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The Home Depot

The Difference between Hardscape and Softscape

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Landscaping > The Difference between Hardscape and Softscape
The Difference between Hardscape and Softscape

Landscaping is a booming business these days because most people would love to have their home situated amidst beautiful surroundings. If this cannot be done naturally then landscape designers are the obvious choice. Landscaping is considered a science and an art in equal parts and calls for loads of creativity coupled with imagination. When aiming for an appealing design around your home, the designer is sure to incorporate both hardscape and softscape elements to give it the right balance. Hardscape refers to the heavier elements in landscape design such as stones, rocks, patios, gates, and driveways. Softscape comprises the other elements such as soil, trees, plants, flowers, and color schemes.


The right combination of hardscape and softscape elements can ensure that you have an eye-catching landscape design in place. On the other hand, poor planning can lead to your home being surrounded by a pile of vegetation instead of a beautiful garden.

  1. 1.Equal Importance

    The two elements—hardscape and softscape—cannot exist one without the other. They are often compared to wall and wallpaper since both are equally important. For instance, a garden full of paved pathways and stone figurines is of no beauty unless there is some greenery or bright flowers to strike a contrast. Similarly, a garden full of just flowers, trees, and soil can look like a forest rather than an elegant garden where one might enjoy a cup of tea in the evenings. There is no single method or specific guidelines to help you get it right.

  2. The two elements—hardscape and softscape—cannot exist one without the other.
  3. 2.Purpose of Installation

    Trees and shrubs are necessary to maintain the ecological balance of the natural environment. Similarly, all the hardscape elements are not intended solely for aesthetic purposes. Rather, a great many of these are put in for practical purposes such as prevention of excess water absorption and to give the impression of greater space. Hardscaping methods such as installation of paved walkways and stone benches help prevent soil erosion while fences are put in to ensure privacy.

  4. 3.Advantages and Disadvantages

    Both elements come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The cost involved in getting and installing hardscape elements will be relatively higher compared to their softscape counterparts. Also, if you need a change of scenery after a few years and decide to redesign, replacing the hardscape elements will involve greater time and effort when compared to softscape. At the same time, since softscape elements such as plants and flowers tend to be seasonal they may require constant maintenance. Hardscape elements are mostly minimum maintenance after installation, irrespective of weather conditions.

  5. 4.Points to Ponder

    There are some things to consider before incorporating either softscape or hardscape elements into your landscape design. Budget is definitely important since that is what will decide the things you will be able to put in your garden. Immediate and long-term maintenance costs need to be calculated before starting the project.


    The second thing to consider will be the extent of maintenance required. Hassle-free and minimum care should be the keywords irrespective of whether you are choosing plants for your garden or some elegant benches to sit on. For instance, if you plant annuals they may have to be replaced each year. Similarly, some varieties of shrubs may require frequent pruning. You can decide whether you want eco-friendly materials used for the hardscape elements or not. Similarly, there are wide options available regarding gardening. You can opt for organic options like composting in place of artificial fertilizers.

Consulting with a qualified landscape designer is one way of ensuring that you get what you want. A qualified designer will be able to take all these aspects into consideration when planning your project. He or she should be able to work with you and translate your needs and requirements into design.

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