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The Ultimate Guide to Landscaping for Beginners

Want to improve your home’s curb appeal but not sure where to start? Learn the basics of landscaping for beginners, how landscape projects benefit your home, and how to implement the simple landscaping design ideas covered in this ultimate guide!

What Is Landscaping?

Landscaping refers to changing a piece of land to improve its appearance, viability, and value. It can involve altering the architecture, plants, and exterior design of an area. Commonly confused with gardening, landscaping refers to designing and cultivating an entire area, whereas gardening focuses only on the maintenance of plants and flowers. 

What Are the Benefits of Landscaping?

From increasing your home value to providing environmental benefits and lowering energy costs, here are some of the wide-ranging benefits of landscaping.

Increases Home Value

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Homeowners are always looking for ways to improve the resale value of their homes, but home remodels and square footage additions may not always be in the cards. Fortunately, landscaping is a great way to add value without breaking the bank! Landscaped yards increase a home’s perceived value, which can in turn increase your bargaining power when it comes time to sell. In fact, 92% of realtors advise clients to improve the curb appeal of their homes before listing, as a well-groomed yard typically helps sell your home faster by making a strong first impression with homebuyers.

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Supports the Environment

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Landscaping your property gives you the chance to introduce pollinator-friendly and native plants for an eco-friendly yard! Choosing native plants not only helps the local ecosystem but also “weeds out” the need for harsh chemicals and pesticides. Additionally, landscaping can impact air quality for the better. Adding one tree alone can remove up to 10 to 40 kg of carbon dioxide per year, not to mention that lawns absorb 12 million tons of dust and dirt annually—all of which help keep the air cleaner. Planting trees, shrubs, and flowers also creates more oxygen and can reduce soil erosion.

Reduces Energy Costs

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On average, a well-designed landscape saves enough money in energy costs to pay for itself in eight years. Simple things like choosing plants that don’t require frequent watering and implementing hardscaping can reduce your water bill. Similarly, strategically planting shrubs and windbreak trees around your home are energy conservation techniques that can reduce heating and cooling costs—saving energy by as much as 25%.

Extends Your Home Outdoors

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Landscaping can help you create comfortable outdoor living spaces like patios, outdoor kitchens, gardens, pools, and more. Though these spaces don’t count toward additional square footage or livable space, they are an extension of your home, allowing your household to enjoy more room—whether you want more open yard space for your dog or a dedicated area to host backyard parties

How to Get Started with Landscaping

Before diving into a landscaping project, it’s good to map out a plan for how to execute your vision. Having a well-researched and flexible plan will help you manage time and save money while landscaping your yard. Give careful thought to the following factors to create your dream landscape design!

Determine Your Wants & Must-Haves

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Before getting started on your landscaping, consider your wants and needs. Most importantly, think about how you want to use the space—do you want more open space for kids to run around, or do you prefer a landscape that’s full of eclectic features? Would you like additional privacy, or do you want to attract more wildlife to your yard? Budget for your project, be mindful of HOA regulations, and consider what will realistically work in the space you have.

Consider Your Climate

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One of the best landscaping tips for beginners is to research your local area’s climate before starting any projects. Make note of the best plants for your region to ensure they will survive in your plant hardiness zone—for example, it would be impractical for those living in an extremely dry area to plant poinsettias, as they typically have high water and shade needs. In addition, examine how much sun and shade different areas of your yard get throughout the day. This can help you place plants in appropriate areas according to their light needs, or plan to position backyard shade solutions in locations that receive a lot of direct sunlight.

Anticipate Maintenance Needs

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It’s important to think about how much time and money you’re willing to invest in landscape maintenance activities like mowing, trimming, weeding, and fertilizing. Different plants require more attention than others—if you enjoy a challenge or want to make landscaping a regular part of your routine, you may be willing to dedicate more time to your yard. However, if you’re busy or simply don’t enjoy the work, it’s best to implement low-maintenance landscaping ideas.

Set a Pace

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Landscaping for beginners can be overwhelming and expensive—but you don’t have to do everything all at once. Whether you plan to go the DIY landscaping route or hire contractors, set a reasonable schedule for your outdoor makeover. Plan out the location of the biggest items like trees, gazebos, water features, or pergolas first, then fill in the leftover space with your desired plants. Pace yourself and approach your landscaping design with intention.

Go with DIY Landscaping . . .

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The advantages of DIY landscaping include saving money and going at your own pace. Do-it-yourself landscaping projects also give you complete control over every aspect of the creative direction and the chance to add your personal touch. You may get a bit dirty, but if you’re up for a fun challenge, give DIY landscaping a try! Just be mindful of proper landscaping safety precautions and avoid any buried utility lines when digging in the yard.

. . . Or Hire a Landscaping Company

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Hiring a professional company to landscape your yard is perfect if you don’t have a strong green thumb, don’t have the time to invest in a landscaping project, or have a large-scale landscaping design in mind. Landscaping contractors work with you to plan a design and set project timelines, then execute your vision using their team and expertise. If you’re thinking about hiring a professional landscape company, be sure to compare options and check online reviews. This can help you find the right professionals to complete your project while staying within budget and on schedule. 

Basic Landscape Design Elements

Thinking about what landscaping features you want on your property? Here are a few simple art elements to keep in mind when creating your landscape design.


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If you’re looking for ways to make your landscape stand out, emphasize lines in your design. Lines create focal points with landscape objects like water features or flower gardens by naturally creating pathways for the eye to follow. Whether it’s a perceived line (i.e., several objects in a row leading to a location) or a physical path or walkway leading to the feature, lines provide direction for your landscape design.


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Form helps you achieve your desired landscape aesthetic by highlighting the three-dimensional elements of objects to create a visual theme in your yard. Looking for a more welcoming, cozy feel? Rounded plants and curved walkways give your landscape a sense of fluidity that feels more intimate. Or would you prefer a more traditional, formal look? Rigid structures and straight lines can convey formality and provide clear distinctions between outdoor spaces.


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One of the most important design elements is color, which helps set the mood for your landscape design. Warm colors like red, yellow, and orange create excitement and make objects feel closer. On the other hand, cool colors like blue, green, and purple offer a more tranquil feel. You can use colors in unity to convey an overall look, or in contrast to create depth. Color can also be used strategically to make something special stand out in your landscape!


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The most commonly used element in gardens, texture adds variety and visual interest to your landscape. Stems, leaves, trunks, and flowers all have different textures (i.e., coarse, medium, fine, heavy, and light). Similarly, pavements, water features, and other hardscape materials incorporate different textural elements into the look of your yard. Mix different textures to create depth, balance, and intrigue in the space.

Scale & Proportion

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Try to be mindful of the scale or proportion of components you use for your landscape in relation to the overall space—and consider the size of one component relative to adjacent components, as well. Planting several small plants in a row that gradually increase in size can help make natural transitions in your landscape, while placing very tall plants right next to low-to-the-ground ones can result in an unbalanced feel. Considering scale and proportion when arranging your plants can help you create a sense of completion and harmony.


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Achieving balance in landscape design is about creating a sense of stability in your outdoor living space. Symmetrical balance is a formal approach where elements are mirrored on either side of a central focal point. A balanced arrangement can draw the eyes to a section of your landscape you want to highlight. Asymmetrical balance, on the other hand, uses elements with different weights, sizes, and shapes, but then arranges them in a way that feels visually balanced overall. Some tips for creating balance in your landscape design include using color strategically, varying the height and textures of plants, and repeating elements.


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Prioritizing unity in your landscape design can help make it feel like every plant or item belongs together, even if there’s variety. You can achieve unity by repeating specific plant species throughout your garden, or utilizing similar building materials in pathways, patios, and landscape edging. Additionally, establishing a color palette for plants, flowers, hardscapes, and patio furniture can cultivate unity—you can even bring colors from your house’s exterior into the landscaping for continuity!


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Rhythm in landscape design refers to creating a sense of movement and visual flow in your outdoor space. If you’re implementing hardscape features like walkways or patios, you can intentionally place stones close together or far apart to create rhythm and influence how a quickly a person moves through your landscape. In addition, the sound and movement of water in your backyard can offer a natural rhythmic element, while the strategic placement of backyard lights can create flow when guests move through your yard at night.


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