Landscape design software is a type of computer program that helps users plan their yard and other exterior features. Using landscaping software, you can visually lay out the future of your grass, trees, bushes, decks, and other features so you can easily design the best yard for your home and climate.
The best landscape design software is easy to use, affordable, and supports a wide range of outdoor use-cases, from ideas for adding new shrubs to more complex layouts involving a new deck and other features. When you’re done using landscape design software, you should have a great plan available to refresh the exterior of your home with a complete picture of what lies ahead.
Best Landscape Design Software of 2021
Best Overall : SketchUp
Cost: Free to $699 per year
Platforms Available: Web-based, iOS, Android, Windows
Free Trial: Free version available
We chose SketchUp because it includes extensive landscape design features with a free version for personal users and more advanced versions for experts and professional designers.
Free version may be enough for your needs
Shop, Pro, and Studio versions add more features
Design your entire home including landscaping
Robust software isn’t focused on landscaping
Free version is web-only
Paid versions require a subscription
SketchUp is a powerful design software made by the construction and design technology company Trimble. For designers of any kind, landscapers included, SketchUp includes 3D modeling tools, a library of pre-built models, and mobile viewing in a free version. Paid upgrades unlock features including augmented reality (AR) mobile viewing, integrated design research, a Windows desktop version, and other useful features.
If you want to put together your own landscape or deck design, the free version should be enough. But if you want to get more detailed and use the fun augmented reality features, an annual subscription is required. The upgraded versions are Shop ($119 per year), Pro ($299 per year), and Studio ($699 per year). In addition, discounts are available for teachers and students.
We picked SketchUp as best overall because it offers features that can handle nearly any landscaping project, including 3D modeling, with a free version available that could be enough for many at-home users.
Best for 3D Design : VizTerra
We picked VizTerra because it creates high-quality 3D visual designs with support for AutoCAD and real-time walkthroughs.
Powerful 3D modeling
Covers all outdoor design needs
Supports AutoCAD DXF files
Requires a high priced subscription
VizTerra from Structure Studios is an outdoor 3D design tool for Windows computers. It includes tools for many outdoor landscaping needs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include support for swimming pools, though an upgrade is available if you want to add a pool to your design.
The software includes 1,733 plants and trees and includes outdoor features such as hardscapes, pergolas, outdoor kitchens, and fencing. When you’re ready to see your design, it’s viewable as a real-time walkthrough or as a photo or video rendering. The higher-end VIP3D version adds support for shadows, Sketchup FBX files, 3D artistic effects, and virtual reality, but it’s about twice the price of VizTerra.
The biggest downside is the cost, which comes out to about $1,000 per year when paid annually or $97 when paid monthly. It’s also Windows-only, with no planned support for Mac computers in the future. They do suggest a potential workaround for tech-savvy Mac users, but it’s not officially supported. Due to the cost, it’s best for professionals. Though serious DIYers can create high-end designs for their own projects as well.
Best Mobile App : PRO Landscape
PRO Landscape is the best mobile app because its tablet-specific apps for iPad and Android lets you create and view designs in an intuitive mobile version.
iPad and Android apps support design and viewing
Edit photos with drag and drop support
Integrates with powerful Windows desktop app
Expensive one-time purchase price
For Windows desktops only
PRO Landscape design software is a landscape-specific design application for Windows PCs. We picked it for this category thanks to its iPad and Android tablet apps, which are useful for designing and viewing. Pros will enjoy the ability to snap a picture with your tablet and add to the design from the same mobile interface. For completed designs, you can show off your work to clients before starting on the project.
PRO Landscape desktop is a landscape-specific CAD tool designed for ease of use. You can import DWG, DFX, or PDF files and integrate Google Earth images into your plans. It creates nice-looking proposals for clients or customers and supports converting from 2D to 3D models. One somewhat unique feature is support for night-lighting in a few clicks, great for any landscape project or holiday lighting plan.
The major cons are the price, currently $1,245 with a public coupon code, and the Windows-only desktop support. It lists a method to make it work on Mac, but that’s best for tech-savvy computer users. The tablet mobile apps are included free with the desktop app purchase.
Best for Photo Imaging : Lands Design
Lands Design creates photo-realistic images of your designs, making it our top choice as best for photo imaging.
High detailed renderings of terrain, vegetation, and other features
Generate virtual tours and walkthroughs
Additional software dependencies
Lands Design is professional-level design software that requires CAD and Rhino to work, which can be purchased alongside Lands Design as a package. It includes advanced design features for all landscaping needs, including terrain, hardscapes, vegetation, and even irrigation systems making it the best for photo imaging. However, this expensive, expert-level software is not ideal for at-home users.
Designers have options for designing in 2D and 3D with a one-click switch to change views. The workspace is customizable to your preferences and gives you control over the fine details of the project. When you’re ready, Lands Design exports high-quality photo renderings, virtual reality walkthroughs, animated walkthroughs or panoramas, 360-degree viewpoints, sun animations, and other details that make it suitable for even the highest-end government or business project.
You’ll pay $795 for Lands Design alone or $1,695 for a package that includes Lands Design and Rhino 7. While these are major investments, businesses will have excellent results from this high-powered software. In addition, students and teachers can get access to the software at a discount. It’s Windows-only and works best on late-model, powerful computers.
Best for DIYers : Realtime Landscaping Pro
We like that Realtime Landscaping Pro brings professional-level design features at a more affordable price-point than some high-end competitors.
Support for 3D landscape designs with photo-integration
Extensive design features for up to 100 acres
12,000 design items included
Upgrade required for CAD support
Real Landscaping Pro is the mid-level landscape design software suite from Idea Spectrum. We picked the Pro version because it includes most features anyone would want for their own backyard or landscape design project without the higher price of the version with CAD support, something most DIYers don’t need.
Real Landscaping Pro includes support for 3D landscape designs, designing over your own photos, water features, homes, and other elements including decks, fencing, gardens, paths, lighting, sprinkler systems, and other design needs. This version includes 12,000 design elements.
Real Landscaping Pro costs $149.95 and is Windows-only. The lighter Plus version costs $99.95 with fewer features, while the upgraded Architect version works with CAD and costs $399.95. Real Landscaping Pro does a good job of balancing features you may need for your own landscape design without spending hundreds of dollars on software to get started.
Best for Collaboration : SmartDraw
We like that SmartDraw integrates with several popular online storage platforms and supports multiple users collaborating on the same project.
Multiple users can collaborate online
Works with Microsoft, Google, and other storage platforms
Supports Windows, Mac, and mobile devices
Annual subscription required
Not good for 3D modeling
Not exclusively for landscape design
We picked SmartDraw as the best for collaboration because the online platform connects remote teams with several collaboration tools that work on both Windows and Mac computers. SmartDraw isn’t just for landscape design, though it works well for the purpose. It also supports many types of diagrams, flowcharts, and other designs.
For landscape design, SmartDraw is very good for 2D designs, though it doesn’t get as detailed as some landscape-specific software competitors. It’s great for designing and planning landscapes with a library of landscape templates and drag-and-drop “symbols” to represent flowers, shrubs, grasses, sprinklers, groundcover, brick patterns, and landscape textures. But for collaboration, it’s hard to beat. You can link and share files using tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or Box, or by emailing a project link. It integrates with many tools and platforms, including Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, Jira, and Trello.
SmartDraw is reasonably affordable, with a cost of $119.40 per year for a single-user license. Discounts are available with five or more users.
Best Templates : Punch! Home & Landscape
We like that Punch! Home & Landscape includes drag-and-drop tools with sample home designs and other templates to speed up your project.
Pre-designed homes and other templates available
Content-packs include additional items and templates
Affordable price for beginner designers
Paid content packs may be required for your project
No Mac version
Punch features several home design software packages, with five versions of its Home & Landscape package to choose from. The $49.99 Essentials version may be enough for many do-it-yourself designers, while upgraded versions are suitable for professionals with more features and tools for creating photorealistic projects.
The Essentials version gives you enough to create floor plans quickly with drag-and-drop tools. You can start with a photo of your yard and work from there or pick a template to start your project. The software includes a vast library of plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs to hone in on your backyard design ideas. Content Packs cost around $39.99 each and includes additional furniture, materials, and other potential design needs.
Punch! Home & Landscape is designed for Windows but may work on Mac if you’re an experienced user who knows how to run Windows apps on your Mac. Unfortunately, there’s no free trial, but it does come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. While the higher-end versions come with more features, consider starting with a lower-cost option, as it may meet your planning needs.
Best Free Software : Terragen
We chose Terragen because it is completely free for non-commercial use and generates highly realistic outdoor designs.
Free to use for noncommercial purposes
High-quality clouds, water, and other terrain features
Hollywood-quality results used in movies and TV
Subscription or purchase required for commercial use
Terragen from Planetside Software creates extremely high-quality renderings suitable for use in Hollywood movies. The free version outputs high-quality images and videos that are so good that it's chosen by top professionals to show off design skills.
Terragen includes 2D and 3D design features, high-quality textures, shading, and animations. You can drop in objects such as trees, rocks, birds, houses, and more. It gets into the smallest details, like a single blade of grass or moss on a log. Depending on your needs, it could be overkill. But the price is right for at-home users.
Upgraded versions cost $299 to $599, but most landscape designers wouldn’t need any more than what’s available in the free version.
SketchUp is our top choice overall due to flexible pricing and features that should meet the needs of nearly any landscape designer. It’s also very popular for integrations with other design software, so you might want to use it alongside other tools even if it’s not perfect for your needs.
Professional designers may have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for commercial-grade software they can use to create projects for clients, while DIY users may find free versions do plenty to get your landscape project moving. Make sure your chosen software works on your computer, as many are Windows-only. For a good all-around experience, we suggest SketchUp.
Compare the Best Landscape Design Software
|Company||Cost||Platforms Supported||Free Trial||Integrations|
|Free to $699 per year||Web, iOS, Android, Windows||Free version available||600+ extensions|
Best for 3D Design
|$97 per month or $1,008 per year||Windows||Yes||AutoCAD, GIS database|
Best Mobile App
|$1,495||Windows, iPad, Android||Yes||20+ partners including Autodesk|
Best for Photo Imaging
|$795||Windows||Yes||AutoCAD, Rhino, Grasshopper|
|Realtime Landscaping Pro
Best for DIYer
Best for Collaboration
|$119.40 per year||Web, Android, iOS||Yes||Many|
|Punch! Home & Landscape
Best for Templates
|$49.99 to $499.99||Windows||No||AutoCAD|
Best Free Software
|Free||Windows, Mac||N/A - Already Free||Global Mapper, WorldMachine, World Creator, Daylon Leveller|
How to Choose the Best Landscape Design Software
Professionals and at-home users have different goals with landscape design, so there is not a perfect landscape design software for everyone. To pick the best software for your needs, consider the type of project you’re working on, how long you’ll plan to use the software, the type of computer you have, and the cost. As landscape software can be complex, it’s also wise to consider your comfort level with technology before making a big investment.
Using Landscape Design Software vs. Hiring a Landscaper or Designer
When you use landscape software, it’s up to you to import photos or create a layout of your yard, choose climate-appropriate plants, and make sure your design looks nice. When you hire a professional landscaper or designer, they take care of all of that for you. You’ll save time and may get a better result with a professional, but doing it yourself gives you something that’s uniquely yours. If you have relatively basic needs or feel confident in your design skills, there’s no reason not to plan your own landscape design.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Landscape Design Software Do?
Landscape design software is a type of computer-aided design (CAD) program to help you create the layout of your outdoor spaces. If you’re looking to update a yard or garden, add a pool, add a deck, or completely refresh your landscaping, landscape design software helps you put the plans together while giving you a visual preview of what to expect when the final project is complete.
When Should You Use Landscape Design Software?
While you may not need landscape software for small changes to your yard, it’s very helpful with larger projects. It also helps you understand the size of your full-grown plants and trees, so you don’t overplant. There are no limits to how small of a project you can use landscape design software for, so you may want to download and try out a free program for even little changes like adding a couple of shrubs in front of your home.
Can Landscaping Design Software Integrate With Other Programs?
Landscape design software often integrates with other programs. Designers regularly use various tools to create furniture, custom additions, and any other part of the design. When you choose software that integrates, it’s easy to save and move a design from one program to another. For example, you may create a deck design in one app and then export it to your main design software.
How Much Does Landscape Design Software Cost?
Landscape design software varies in cost based on the features and vendor. Some quality programs are available for free, while others cost well over $1,000. The applications we looked at feature versions that cost as much as $1,500. But with high-quality options available for free, there’s no need for hobbyists and DIYers to spend nearly that much. On the other hand, if you’re a professional designer, spending more than $1,000 may be prudent.
To pick the best landscape design software, we looked at 14 different software options focusing on features, platforms supported, integrations, cost, and ease-of-use for various project types. While the cost was a factor, professional users may have to pay more for quality software, so we didn’t lower ranking for high-cost software packages. The software included here is suitable for a wide range of use cases from beginner designers to seasoned professionals.