Popular Outdoor Fountain Designs

An outdoor fountain.

Outdoor fountains can be found in just about any location. They bring an air of tranquility to an area with the gentle sound of water. In gardens and parks, they make ideal places to sit and relax. Although there is a very wide range of fountains, they all tend to fall into one of a few general fountain designs. The size of outdoor fountains is extremely variable – from a small pedestal to the size of a football field.

Ornamental Outdoor Fountains

Ornamental fountains get the most attention, which is what they were designed to do. The central image of the fountain is generally a statue or representation of a creature associated with water. Fish and dolphins are very popular on ornamental fountains and often have the water flowing or spouting from their mouths. Mythical creatures and gods are also featured widely. Many outdoor wall fountains are of the ornamental variety and can have many jets of water playing into a large pool. On hot days people like to sit with their feet in the fountains or may even jump into them to cool off.

Rhythmic Outdoor Fountains

Many large municipal fountains operate like a musical instrument and cycle through a display of varying spray patterns. These fountains tend to be quite large, but you can find them scaled down to fit a typical garden. Often also called musical fountains, rhythmic fountains are controlled by punched cards. The largest rhythmic fountains will have their spray program synchronized with a piece of music to make the display even more impressive. The addition of different colored lights and multiple jets create a spectacular effect at night.

Cascade Outdoor Fountains

In cascade fountains, the water is not ejected very high into the air and falls back into a series of levels in the fountain. The fountain is usually shaped like an upside-down cone, with the top being a fairly small collecting bowl for the water. The top bowl flows into a second, larger, lower bowl and from there into a third bowl or the base of the fountain. These fountains can be very ornamental with the carvings organizing the water as it flows from level to level.

Waterfall Outdoor Fountains

A waterfall fountain is similar to a cascade fountain, except that the water pours down the structure of the fountain. This is often shaped like a corrugated board with projecting stones to split the flow and make it more dynamic.

Some waterfall fountains literally are waterfalls. They're used extensively in water gardens and to provide a flow of water between different levels of fish tanks.


Although not always recognized as fountains, many streams in parks and gardens are waterfall fountains where the fall is very gradual, emulating a flowing stream. Often two small pools are connected by a channel and the water is pumped from the lower pool to the higher pool.

Many fountains combine different styles to create the desired effect, and a great number of designs can be created from just these five types.