce lots of green beans, which provide a fresh, healthy source of protein to go along with a meal.
- Tomatoes – tomatoes are one of the most popular crops that gardeners grow, and for good reason. Tomatoes are versatile and are used in sauces, dishes, and salads. You can also eat them fresh from the vine, maybe with a bit of salt and pepper.
- Cucumbers – cucumbers are great if you want to make your own pickles, or as a fresh addition to a garden salad made with lettuce and tomatoes.
- Squash – squash is another excellent choice for growing up the supports of a trellis. Steamed summer squash is light and delicious as part of a summer meal under your pergola.
Why Are Pergolas So Popular?
Pergolas are popular for all of the reasons mentioned above. However, they are also popular because they can be a fun do-it-yourself project for homeowners who are handy.
Even if you are not handy, a pergola is a low-risk project to start with. Most pergolas will only cost a few thousand dollars to install, so they are much more affordable than a home addition.
What Is The Best Material For A Pergola?
A brick or stone pergola will give an elegant appearance, although these materials will be expensive. You also may need to hire a professional to build a brick or stone pergola.
A wood pergola is a much more common type, but it won’t hold up as long as brick or stone unless you choose the right wood. Cedar and redwood will last longer in the elements, as will pressure-treated wood.
You can also build a pergola out of metal or plastic, such as vinyl. These may hold up longer, but you may encounter rust with a metal pergola unless the metal is treated properly.
Plastic can hold up a long time under the weather, but it may not have the appearance you want.
By now, you have a much better idea of the purpose and uses of a pergola. You also have some ideas for how you can incorporate a pergola in your own yard.
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information. If you have any questions about pergolas, please leave a comment below.
If a pergola is not quite what you are looking for, check out my article on arbors.