Using landscape planning software can save you a fortune compared to the cost of hiring a professional landscape designer so we reviewed the best landscape design software for Windows & Mac of 2023.
The average landscape project will easily set you back a few thousand dollars although this can easily rise depending on the size and details of your garden or project.
The do-it-yourself route also puts you in a full control and nowadays you don’t need to use expensive CAD software to design landscapes.
Creating your own landscape plan also helps you to be more realistic when it comes to estimating the scale of renovations and costing for the materials involved.
We’ve reviewed the best easy to use landscaping tools that can be used on all platforms that allow your imagination to run wild whether its flagstone patios, swimming pools, a vegetable patch or exotic flowers you fantasize about.
Although many of the most popular professional landscaping software like VizTerra, Lands Design and Realtime Landscaping Pro are for Windows only, there are also some excellent alternatives on Mac that can be used on Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina and the latest M1 & M2 Macs.
In our extensive research we found the best landscaping design software was SmartDraw for its ease of use and flexibility on all platforms.
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What To Look For In The Best Landscape Design Software
To help you decide which landscaping app to go for, there are a few useful things to consider before diving in.
- Do you want a 2D or 3D landscaping tool?
- Do you want to be able to upload a photo of your home or garden?
- Do you need costing features built-in?
- Do you need the software to pull GPS coordinates for contractors to view?
- Do you want to be able to do 3D walk-throughs of your finished designs?
- Do you need a sprinkler system layout planner built-in?
- Does the app have a detailed database of plants, shrubs and other garden related objects?
- Are there plenty of quick start templates to customize and help get things done quickly?
- Can the software project how changes in seasons, sunlight and shadows will affect your design?
- Can the app show you how plant growth will look years down the line?
- Do you need to be able to easily share your yard plans with others?
- Do you need home design and landscape design rolled into one?
Finally, if you need some inspiration for your new garden or yard, Pinterest is a great place to look at how other people have redesigned their home landscapes.
How To Draw A Landscape Plan
To get the most out of the landscaping tools featured here, you need to take a structured approach to landscape design.
Taking-on a landscaping project on your own is a daunting task. There’s a reason professional landscapers study for years to qualify – landscaping is a complicated process.
However, by following a few simple steps, you can get off on the right foot and make your life a lot easier when it comes to the actual designing.
Here’s a few tips on how to draw a landscape plan.
- Its important to understand that most landscape maps are scaled drawings which means that measurements taken outside will be drawn much smaller on your plan. Most landscape plans are drawn to a scale of 1:10 which means that 10 feet equals 1 inch on your blueprint.
- Measure the dimensions of your property or the yard you want to landscape. Having accurate measurements is essential both for scaling and costing your landscape maps. We recommend using at least a 100-foot tape measure so that you’re not measuring 12-foot lengths at a time with a standard one. If you already have the original blueprints of your property (you may also be able to get the property deed map from your county’s record office) you can obviously skip this step unless its been modified.
- Measure and add other objects on your land such as outbuildings, fences, trees, hedges, perennials and vegetable gardens that you want to keep. This includes any paving that you want to keep. Don’t forget to consider the climate of your region to make appropriate decisions about plants, shrubs, position of the sun at different times of the year, shadow etc.
- With your landscaping software, draw the boundary outline of your land and home making sure to place the house exactly where it sits on the lot.
- Add all the other elements you’ve measured and indicate their distance from each other. The more measurements you can add to the different elements in your design, the easier it will be to implement your plans successfully.
- If the software you’re using allows it, add layers for elements such as irrigation and lighting as these are easily overlooked when designing a new yard.
- Check rules, by-laws and regulations on private property planning and development before putting your plans into practice. Some regions have strict laws on what owners can and can’t do to their property environs.
With this in mind, here then are the best landscape design software of 2023 in order of ranking.
If you’re looking for an all purpose diagramming tool that makes things simple and goes beyond just landscape design, then SmartDraw is the best online landscape design software we’ve used for ease of use, speed and flexibility.
SmartDraw is by far the fastest and easiest landscape design tool out there.
Although SmartDraw doesn’t have a desktop app, it can be used in any browser on both Windows and Mac as it’s entirely cloud based.
One of the things we like about SmartDraw is that you’re not just getting a landscape design app – you’re getting an all round powerful diagramming software that can be used for anything from flowcharts to organizational charts.
It’s certainly still the best CAD software for 2D design (although it doesn’t do 3D design).
SmartDraw is a professional but accessible design software that has thousands of quick-start templates including many for landscape design and garden planning.
The great thing is that much of the hard work is done for you as all you need to do is customize one of the scaled templates that most closely matches your setup.
The choice of templates is by far the best we’ve seen in any landscaping app including layouts for gardens, patios, pools, decks and floor plans providing lots of inspiration.
In particular, there are lots of templates for building pools in your yard and SmartDraw is also the best pool design software we’ve tried.
SmartDraw is also suitable for professional landscape design as it has site plan templates for both commercial and residential planning.
There are thousands of symbols and shapes for both landscapes and backyards including the possibility to drag and drop flowers, grasses, sprinkler systems and brick patterns.
Once done with the blueprint, you can export to almost any major format (Office, PDF, SVG, JPEG, PNG) and almost any print size needed. You can also simply send a link to anyone you want to share your designs with.
Since it is entirely Cloud based, you can easily collaborate with family or colleagues online and you can use it on any device including iPad, iPhone, Android and PC.
For professionals, SmartDraw is also integrated with Atlassian’s Confluence, Jira and Trello for use in corporate environments or in the field.
For DIY or professional landscape planning, SmartDraw is powerful yet amazingly accessible.
You can start landscape designing for free with SmartDraw to judge it for yourself.
You can also read more in our full SmartDraw review for a more in-depth look.
- Incredibly easy to use
- Amazing choice of residential and commercial landscape templates
- Simple drag and drop interface
- Thousands of objects, flora and other landscaping items
- Easy to collaborate with other people
- Works in any browser on Windows & Mac including M1/M2 Macs
- No elevation options
- Requires a subscription
- No desktop app
2. Live Home 3D
If you need something that allows a good mix of both home garden design and landscape design, then Live Home 3D (formerly known as Live Interior 3D) is the best landscape design software for Windows & Mac desktops.
The team behind Live Home 3D have clearly put a lot of thought into how to make landscape design easy, visually striking and fun.
The interface to Live Home 3D is perfect for beginners to home design as it’s so clear and logically laid out without being overwhelming.
The graphics in general are also superb with high quality 2D objects and highly realistic 3D rendering.
You can design in 2D and 3D with a selection of furniture and objects from the vast Trimble SketchUp 3D Warehouse which allows you to download thousands of objects and models.
In the Pro version, you can also import SketchUp models into Live Home 3D and edit them.
You can switch between 2D and 3D at any time and with no waiting around to see how your designs look close up.
The overall attention to detail in Live Home 3D is amazing with more than 300 exterior objects to choose from. If an object isn’t in the library, you can also import them in Wavefront .OBJ format.
There are even Arc Wall and Straight Wall tools for different shapes and you can easily drag and drop doors onto the walls to add them into your plans.
You can also share designs directly to social media, as well as export to PDF, JPG, PNG, TIFF and HEVC encoding for making high quality videos.
Even more impressive is that you can export to USDZ format which means you can view any piece of furniture, a room or an entire house in AR using iOS Quicklook on your iPad or iPhone.
Not only is it always up to date with supporting the latest trends in landscape design such as VR and AI, Live Home 3D is also always updated for the latest versions of macOS.
For example, it’s the only landscape design tool we’re aware of that is optimized for using the Touch Bar in the latest MacBook Pros.
It’s also fully integrated for saving to iCloud and to take advantage of 64 bit architecture in the latest versions of macOS. Live Home 3D also supports Dark Mode in the latest version of macOS Catalina and Big Sur.
Live Home 3D is available in two versions – Standard and Pro but the Standard version is very basic.
To do things properly we strongly recommend going for Live Home 3D Pro as it includes essential features like unlimited floor levels, furniture and impressive full HD walkthroughs.
For a limited period you can get almost 30% off Live Home 3D Pro for just $49.99 compared to the usual price of $69.99 too.
The standard version of Live Home 3D is just $19.99 compared to the usual price of $29.99.
We also recommend buying directly from the developer rather than the Mac App Store because you’ll get updates much quicker than having to wait for them pushed through the App Store.
You can find full details on Live Home 3D pricing here and there’s a 30 day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with it.
There’s also our full review of Live Home 3D for a more detailed look.
- Mac desktop app
- Ideal for doing both home design and landscape design
- Powerful yet easy to use landscaping tools
- Huge choice of exterior objects
- Impressive 3D rendering and walkthroughs
- Excellent value
- Works on M1/M2 Macs
- Landscaping tools are limited compared to interior design features
- No support for layers
- No direct support line
3. Home Designer Suite
Home Designer Suite is a collection of DIY architect tools by Chief Architect designed for both interior and exterior design.
If you want something that models your landscapes in 3D, then it’s an excellent option for bringing decks and patios to life.
You can import photos of your own property or yard and there’s an ample choice of 3,600 plants with detailed botanical information including Hardiness Zone maps.
There are specific tools for terrain planning with the ability to account for elevation, contours and show lot setback requirements to neighbors or professional landscape designers.
One of the stand out features of Home Designer Suite is the Outdoor Kitchen Designer which allows you to choose from name brand appliances and furnishings.
There are powerful 3D walkthroughs and a huge choice of objects both internal and external to create really detailed house plans.
You can check out our full Home Designer Suite review for more.
- Capable of complex 3D designs
- Huge library of objects
- Powerful 3D rendering
- Complicated to learn
- No layers in Suite version
- Not compatible with M1 Macs
Although Google doesn’t make landscaping software, there is SketchUp which used to be owned by Google but since 2012 has been owned by Trimble.
Sketchup is probably the best free landscaping software and offers an impressive range of tools and features.
Sketchup has an extensive warehouse of images and particularly useful for landscape designers is the extensive library of native plants.
Sketchup is free for personal use although professional landscape designers must upgrade to the pro version for $299 per year if you’re designing for clients.
You can check out our full review of SketchUp for more.
- Free to use standard version
- Extensive library of plants
- Powerful landscaping tools
- Steep learning curve
- Expensive subscription for Pro version
- Not optimized for M1 Macs yet
If you want a Mac desktop app that allows you to use a real photo of your house or garden in, then GardenPuzzle might be for you.
GardenPuzzle is an easy to use landscape design tool that works online and offline on Mac, Windows and iPhone or iPad.
It allows you to easily drag and drop plants, structures, paths, lawns, water elements and more.
If you don’t want to use your own photo, you can upload a sample from the library and then you simply choose plants based on filters such as size, climate zone, how much light they need and species.
There’s 800 plants to choose from and you can easily drag them around until you find the right fit. You can even simulate how the plants will look during different seasons.
If you need herbs and vegetables, you can also purchase additional packs for a few dollars although this is included in the Premium and Company plans.
Garden Puzzle starts at $19 for six months access although this doesn’t include the desktop app which is only in the Premium and Company plans.
If you want a 2D yard planner which allows you to use your own photos both desktop and online, GardenPuzzle is a simple to use tool for all abilities.
You can check out our review of Garden Puzzle for more.
- Use real photos
- Easy to use
- Good choice of plants
- Basic dimension planning
- No “redo” tool
- No topography features
6. Punch Landscape Design
Punch Landscape Design is one of the most popular desktop landscape design apps on Windows and it also works on Mac.
Punch Landscape Design v20 is very powerful allows you to create designs in 2D, 3D view aerial shots, walkthroughs and more.
There’s a handy QuickStart tool which allows you to enter your GPS coordinates and Punch Landscape Design will automatically retrieve the topographical data for your land.
It’s also got some of the best costing tools in any landscape design software with a huge catalog of over 8000 items, objects and materials. You can set a budget and Punch Landscape Design will keep track of how much you’ve spent to keep your spending realistic.
You can add your own photos to customize plans with the PhotoView tool and you can preview designs in 2D or 3D. You can drag and drop elements only in 3D mode however.
It takes some learning but if you want to design both a house and garden and want something cross-platform, Punch Landscape Design might be for you.
- Works on all platforms
- Automated topographical tool
- Lots of objects
- Useful costing tools
- Not easy to design split level housing
- Steep learning curve
7. TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro
TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro is a powerful desktop landscape designer for both Mac & PC. It’s aimed at DIY home enthusiasts and has an easy learning curve.
There’s a limited amount of templates to get you started and TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro can automatically follow the contours and shape of your house as you draw.
We also like the way you can zone plants together and then move them around collectively.
There’s also a clever Topo Designer which adds real world topography to your designs and automatically adds or removed building pad.
There’s a huge choice of materials including mulch, pavers, paths and flower gardens. There’s a good choice of plants and if it’s not in the directory, you can import it too.
You can also build retaining walls, import photos or backgrounds and simulate how your plants will look in years to come.
The only thing we don’t like is the Mac has clearly just been ported straight from Windows inspired.
The interface looks and feels Windows-based and the Windows product is more updated than the Mac version. The current Windows version is for 2019 but Mac users still have to use the 2017 version.
- Powerful but easy to learn
- Excellent topography tools
- Good choice of materials
- Dated Windows inspired interface
8. Garden Planner
If you want something really simple just for redesigning your garden, try Garden Planner.
Garden Planner is the most basic of the landscaping apps featured here but it’s ideal for basic sketching of ideas. You can only work in 2D mode but you can do 3D walkthroughs of your designs.
The plant library is very limited and the items available are very generic so there’s no way to choose specific flora. There is a useful top-down view though to help you get perspective on your designs.
You can use the web version of Garden Planner for free although it’s useless if you want to save anything as it forces you to download and pay for the desktop app.
- Very easy to use
- Ideal for just mapping out sketches of gardens or yards
- Very basic with few features for serious landscaping
- Not many objects or materials to choose from
Best Free Landscape Design Software
There is free landscaping software available but they’re very basic and not suitable for serious landscape designing.
SketchUp is the best free landscape tool available but it’s not easy to learn and it’s only free for non-commercial use.
Most free landscape apps are suitable only for general garden planning and playing around with rough ideas.
Be aware of the following:
1. Live Home 3D has a critical limitation in the floors and ceiling on each story are linked. You cannot design two blocks with independent floors. Move one, they all move. That makes it a no-go application for some users. Take a close look at this problem before starting your design. They have a 30-day money back deal, and I have asked for my money back. But I wasted a day of work before the support service told me “The app can’t do that”.
2. Chief Architect Home Designer has a critical fault in the terrain modelling function. It creates anomalies and errors so serious that the tool becomes unusable. It’s OK if you don’t use terrain, but steer clear of the terrain design unless you want to spend a long time waiting for the design to be recalculated, or you don’t mind weird spikes of terrain appearing through your house floor.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with Live Home 3D and Chief Architect Home Designer.
If I want to design a basic backyard with patio and we are building a new home which have the specs for, what can we use to create a backyard of what we’d like to do in the future and also if we have the dimensions of the back yard and front yard, which is best to use? I have a Mac and I am a novice at this sort of thing. Any help or guidance would be helpful. thank you!
If you’re designing just the backyard you might find this roundup on landscape design software more useful.