We’ve talked about landscape design software on this blog before. From Shrubhub to Yardzen, digital landscape design platforms have blown up in recent years. But what about free landscape design software? Is there free software to design landscapes for your front or backyard? And if so, are these free landscape design software platforms worth downloading? Yes and yes.
We rounded up eight of the best free landscape design software platforms of 2022. From landscaping layouts to more complex projects, bring out your inner outdoor designer with any of the following option:
SketchUp is design software that is targeted mainly towards professional architects, contractors, and landscape designers, and SketchUp Free is the no-cost version of this software, available to anyone to use. Designed to function as a drawing based software, the user can draft their ideas from start to finish.
Begin your design on SketchUp Free in 2D to nail down the details of your backyard living space. Then, after you’re happy with 2D sketching, bring it to life in 3D with modelings, renders, and editing capabilities.
Pros of SketchUp Free
Most users find this software easy to access and simple to navigate from the beginning. This simplicity makes it great for those of us without extensive design backgrounds who are just testing out the waters.
Another large benefit of this platform is the shareability. Designers can export and import their designs on demand in a wide range of different formats. Not to mention, it can be used more than just in your backyard. SketchUp Free can be used to lay out interiors, graphic designs, and more.
Cons of SketchUp Free
The drawbacks of this software are largely the other side of the coin to its benefits. For example, though many first time users love the simplicity of the software, those with more experience could be disappointed with its range of abilities. More complex designs are not always possible on this software, especially with the free version of landscape design software.
Additionally, many users have found their computer is not powerful enough to run the program quickly. Computers may crash or stall when rendering if their processors are not up to the job. Finally, not every kind of design plays well with SketchUp. Curved lines are difficult to create in the software, and add to the slow processing and large files.
Ultimately, SketchUp is well known for being one of the best free landscape design softwares on the market. It is easy to learn, accessible for the everyday person, and a great jumping off point. However, you should make sure your computer is ready to run large file software, and know that if you are already well-versed in design, you may find the free version of this landscape design software to be limiting past a certain point.
Next on our list of free landscape design software is DreamPlan. DreamPlan is a cost-free downloadable design software that is suitable for both Mac and Windows systems. From floor plans to outdoor blueprints, Dream plan takes you from the conception to completion of your outdoor design. Users can create both 2D and 3D renders, and try their hand at creating their own dream outdoor living space.
Pros of DreamPlan
Like SketchUp Free, one of the best points of DreamPlan is its ease of use. Many users express that they feel the software is self-explanatory, letting anyone learn as they go without frustration or confusion. The software also offers a good range of tools and capabilities for the beginner or everyday person.
For those of us just looking to see what is possible in our outdoor space, this may be more than enough. DreamPlan can help you see what it would look like if you planted trees, installed a swimming pool, and maybe a few raised beds. However, problems begin when users want to do more with the free software.
Cons of DreamPlan
Like most free softwares, DreamPlan is so user friendly and able to stay free because it is a simple version of a more costly option. This means that beyond basic functions, designers shouldn’t turn to DreamPlan for complex design solutions. If you are looking to really dive into intricate design work, you will need a program that is more robust.
My Garden is a web-based app by Gardena that is free to and easy to use. Designed with the garden in mind, it is great for those looking to focus mainly on landscaping. Hardscaping options are also available to design, but are more limited.
Users start by drawing the size and shape of their space, or picking from a list of pre-designed templates. Then, choose your starting surface and you’re off to the races. Mock up trees, fountains, and raised vegetable beds. Design spot or pathway lighting, or plan out an irrigation system.
Pros of My Garden
Not everyone is looking to do a full re-design of their backyard space, complete with a pool, patio, or fireplace. If you’re just looking for free landscape design software that can help you redesign your basic landscaping, My Garden will work.
We love that this software is simple, easy to use, and not difficult to navigate. It doesn’t take a lot of your computer’s processing system, unlike SketchUp which can slow things down. Great for rough drafts, My Garden is a perfect jumping off point for any homeowner looking for inspiration.
Cons of My Garden
My Garden is not great for homeowners looking to really dig into a backyard redesign. It is not useful beyond the basics, and those with more design experience may be unsatisfied with their option. Some may feel it lacks a large variety of plants or care information compared to other programs.
Additionally, Gardena uses this app as a way to sell their products. If ads bother you, then you won’t be happy with the hose and sprinkler advertisements peppered throughout the software.
Another great option for beginners and DIYers, this free software from Better Homes and Gardens is accessible with only an email address. Pick from the stock image that most resembles your space, and then drag and drop items like fire features, fountains, sheds, playsets, and of course, plants!
Users can pick from regional and climate specific plantings, and allows users to look at their designs from a range of different viewpoints.
Pros of Plan-A-Garden
This free landscape design software is great for users who need a little bit of hand hold–the intro explains the features of the program and how they are used. Plant selections are wide, and care information is readily available. When you are finished, Plan-A-Garden allows users to print their information like a shopping list to take with them to the garden center, store, or contractor.
Cons of Plan-A-Garden
Some users may feel frustrated with the lack of customization. While their are a large number of plants available to design, you cannot mock up your actual space. Stock photos are great, but not great for everyone. Another drawback of this software is that 3D models are only viewable from a singular angle, limiting your perspectives when working. This can lead to some doing and re-doing before you are happy with how your proposed space looks.
This next free landscape software allows users to design inside and outside their home. Homeowners can design hardscaping and plantings, and add small accessory items like grills, swings, or fire pits. SmartDraw is compatible with most computers, and doesn’t take the processing power of a software such as SketchUp.
Pros of SmartDraw
Unlike options like Plan-A-Garden, users may feel they have slightly more control over this design software. You have access to a wider range of design components, without working from a stock photo background. Render 3D models and share them with your contractor, or use them to bring your outdoor living space to life yourself.
Cons of SmartDraw
One of the biggest downsides to SmartDraw is that it is not compatible with auxiliary storage units such as iCloud. This means if your software crashes, you may lose all of your data. Downloading is possible, but it can crash computers with poor processors. Ultimately, if you don’t want the risk, it is worth exploring other options that play more nicely with your iCloud or cloud based storage system.
6. The Visualizer by Showoff.com
The Visualizer by Showoff.com is a free landscape design software that lets homeowners use photos of their own property and modify it. In other words, it allows you to “visualize” your space before you commit to changes. This is great for helping you get a general sense of what is possible in your own backyard.
Pros of The Visualizer
People love this software for its user friendly feel and quick beginning to end process. Homeowners can easily begin with a blank photo of their space, and arrive at a mocked up end product of their backyard fairly quickly.
The Visualizer maintains a large range of items to trial in your space, and design plans to use as a jumping off point if you get stuck or lack inspiration. Then, once you’ve mocked up your landscape, upload it to Showoff.com’s online community to get feedback and troubleshoot any problems!
Cons of The Visualizer
One of the largest cons of this free landscape design software is that it is only available for Windows operating systems. This automatically eliminates anyone using a Mac operating system, which is a large number of people. Thankfully, other softwares on this list are available for use by all audiences.
While The Visualizer is only available for Windows operating systems, iScape is an Apple only alternative. Downloadable only to iPhones or iPads, it is meant to take the common homeowner or DIY’er and give them an idea of what is possible in their yard. Take a photo of your space, and add elements as you see fit, trialing different designs until you are happy with your mock up. Think of it as a rough draft of your space that you can create from the comfort of your iPhone.
Pros of iScape
The pros of this free landscape design software include its ease of use and sharing capabilities. Anyone with basic technology knowledge can operate this app, a given for those who already own the iPhone or iPad needed to download it. Additionally, you never have to worry about the possibility of losing your design.
Because it is mobile device compatible, your designs will be saved safely to your iCloud. This means you can design your space from anywhere. Pick out shrubs on your daily bus ride, or try a fire pit in your space from the comfort of your desk.
Cons of iScape
Cons of iSpace include its limited design capabilities, as well as several functions that are exclusive to app based products. iScape is meant to be used as rough-draft software, to give you an idea of where your outdoor living design could go. So renderings, intricate designs, and more advanced ideas will need to be taken to another platform like SketchUp.
And if you hate ads, then this software isn’t for you. Like many free applications, iScape makes its money by playing in-app ads and featured purchases. If this ruins your experience, it’s safe to say you should look elsewhere on this list.