Looking to update your outdoor space? To design the backyard or garden of your dreams, trade in your pen and paper for a landscape design software program.
Landscape design software helps users visualize and lay out an outdoor space. The best landscape design software options are user-friendly and functional, making it simple to arrange, edit, and update landscaping plans. Beyond designing a garden or backyard, some landscape design software also assists with planning outdoor fixtures like decks, pools, fountains, and covered outdoor spaces.
Whether for summoning inspiration for your garden or creating a DIY backyard layout, the best landscape design software can help to imagine a beautiful outdoor space. This guide will explore factors to consider when choosing landscape design software and then review some of the top options on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Punch! Landscape Design Software
- RUNNER-UP: Idea Spectrum Realtime Landscaping Plus
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Garden Planner
- BEST FREE: Gardena myGarden
- BEST DESKTOP: Chief Architect Home Designer Suite
- BEST IN-BROWSER: Trimble SketchUp for Web
- BEST FOR TABLETS: PRO Landscape
- BEST FOR LAYOUT DESIGN: SmartDraw
- ALSO CONSIDER: Structure Studios VizTerra Landscape Design Software
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Landscape Design Software
With a range of options for every designer, from the new homeowner to the professional contractor, landscape design software makes landscape design accessible to a wider audience. The best landscape design software for you will depend on your needs and skill level. When choosing a software option, consider the price, device compatibility, viewing options, and usability, in addition to the number of features and functions to design your ideal outdoor space.
Free Vs. Paid
Both free and paid landscape design software options are available. Free design software is an attractive option for budget-conscious planners. However, these programs often include fewer features than paid versions.
Free programs can help envision the overall layout of a landscape but may not include a large object library to customize the space entirely. Most free programs also offer fewer viewing features than paid programs and are usually restricted to 2D viewing. However, low-cost and free programs are accessible to the average homeowner and often provide a novice-friendly interface. They can deliver the basic planning features necessary for a one-time project.
Paid landscape design software programs offer the widest array of functions, such as customizable features, a thoughtfully designed interface, and expansive item, material, and plant libraries. Many paid programs allow for a free trial period or a demo version for users to see if it is a good fit for their needs.
A design program will have little use without a compatible device on which to perform. Luckily, landscape design software options are available for a range of devices and platforms, including computers, tablets, mobile devices, and web browsers.
As with many software programs, make sure to check the system requirements before buying or downloading any landscape design software. Some options have different programs or apps available for Windows or Mac systems and Android or iOS devices. When choosing a desktop program, also consider system requirements, such as memory space.
Web-based programs run in a browser and are accessible to a broader audience since they don’t require any downloads. However, keep in mind that the majority of landscape design software is optimized for desktop browsers rather than mobile phone browsers.
Landscape design software is available for every level of designer, from DIY hobbyists to professional contractors. For the average homeowner, a user-friendly interface is an important feature. Choose a software with a balance between easy-to-use functionality and a wide range of design features.
Novice-friendly landscape design software includes intuitive functionality that makes it easier to use, such as premade design templates, click-and-drag options, and drag-and-drop features. An expansive item, material, and plant library also add to the user-friendly experience.
For complicated landscape plans or those with design experience, a more complex software program is a suitable pick. These options typically include more customizable features, allowing creative designers to sketch items from scratch. Since there are more features, these programs also tend to have a steeper learning curve.
2D and 3D Design Features
Users can choose between 2D and 3D design options. Landscape design software that features 2D drafting displays the length, width, and height of a layout, whereas 3D modeling also indicates the depth. In addition to 2D and 3D viewing options, some landscape design programs offer VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) viewing to bring your landscape design to life.
Software with 2D drafting capability is helpful for planning out an area’s dimensions. These programs tend to use simple shapes and images to present the plan in an easy-to-understand way, like creating an overhead blueprint of an outdoor space. While they are excellent for planning, 2D designs don’t offer the visualization options of 3D models.
Software with 3D modeling functionality provides a visualization of how the landscape will look in real life. These programs are intended to capture the ambience of the finished space. Photo-realistic 3D renderings and video walk-throughs are among the best landscape design software options to better visualize your outdoor space.
Our Top Picks
Visualize an upcoming landscaping project with the best landscape design software. The following options assist with the creation of a beautiful outdoor space, helping users plot flower beds, shrubbery, and lawns, as well as plan out walkways, decks, and more. With the above considerations in mind, these software options are among the best programs for their usability and wide variety of features.
Punch! offers a variety of paid Windows and Mac desktop programs for home and landscape design. This software is a versatile program for designing interior and exterior spaces. There are four versions from which users can choose—Essentials, Studio, Professional, and Architectural Series. All four versions include a robust set of landscape design tools and realistic visualization modes.
While there may be a learning curve to using this software, it’s still designed with beginners in mind. The program features 2D and 3D design modes. Drag-and-drop functions and a large product library combine to make outdoor spaces easier to design. Beyond planning a garden, users can model decks, fences, and fixtures or create any object using the 3D custom workshop.
The Punch! software planting library includes a wide selection of trees, flowers, and shrubs, each with detailed information so users can make the best selections for their area. Another handy feature is the automatic growth tool, which helps users envision their landscape over time.
Idea Spectrum’s Realtime Landscaping Plus software brings garden ideas to life in stunning 3D. This desktop software helps users design gardens, yards, decks, fencing, driveways, and more in 2D as well. The item library offers 11,000 objects, including 5,300 plant varieties, to visualize a garden design.
Each plant option includes its common and botanical names, planting zones, and size for users to make suitable plant decisions. The Plant Growth tool allows users to view what their garden design will look like over the coming years and, more importantly, estimate in advance the room each plant will need. Terrain sculpting tools help users visualize realistic topography.
This paid software is designed for beginners with a relatively user-friendly interface and drag-and-drop functions. There may be a learning curve to take advantage of its full suite of features, but most users should find it simple to get started. At this time, this software is only available for desktop computers that run Windows.
Garden Planner is a basic paid desktop software for the budget-conscious. This affordable software provides drag-and-drop design tools needed to create a garden plan, including planning gardens, pavings, pathways, and fences. The drag-and-drop interface makes it simple to operate; users can arrange plants, fixtures, and buildings with a simple click.
Made for simple planning, this software only offers 2D models but still dresses up garden plans with stylized icons. A library of over 1,200 plants and object symbols covers most common garden items. In addition, gardeners will enjoy the Vegetable Patch Builder, a grid planner for laying out planting beds. For other items, a drawing tool lets users sketch paving, decking, and pool designs. This affordable software is available for both Windows and Mac computers.
With no registration process or program fees, the Gardena myGarden website is one of the most easily accessible options on this list. This in-browser garden designer is optimized for larger screens, like computers and tablets, but also works on mobile phone browsers. Users can start planning with just one click.
This simple program helps users create a 2D garden layout using a custom drawing feature or by choosing from a handful of templates. Navigating this software is a breeze, thanks to the beginner-friendly interface.
Users can choose from a limited number of materials, plants, furniture, and outdoor leisure items. While this design program is free and easy to use, its main drawback is the limited product library. For this reason, myGarden is better suited for basic layout planning rather than detailed visualizations.
Consider Chief Architect’s Home Designer Suite software to design landscapes, outdoor fixtures, and interior rooms. This paid software is a robust home design software compatible with both Windows and Mac computers.
This software is designed for DIY enthusiasts. With an intuitive interface, automated building tools, video tutorials, and free customer support, it brings professional-level design software to a more accessible level.
The program includes an array of landscape and deck design options. Users can choose from a template or design their own landscape. Both 2D and 3D viewing options help users visualize their new space, and with up to 3,600 plant varieties, it’s simple to customize the garden. Click, drag, and drop functions make this software easy to use, even when adjusting more complex features like terrain molding.
Popular among professional designers, Trimble SketchUp is a feature-filled 3D rendering software. Since it’s made with designers in mind, this software can create pretty much any features users call to mind with tools to visualize, model, and render an idea into a detailed plan. There may be a learning curve for some users, but for those who want to undertake creative landscaping plans, the flexibility of this program is well worth it.
Two versions are available: a free in-browser version with limited features, and a paid subscription version with full features. The paid version offers both a browser-based and a desktop program.
SketchUp Free includes the core 3D modeling software, which is filled with features for users to design a custom landscape. However, both 2D and 3D viewing options are available, and free users have access to an extensive free 3D Warehouse, which is a vast user-generated item library with hundreds of thousands of objects.
PRO Landscape’s Contractor app is designed with contractors in mind, with a range of features to visualize a dreamy garden. The user-friendly interface puts simple garden design at the designer’s fingertips.
A photo design feature allows users to snap a picture of the current garden and then drag and drop 3D plants and fixtures into the image. For new gardens and more significant renovations, users can create scaled 2D drawings to plan the layout of plant beds, edging, and walkways.
This stand-alone app is compatible with both iOS and Android tablets. Downloading the app is free and offers a limited set of features; to take full advantage of the app and its 18,000-plus-item image library, users can opt in to a monthly subscription.
Made for creating 2D diagrams, layouts, and designs, SmartDraw is used by individuals and businesses alike to create detailed diagrams and blueprints. The versatile 2D diagramming software can generate everything from flow charts and schedules to mock-ups and floor plans—users can draw almost anything via the user-friendly interface.
The software features editable landscape design templates, or users can create a design from scratch. An extensive landscape symbol library makes it easy to drag and drop features into the plan. With thousands of symbols and shapes, users can add features like grasses, shrubs, sprinkler systems, and photo-realistic textures to plan out walkways.
Users can try SmartDraw for free, then update to a paid subscription to take advantage of its full features. The program is accessible from any web browser, including on mobile devices, so users can design from anywhere. Finished plans are easy to share with family, friends, or contractors through integrations with Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and OneDrive.
VizTerra from Structure Studios can help bring landscape designs to life via striking 3D renderings. Made for beginners and expert designers alike, this software boasts an intuitive interface and a range of customizable design tools.
Users can create a topographic landscape, gardens, pathways, fences, pools, decks, and other outdoor fixtures. To add greenery to the design, access the drag-and-drop plant library, which features thousands of lifelike trees, flowers, and ground cover. The library also includes thousands of decorations and objects to fully flesh out the finished outdoor space.
Users can design in 2D or 3D mode. To make it easier to visualize a design, simply transform 2D project drawings into interactive 3D presentations with just one click. For the most immersive experience, this software is compatible with Oculus Rift headsets for a virtual reality experience. It is only available for Windows computer systems.
FAQs About Landscape Design Software
The best landscape design software programs work to visualize your new outdoor space. These programs make it simple to create, arrange, and edit a detailed landscaping plan. Before choosing your landscape design software, consider the frequently asked questions and answers below.
Q. How do I use landscape design software?
Follow the directions to start a browser-based program, or download and install a desktop program. Once you’ve opened the program, begin by exploring the different features and functions to start designing.
Q. What is the best free landscape design software?
Gardena myGarden is the best free, in-browser landscape design software on this list for novice designers. This basic program requires no design experience and no registration or email sign-up to start the design process.
Q: How do I download landscape design software?
On the program website or once you’ve purchased the software, follow the displayed instructions on how to download and install the landscape design software on either a Windows or Mac platform.