How to Design Outdoor Landscaping


Landscaping your home is about more than buying and placing plants around the outside of the house. Your home's landscape includes everything in the yard or area around your home including water features, paths, driveways, fences, gates, patios, decks and living things. To create a beautiful landscape, you need to apply basic design principles in selecting fixed features and accent plants that are adapted to your area.

How to Design Outdoor Landscaping

Step 1

Measure your yard and the dimensions and location of fixed features in your existing landscape with a flexible measuring tape.

Step 2

Draw a picture to scale of the total area either on graph paper or on the computer and place existing fixed features.

Step 3

Research your options. This can include driving through well-landscaped areas in your city, looking at reference books on landscaping either online or at the library, or talking with a landscape architect. Think about how you and your family want to use and enjoy your completed landscape so that desired features will be included.

Step 4

Review the basic principles of landscape design: unity, simplicity, balance, color, natural transition, line, proportion and repetition. Think about how you can apply these principles to your landscape design.

Step 5

Check with your home owners association, if applicable. Many home owners associations have rules about landscape areas and acceptable plants. It is best to find out these restrictions before you invest in costly landscape features.

Step 6

Create a concept plan that begins with your scale drawing of fixed features and then delineates the areas to be landscaped. Shape and size the area(s) you want to landscape and note their characteristics such as sun and wind exposure, which will impact your plant selection. Place new fixed features into the landscape plan first and then add living features such as trees, shrubs, perennial and annual plants. Use a reference book or reference materials to select living features that are adapted to your area and to the characteristics of the planned location.

Step 7

Edit your concept plan after you have waited a few days to reflect on your design. Get input and suggestions from others living in the house that will also be sharing the landscape. Computer generated pictures using 3-dimensional projections and night views are especially usual for this review.

Step 8

Finalize your plan and print a copy including a list of plants and materials you will need.

Things You'll Need

  • Graph paper
  • Colored pencils or pens
  • Computer with Landscape Design Software and printer (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Flexible measuring tape
  • Reference book on regionally adapted plants
  • Reference materials on landscape design principles


  • Basic Principles of Landscape Design from the University of Florida Extension
  • The Basic Principles of Landscape Design by Landscape Design Advisor
Keywords: landscape design, landscape design principles, landscaping

About this Author

Barbara Brown has been a freelance writer since 2006. She worked 10 years performing psychological testing before moving into information research. She worked as a knowledge management specialist and project manager in defense and health research. She is studying to be a master gardener and has a master's degree in psychology from Southern Methodist University.