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Our landscape design software picks for 2024

By: DAN KENITZ | Fact Checked By: JAMIE OSTROE | Updated: December 22, 2023

We lined up a list of over three dozen vendors with offerings in the world of landscape design software, then whittled our list down to 15 we wanted to see more closely. From there, we used a 1-5 scaling system to score each vendor’s features, customer service, and reputation to identify the top picks you see here. If you want to learn more about how we did it, read our methodology below.

Our Top Picks

  1. SketchUp – Best Pool and Landscape Design Software
  2. Realtime Landscaping Pro – Best Landscape Design Software for Home Builders
  3. AutoDesk – Best Landscape Design Software for Small Businesses
  4. Garden Planner – Best Landscape Design Software for Beginners
  5. gCADPlus – Best Landscape Design Software for Homeowners

Landscape Design Software Reviews

With landscape design software you’ll be able to plot out any landscape, from small home gardens to major earth-moving projects. But which should you choose? No matter how big or small your projects may be, our top picks include the best landscape design software for professionals and small businesses as well as options for DIY homeowners that want to bring their landscaping dreams to life.

sketchup logo

SketchUp – Best Pool and Landscape Design Software

In our search for robust visual elements—including both 2D and 3D rendering, as well as animation—few on the list performed as well as SketchUp, which combines advanced modeling services with attractive outputs.

This makes it our best overall tool for both pool and landscape design because it’s versatile enough to handle both – or even create mockups of the grounds themselves.

  • Attractive animated renderings
  • Customization for both pools and landscapes
  • Low learning curve
  • Fewer project management features
  • May require installing plugins for full features

Sketchup features:

  • 3D Modeling – SketchUp has some of the best and most attractive 3D modeling features on this list. In that way, it’s more akin to robust architectural design software rather than a project management tool for landscapers.
  • Architectural references – Add all sorts of architectural references, such as icons, which can then be passed off to a home builder. This makes SketchUp great for handling in conjunction with an architectural design business.
  • BIM – Building information modeling helps design true spaces, not just sketching or plotting out gardens, which is why we ranked this as also being the best for someone designing a pool.
  • Animation – See the world you’re designing come alive with animation features that add to the vibrancy when you create a preview of the site.

What markets does SketchUp serve?

Because Sketchup is so good with visual details, you’ll find it also works as architectural planning software. Its 3D rendering and animation are especially good at unveiling projects for businesses that have either landscapes or buildings to show off. Don’t expect the project management tools to live up to that side of things, but SketchUp remains our top choice for anyone who has to create a stunning visual design of a full site, landscape or not.

realtime landscaping pro logo

Realtime Landscaping Pro – Best Landscape Design Software for Home Builders

Realtime Landscaping Pro features like flat-fee pricing and plenty of user tutorials and guides make this a good tool for anyone who does landscaping in any professional capacity – especially home building.

We particularly liked the options for creating decks, fencing, and other at-home elements within the software.

You’ll pay a flat fee of $149.95 to download the software, but it might end up saving you money if you spot an issue in Realtime Landscaping Pro before you get to work.

  • 12,000-object library, including plants
  • Expansive tutorials for new designers
  • Design-over-a-photo feature
  • Limited project management features
  • Steep learning curve

Realtime Landscaping Pro features:

  • 3D Imaging – RealTime Landscaping Pro makes it easy to manage 3D imaging for planning your landscaping project, once you’ve followed a few tutorials. Otherwise, the 3D features can be a bit overwhelming for complete newbies.
  • Architectural references – Pick from an exhaustive library of 12,000 objects, including plants, fencing, and even cars, to make sure that your landscape design is accurate and true to life.
  • BIM – BIM gives you modeling references as if you were a professional architectural designer. Although Realtime Landscaping offers different models of its software for architecture, there are plenty of features to love here.
  • Animation – Create “movies” of what you’ve designed to see the plotted landscaping in action.

What markets does Realtime Landscaping Pro serve?

Realtime Landscaping Pro is for any professional landscaper. The flat-fee price of $149.95 might seem to knock them out of being appropriate for the homeowner. But considering how much more affordable that is than other items on this list – and the fact that you don’t have to pay monthly – the features here even add up for DIY homeowners with extensive gardens, yards, and decks to plan.

autodesk logo

AutoDesk – Best Landscape Design Software for Small Businesses

As you can probably tell by what’s already on this list, it’s not too hard to find good software that lets you preview a landscaping plan. What is hard, however, is finding software that combines those features with real project management tools a small business can use.

AutoDesk fills that void, handling both 2D and 3D previews of your drawings while adding in project management automations that will help your business hum right along, such as automation workflows that let you repeat commonly-repeated program queries.

  • Design and annotate 2D/3D objects
  • Build your own custom “workspace” in-software
  • Automate drawing comparisons between two sites
  • Interface not designed for home user
  • Complex workflows; steeper learning curve

AutoDesk features:

  • 3D Imaging – The imaging here looks good, is easy to sketch out, and even includes options for comparing drawings between two different projects automatically. However, it’s a setup that’s generally more favorable for businesses than for home use.
  • Architectural references – AutoDesk includes seven prebuilt tool sets for adding features like plants, electrical, and much more – showing off its robust service as a full architectural design program.
  • Project management – AutoDesk allows you to focus more on the business side of landscape design. That includes team collaboration and automation between frequently-repeated workflows so you can make quicker work of your design elements.
  • Animation – Animation is available here, which is important for anyone with a small business who wants to show off what they can do in a landscape—even before it’s built.

What markets does AutoDesk serve?

AutoDesk pricing (more details below) shows you that this is not an at-home software in the slightest. It’s professional software designed for professional landscape architects, and it’s designed to be more of an all-in-one solution for a team of landscape designers who need to constantly turn to a go-to program so they can make quick work of the projects on behalf of clients.

garden planner logo

Garden Planner – Best Landscape Design Software for Beginners

As you might already tell by the name, Garden Planner couldn’t be any more different from a service like AutoDesk. This is a beginner-friendly, at-home garden and landscaping planning tool that’s designed for home use.

At $39 flat, it’s also the least expensive option on our list – if you don’t count the limited free options – and tailored for efficient drawing and design.

While it doesn’t compete with the raw capacity of SketchUp or AutoDesk for more professional uses, it’s certainly an enjoyable software you can use if you have a humble garden to plan at home.

  • Short learning curve
  • Drag-and-drop interface for beginners
  • Garden “layout” great for planning your plants
  • Lacks high-quality 3D rendering
  • Not adequate for turning plans over to architects

Garden Planner Features:

  • 3D Imaging – There’s an asterisk on this one. There is a 3D preview feature which lets you tour the garden, but don’t expect it to be quite as robust as the more ambitious outputs of tools like SketchUp or AutoDesk.
  • Architectural references – Again, this comes with a caveat. If your “architecture” only counts plants and the garden bed design, you’ll be able to give yourself architectural references as you plan your garden. But make no mistake: this is not a tool for advanced fencing and electrical planning.
  • Drag-and-Drop – The short learning curve here is possible thanks to drag-and-drop tools for design, which feels almost like designing an easy website from a template.

What markets does Garden Planner serve?

There’s no doubt to us that Garden Planner is ideal for beginners. It may not crack our list if it wasn’t so good for the home gardener and landscaper, thanks to its mix of affordable pricing and easy-to-use design elements.

gCADPlus logo

gCADPlus – Best Landscape Design Software for Homeowners

If you’re looking for something with a little more of “professional” speed, yet designed for at-home use, we think gCADPlus might fit the bill.

The top-down view lets homeowners create more advanced “professional-style” designs that cover the entire landscape – not just the garden – and the pricing structure ($95 flat fee) makes sense for the home enthusiast who wants to buy a program once, without a subscription.

  • Incorporate photos from previous work
  • Add elements like mulch and plant species
  • Effective “blueprint-style” design
  • Limited features outside of design
  • Complicated interface to learn

gCADPlus features:

  • 2D Rendering – You’ll note the absence of robust 3D rendering here. That’s because you’ll get a top-down view of what you need to see—but don’t expect the software to go above and beyond, as though you were presenting renderings to a client.
  • Plant Schedules – One of the more interesting features we discovered were “plant schedules,” which help you plot out exactly where and when which plants end up in your landscaping.
  • Quick Substitutions – If you want to swap out one element for another, such as a plant, you can do so in a few clicks, which makes editing your landscapes much easier than if you were building from scratch.

What markets does gCADPlus serve?

The reason we include gCADPlus here is its features for homeowners. It’s essentially stripped down to what homeowners would want—and not anyone designing landscapes professionally for clients or big-time projects. The top-down 2D view is a straightforward way to go about assembling your landscape, and the features like multiple plant species and plant schedules help you decide what to plant—and where.

Compare the best landscape design software side-by-side

Software Name Why we picked It Starting price for cheapest plan Highlights
SketchUp Best Pool and Landscape Design Software $119/year Robust 3D rendering for design reference
Realtime Landscaping Pro Best Landscape Design Software for Home Builders $149/flat price 12,000-object library makes it easy to customize home designs
AutoDesk Best Landscape Design Software for Small Businesses $235/month Automated workflows for a landscape design business
Garden Planner Best Landscape Design Software for Beginners $38/flat Plan your garden, but not your home build
gCADPlus Best Landscape Design Software for Homeowners $95/flat 2D viewing feels like blueprints for homeowners

What is landscape design software?

Landscape design software is a program or application for aiding the development and rendering of 2D or 3D landscape designs. They can work both for homeowners planning a yard or garden, or be part of a suite of project management tools for larger architectural firms that use technology to serve their clients.

What does landscaping software do?

Landscaping software’s chief purpose is to preview the work you do on a landscape. That’s an obvious need for large-scale architects and landscape businesses, but also applicable for the homeowner. Good landscaping software will let you test out all sorts of plants, objects, and home elements to preview how it looks before you ever spend a dime making the design come to life.

What are the different types of landscape design software?

Generally, we found that landscape design software fell into a few categories. The first is the at-home enthusiast or planner. This is someone who might be planning a garden, or checking out how they can landscape their home by inserting various fence and plant objects into a 3D rendering software.

Others are more appropriate for local gardens, helping you match landscaping needs with local regulations. As noted in this Florida guide, for example, you’ll see that plant selection can be vital to how the landscape ultimately looks and interacts with the environment.

Larger architectural firms can also use landscape design software to create potential sites for their clients. We also found landscape design software more focused on the project side of landscaping, such as managing clients and tasks.

What are the benefits of landscape design software?

It depends on what you need. The best landscape design software for professionals will typically include project management tools such as workflow automation or even the possibility of generating estimates along with the milestones of your work.

The best landscape design software for homeowners could be as simple as 2D top-down views that let you check out your work and generate previews of what the landscape will look like.

If you’re a business, not using landscape design software means you can’t preview what the potential landscape will look like for your clients. This can mean not winning the big project. And if you’re a homeowner, avoiding landscape design software can mean you’re halfway into a project before you discover you’d rather it look a different way.

How much does landscape design software cost?

This is where you’ll find a lot of variance. There was typically pricing based on two different sorts of scales:

  • Monthly offerings like AutoDesk ($235/month) mean you buy the program for its continued use. This can be handy for homeowners as well, since they don’t always need to use the program for an extended basis. However, homeowners need to watch out for features they’re paying for that they don’t need.
  • Flat-fee offerings like gCADPlus ($95) and Garden Planner ($38) are a one-time cost, similar to the way software used to be sold en masse. These can be much more price-feasible for homeowners who don’t want to make a larger pricing commitment but still own the full version of the software.

Landscape Design Software FAQ

What program do landscape designers use?
Landscape designers use software like AutoDesk, Garden Planner, SketchUp, and Realtime Landscaping Pro to handle their designs—although there will be a lot of variance in terms of what goals you’ve set for yourself. That’s why we divided our findings up into different markets and picked our favorite vendors in each niche.

What is the best free software for landscape design?
Although it’s not mentioned on this list, Yardbook offers a free platform for getting landscaping done—however, it’s not on this list because Yardbook didn’t live up to the landscape design features that we’d prefer in an option like gCADPlus or SketchUp.

What software do landscapers use?
Landscapers may use minimal landscape design software, as counterintuitive as it sounds. In that case, they may use more project management-friendly tools such as Yardbook or FieldPulse to handle the business of landscaping.

How we chose the best landscape design software

We collected information—including reviews, web information, videos, tutorials, and more—to go through over three dozen landscape design software vendors. From there, we narrowed our focus to 15 key finalists using the following criteria on a 1-to-5 score:

  • Features: Feature variety and comprehensiveness was key here, as well as important in deciding which software vendor was most appropriate for which market.
  • Pricing: There was a wide variety in pricing, which made it a bit tricky to handle direct comparisons – some software costs a monthly fee, while other vendors offer software with a one-time download.
  • Reputation: We went through a wide variety of customer reviews and third-party review websites to gauge the overall reputation of each vendor.
  • Customer support: We considered whether there was email/live chat support, for example, or whether there was online documentation available for each software.