I’ve had the good fortune of having nice landscaping and gardens much of my life. As most kids do, I took it for granted. My parents were avid gardeners and so our yards always looked great.
After years living in apartments, we moved into a larger home with a good-sized yard. The real bonus is it was spectacularly landscaped by previous owners to our benefit. All we need to do is maintain it.
However, if faced with landscaping a yard, I’d seriously consider premium software to help organize my thoughts and put together a blueprint. I think software is only really necessary for a larger landscaping project with multiple gardens.
The problem with software is it takes a while to learn it and make it work for you.
But, once you get going with it, relax and have some fun, it can be a very powerful design tool, whether for interior design or outside your home for landscape and/or garden design.
I’m a software nut. I love it. I enjoy learning it and using it. Hence we’ve published and updated this terrific design software lists and articles.
While I’m all about free, I think if you’re going to invest time into creating landscape designs with software, you’re better off buying the premium software. While there are some awesome free interior design software options, not so much with garden and landscape design unfortunately.
Benefits of using software to design gardens and landscaping
Using software, even rudimentary software, helps you establish a concrete plan for your gardens and landscaping. It can also help you to think through what you want. It’s not easy visualizing landscaping all at once, but when sketched out, not only will you have a better chance of remembering every detail (because it’s right there for you), but you’ll also have a detailed plan from which to create your outdoor primarypiece.
=> FYI: if you’re looking for deck design-specific software, click here (although many of the options below include deck design modules as well).
A. Free Options
Unfortunately the following free options are awesome, but if you’re on a budget and just want to get a taste of using landscaping software, give some of the following a try. If you like software for designing your yard, then you’ll definitely want to check out the premium versions below. They aren’t terrible expensive and may just help you put together the perfect yard.
Also, I don’t recommend any one particular option below. Our aim is to provide a comprehensive list of your options. It’s pretty easy and fast to kick the tires so you can figure out which one to use.
1. Home Outside (Freemium app)
The Home Outside software is available as an app on iOS and Google Play. It’s free to download and to use, but you must pay to download your plans. Some people criticize it because you need to pay at some point, but I think it wouldn’t be as good as it is if you didn’t have to pay. The plus side is you can see if you can use it to get the right plan for you. If you don’t, at least you’re not out of pocket unlike other design software that forces you to buy up front.
2. Gardena (Free)
Gardena is a website that sells all types of landscaping products for water management (hoses, sprinklers, etc.), lawn care (lawnmowers), tree and shrub cae (hedge trimmers, shears, etc.) and other garden care tools.
Their free online software (available at their website; it’s not an app) is a way to get you interested in their products. I like this arrangement because they can afford to invest in decent free landscaping software. In other words, they aren’t looking to profit from the software itself; instead the software is a way to attract people to their site and promote various products. It’s a win/win between Gardena and us consumers looking for free design tools.
Below is a series of screenshots we took using the software. You’ll see it’s fairly intuitive and offers some good options.
3. Marshalls Garden Visualiser (Free)
While free, you must download this software to your computer. Click here to try it.
4. Shoot Garden Planner (Free)
Click here to try this software.
Watch the Shoot Garden Planner Tutorial Video
5. Better Homes & Gardens Garden Design Tool
Click here to try this free online garden design tool.
B. Paid Options
If you’re looking for higher quality software, I hate to break it to you, but you need to buy it. The cost range is pretty high. Punch and HGTV software is on the lower end of the cost-range. Home Designer is mid-range and then Sketchup Pro is expensive.
That said, in relation to how much landscaping costs, the software is pretty insignificant. I think it’s worth investing in quality software so you get a quality design and plan before investing thousands in the actual work.
Below are 7 popular landscape and garden design software options.
1. Smart Draw (Freemium)
Smart Draw is pretty cool design software for garden and landscape planning.
Watch the SmartDraw Interior Design Software Video
2. Idea Spectrum (Paid)
Watch the Idea Spectrum Realtime Landscaping Demo Video
3. Structure Studios (Paid)
Structure Studios has 3 lines of outdoor software. They are VIP 3D, VizTerra and Pool Studio.
Watch the Structure Studios Demo Video
4. Chief Architect’s Home Designer Software (Paid)
Chief Architect’s Home Designer Software includes landscape design modules, but be sure you buy the right package.
Watch the Chief Architect Software Video
5. Landscape Deck & Patio by Punch! (Paid)
Punch! software is a very popular design software company.
Punch Design Software Video Demo
6. HGTV Ultimate Home Design (Paid)
Here are some screenshots illustrating what you can design landscape-wise with HGTV’s landscape design software:
HGTV Home Design Software Video Demo
7. SketchUp (Free and Paid)
Sketchup is the ultimate design program, whether for the outside or the inside. It’s what many of the pros use. However, if you’re looking the animated video finished result, Sketchup on its own won’t do that. You need to upload your Sketchup designs to an animation software such as Lumion.
However, Sketchup Pro isn’t cheap. It’s $695. For personal use, a bit steep. For professionals, a basic cost of doing business. Check out the video… this is amazing software.
Sketchup Pro Software Video Demo