Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Grow with Bovees
Planning is of utmost importance when trying to establish a garden design that will leave your neighbors and you in a state of awe.
Gone are the days of delineating landscape designs on paper, but today creating these beautiful dioramas complete with gardens, trees, miniature shrubs is simple and straightforward with the best landscape design software.
But landscape software can be expensive, and can cost upwards of $1000, which is one of the reasons these programs were mostly used by only landscape professionals.
However, there are a plethora of free landscape design software tools available that allow you to create stunning landscape designs on your mobile phone, tablet, or desktop.
What are Landscape Design Software Programs?
Landscape planning software is somewhat similar to architectural software, in that it allows you to whip up amazing designs worthy of a dream garden.
Free landscape designing software is preprogramed with myriad collections of roofing, walls, fences, furnishing patterns, and even options for designing driveways.
Software for free yard and garden designs provides you with the essential tools and automation to create accurate models of landscapes.
This type of design software is available in two levels; amateur and professional, where the former is geared towards rendering simple visualization of a garden design, and the latter provides professional tools such as 3D modeling.
How Will Landscape Design Software Benefit You?
One of the biggest benefits of using free design software is that it allows you to digitally visualize and create a garden design without making any physical changes in your garden.
This could save you from making some very costly mistakes, especially if those errors are permanent. With free landscape software, you have a zero percent chance of error, because what you create on the screen is what you implement into your garden. Some allow you to upload photo images of your yard, which can help with design ideas.
Landscape design tools also feature an arsenal of items that you can place in your garden to gauge their look and feel.
When you select the right elements and features, and see them positioned on your screen, you will save money from buying items that could look odd on your property.
Some free design software can suggest online and offline stores that stock these items, which saves you time from locating these products yourself.
Even if you aren’t going to design your lawn yourself, you can use free design tools to create the design you like, and share them with your landscape contractor, so you get both, the look you imagined, and professional results.
It’s similar to trying to explain a hairstyle to your barber, where a simple photo can do the trick.
Most feature-rich landscape design programs allow you to print or email your design to your friends, families, and/or your professional landscape architect.
5 Key Benefits of Landscape Design Software
1. Realtime Landscaping
Whether you’re a DIY homeowner or professional landscape designer, design software allows you to accurately visualize what your project will look like in a few minutes.
2. Easier Decision Making
With realtime landscaping, you will be able to decide on the right design, and the things you need to buy to transform it into reality.
3. Inspire Ideas For Your Outdoor Space
Landscaping design software provides you with several designs, some of which you may have never thought of unassisted.
4. Maximize Space
Given that landscape designing software opens up the doors to endless possibilities, you will be able to input the size of your floor plan to determine what changes are possible.
5. Stay Organized
When you have a ready-to-go design and know exactly the things you need to bring it to fruition, the project will run smoothly rather than turning into a stressful experience.
How to Pick the Right Free Garden Design Software for The DIY Homeowner
Choosing the best free landscape design software, especially if you’re a do-it-yourself homeowner can be a bit overwhelming, because there are just so many to choose from.
But here are a few factors to consider for homeowners and pro landscape architects.
How Much Does This Design Software Cost?
Free landscape softwares are just that, completely free to use, but on the downside, they do have limitations.
To access special features such as 3d models or more plant library designs, you may have to upgrade to the Pro version of the respective garden design software.
Cost however isn’t the main driving factor when selecting the best free software. Just think about the considerable amount of time and money you’ll save on creating a garden design from scratch on paper, and hiring professional landscape designers to do the job right.
From another perspective, if you’re a pro landscape designer, then paying $5000 for a great design software is well worth it if you’re bidding for a $30,000 design job.
Whether you choose to go with free or paid design software, you should check whether it comes with regular updates and isn’t buggy, whether there’s an extra cost for more users, and a money-back guarantee.
How Easy is it to Learn and Use A Landscape Design Tool?
Even though it’s free landscape design software, you will have to spend some time learning how to use it well to unlock its full potential.
For example, Sketchup is a free software that has a YouTube channel with more than 300 videos and tutorials, which makes it easy to navigate and use the software.
Apart from landscape design software tutorials on its many features, don’t forget the level of support the program offers. Great chances are that you may not get support with certain cheap or free software programs, but again it’s free, so you really have nothing to lose!
Are the Designs Compatible with CAD Files?
If you’re going to be coordinating with landscaping professionals, you may need to provide them with certain file types such as DWG, DXF, DGN, for which you will need good landscape design software that’s compatible with CAD (Computer Aided Design).
What Kind of Devices is Landscape Design Software Compatible With?
Most of the free versions of landscaping designing software are compatible with Windows as well as MAC systems, and there are a few that can be used on Windows, MAC, and mobile devices as well including tablets.
Then there some paid landscape design software options that come with a companion app for tablets such as Pro Landscape Design.
How to Use Free Landscaping Design Software?
Some of the best free landscape design solutions are easy to use, whereas others can be quite overwhelming, especially if you’re just dipping your toe in the water.
Pro landscape home outdoor space design softwares generally come with a wide range of tutorials to help you use the program more effectively.
But to get the right design ideas, you should accurately measure your yard, and decide on how you want it to look.
You should also use free Pro landscape home design programs on the device you’re comfortable with such as on Android or Apple devices or a browser.
Free vs. Paid Landscaping Software
With free landscape design software, you aren’t going to get all the bells and whistles that you would with pro landscape home garden design programs, such as the ability to create 3D models. 3D models are more realistic, and are a good feature to have if you’re presenting a professional design to clients.
Other features that may be missing in the best free landscape design programs is a large plant library to choose from or lack thereof, or cloud storage.
However, if you’re just using the garden design program for home use and to get a basic idea of how you want your yard to look, then free design software should render great design ideas.
There are a few landscape design programs that offer both paid and pro versions, so you can always upgrade from a trial version if you decide you’d like to access other features.
1. SketchUp Free
SketchUp is billed as the best 3D modeling and design tool in its segment, and comes with a rich set of features. Brought to you by Trimble Inc., SketchUp is geared towards Professional landscapers and pro landscape designers, as well as film & stage designers, and is available in both a free and paid version.
Learning SketchUp Free can be a bit challenging, but once you do get the hang of things, it offers some amazing features at no cost to you. Originally launched in 2000, Google-owned SketchUp was sold to Trimble in 2012, a company that added several new features to the free and pro versions after acquisition.
The company also offers a 30-day free trial of SketchUp Pro, after which it will switch back to the free version if you choose not to upgrade.
SketchUp free works in any web browser, and features a simple interface that is clutter-free from all the tools and sidebars. The toolbars are tucked away neatly on the left of the screen, which is where you would go to access the navigational and drawing tools.
The toolbar on the right of the screen contains several panels of this landscape design program including an instructor, (which is basically a simple help panel), view and rendering options, color themes and textures, and a 3D warehouse.
Even though the instructor in the free SketchUp version is fairly simple, it’s extremely useful, as it shows you how to use specific tools such as the orbit tool via animation.
The view controls of the SketchUp free app are also very good, and allow you to move your camera around your landscape design model, as well as take a tour around the 3D model space. Adding to this, you can even animate these views in SketchUp such as switching from a front elevation to angled views.
The free version of the SketchUp app allows you to export your design in PNG and STL file format. For other export options such as 3D model file formats, you will need to upgrade to the pro version.
SketchUp free won’t give you the same experience as certain other landscape design softwares, but does allow you to create complicated designs with minimal fuss once you learn your way around.
One of the biggest downsides of the SketchUp free garden designer is that it can’t be used for commercial purposes, so it will probably not be a good choice if you’re a professional garden planner. Adding to this, the free edition of SketchUp is a great choice if you would like to create simple designs, and export them in just two file formats.
- Good for those doing basic modeling
- Can be accessed anywhere you have internet
- Can’t import CAD
- Different interface than the pro version
- Limited cloud storage
- Can be used online only
2. iScape App
Just like SketchUp, iScape offers a free and paid version, which as you might have guessed, provides you with limited functionality. This garden planner app uses the camera of your iPhone or Android device to record data of your current yard environment.
It boasts a clean user interface that offers two main options to choose from, a straightforward way to create designs, and an interactive AR option.
With the iScape app free, you get a small searchable library of plants, and garden accessories from within the application. If you opt for the pro version, you will be able to upload pictures of your own custom designs to the library.
Additionally, the pro version of iScape allows you to create a truly unlimited number of designs. You can share your designs with family, friends, and landscape designers, and collaborate on the same project.
If you’re creating complex designs for several locations, iScape free may not be a good choice, as it provides you with just 10 different layers to work with.
iScape free is an intuitive and simple way to create landscape designs, and does not come with a 3D modeling tool or other high-end features.
- AR functionality
- Your landscape design software results can be shared with friends and family.
- Only available for iOS users
- Limited to 10 garden designs
3. DreamPlan Home Design Software
If you’re looking for a straightforward and easy to use garden planner software, DreamPlan is one of the better options to check out.
It is available in a free and paid version, where the latter if you upgrade doesn’t come with a high price tag.
When fired up, the DreamPlan app prompts you to choose whether you would like to start a new project or view a sample or continue with an existing one.
The free version of the DreamPlan garden planner app is somewhat sluggish to use, most notably caused by the poorly designed navigation.
This garden planning software offers a 3D view, rendered 2D view, and a 2D blueprint that provides you with a bird’s eye view of your outdoor space.
Creating designs with DreamPlan is kind of quick, as you can choose from five predefined blocks — exterior, interior, landscaping, decks, and buildings. If for example, you select buildings, you will be presented with objects such as floors, windows, doors, ceilings, etc.
You can choose the features you would like to add to your design, and customize them further with different styles and colors. The drag and drop interface allows you to simply drop these customized objects where you want to see them in your property to finalize the design.
The trace wizard is one of the key features of the DreamPlan app, and allows you to import any JPG or PNG photos into the program, and then trace over them.
One of the disappointments of the DreamPlan landscape design app is its limited number of sharing options, but if you can get past this, then it’s definitely worth a try.
- Easy to use
- 3D illustrations, rendered 2D view, and a 2D blueprint view
- Professional version available
- Sluggish performance at times
- Navigation could be improved
4. Gardena myGarden Studio
The Gardena garden planner landscape planner program comes to you at zero cost, and is an ideal basic tool for simple, yet creative yard planning.
This program allows you to choose from many objects such as sprinkler systems, and has a neat-looking hand-drawn style.
If you are short of ideas, myGarden allows you to choose from several example gardens, so you simply select one, and start editing.
It works with several operating systems, so you can plan a garden with myGarden Studio on a tablet or a web browser on your laptop or PC, and you can access your garden plan on your mobile device as well.
The object menu of the myGarden Studio program allows you to draw lawn, flower beds, vegetable beds, rock gardens, decisions such as whether to use rock vs mulch, pea gravel, stone or water features, and drag and drop to position these objects in your design process.
You can even adjust the size of the work area by toggling with the plus and minus buttons in the menu. Speaking of which, the edit menu of the myGarden Studio plan a garden program provides you with instant access to all the functions you are likely to use such as deleting objects, undo/redo, share gardens via link, and saving your garden plan.
For accurate positioning of the objects, you can use the measuring scale located at the bottom of this plan a garden program.
- Simple to use
- Large object menu
- Option to use on tablet, PC, and mobile
- Share and save gardens
- Lacks 3D modeling feature
5. PRO Landscape Home
Pro Landscape Home is available for several devices including iPhones, Android mobiles, and Amazon Kindle Fire.
Even though it is billed as a Pro landscape design program, it is absolutely free to use, and comes with a slew of great features.
All you need to get started with the Pro Landscape Home software is a picture of your home, after which you can create a new design or choose a pre-made garden plan.
Pro Landscape Home lets you select from literally thousands of landscape items including a plant library, grass, mulch, outdoor furniture, pavers, garden gnomes, and a whole lot more.
After you’ve created your landscaping project with Pro Landscape Home, you can share it with family and friends, landscaping pros, and even on social media.
This landscaping design program comes with a unique “find a professional” lookup that lets you locate nearby landscaping professionals.
The image library of this landscaping program can be customized, making it easy to browse and choose the perfect items for your outdoor living space.
- Rich set of features
- Customizable image library of objects
- Designs can be shared with family, friends, and social media
- Several pre designed plans to choose from
- App contains ads
Plan-A-Garden is a highly interactive, and free landscape design tool that allows you to create myriad different design plans, starting from gardens to an entire yard.
Its drag and drop functionality makes it super easy to select from hundreds of varieties of plants in several colors and shapes to see how they will look in your yard.
With Plan-A-Garden, you can also choose from many types of structures including fountains, fire pits, gates, swing sets, and basketball hoops.
Plan-A-Garden offers a massive plant library that comprises a whopping 1,000+ plants, so the landscaping possibilities with this free software are practically endless.
- Interactive program
- Drag and drop functionality
- 1000+ plant library
- Several structures to choose from
- Not available to use in a web browser
When choosing the best free software, you will be spoiled for choice, given the many options to choose from.
But the programs mentioned on this list come with a long list of features to create both basic and complex landscape design plans.
With a free version of landscape design programs, you will be able to also determine whether you can create a beautiful garden yourself or if you need to call in a professional designer.
A few free landscape design software options also offer a Pro version, so you can always upgrade to enjoy more features.