On this page:
- Preliminary Cost Considerations
- Benefits of Landscape Design
- Factors that Affect the Cost
- What’s Involved?
- What to Do Before the Designer Comes
- Cost Scenarios
- Pros Offer Experience and Expertise
- Find a Pro
Whether you’re considering a brand new landscape installation or an upgrade, hiring a landscape designer is an important first step. The designer assesses your property and helps you draw up a plan to ensure your project looks great and lasts long.
Many landscape contractors offer design services, but top-level designers are specialists who don’t get involved in the nuts and bolts of installation. It costs extra to hire one of them, but the results warrant the extra expense. With a professional design, you can be sure that the plants are compatible with the landscape, the climate, and each other, and that the hardscape features meet all applicable codes.
Preliminary Cost Considerations
Scope of Project
The size of a project is one of the main determinants of the design cost. It may cost a few hundred dollars to design a small project with a few plants and several thousand to design one with multiple plants, rocks and hardscape features.
Qualifications of Designer
A licensed landscape architect is qualified to draw up blueprints and costs about $100 an hour. A landscape designer with the knowledge and expertise to design small yards and garden beds, but without a license, typically costs about $50 per hour. Unlicensed designers may charge anywhere from $300 to $2,500, whereas the range for high-end architects is between $6,000 and $30,000, depending on size of project and location.
Need for Research
Research hours add up. The designer may have to make multiple trips to the county building department to check codes and property lines, and may have to spend hours online searching horticultural sites, depending on the scope and location of the project. Small projects may not require much research, but large ones almost always do.
Benefits of Landscape Design
Plants are living things; they mature at different rates and have different needs. A landscape designer has the knowledge to combine them in an effective way that ensures they all get the proper amount of sun and water, and that none of them takes over or gets crowded out.
Projects that include retaining walls, walkways, decks and other hardscape must conform to local building codes. A landscape designer ensures compliance, so when the building starts, you don’t have to worry about failed inspections and other costly mistakes.
With a detailed plan in place, all the contractors involved with an installation are working on a common vision and know exactly how to proceed. Contractors can schedule their part of the job appropriately to ensure that no one gets in anyone else’s way, and you don’t have to pay for unproductive contractor visits.
Maximized Property Potential
Every piece of property is different, and no landscape project is a standard one. A designer takes into account both your property’s unique characteristics and your aspirations for it, then gives you a reliable picture of the outcome before work begins.
Factors that Affect the Cost
The cost of landscape design varies from place to place, and tends to be most expensive in high-density, high-income communities. A design project that costs a few thousand dollars in the Rust Belt could cost ten times that amount in Silicon Valley or Connecticut.
A complex project involving multiple hardscape features, such as terraces and retaining walls, as well as ground cover, bushes and trees, takes more time to map out than a simple one, and the design costs go up accordingly. It can be especially challenging to draw up a design when a pond or some other water feature is added to the mix.
Exotic Plant Combinations
The amount of sun and rain and the average temperatures determine which plants will thrive in a particular location. By judiciously combining and placing plants and adjusting watering schedules, however, it’s sometimes possible to include species that aren’t native to a given climate. Expect to pay extra for a plan that includes exotic, non-native plants.
The first step in a detailed design process is to measure the site and take note of the topography and soil and drainage characteristics, as well as the design of the house. For large projects, the designer must also research the property boundaries and applicable local building codes.
The designer distills of the results of the analysis into a preliminary plan and offers options to the customer—often in the form of idea pages created with computer software. Together, the customer and the designer refine the design and create a master plan.
Planting Plan and Landscape Layout
The designer draws up a layout based on the customer’s preferences and determines the proper plants to include, based on the climate, viability of the soil and drainage, and compatibility with existing foliage.
The last step in the design process is to produce a final drawing that includes plants, hardscape and watering systems. The designer may also specify a building and planting schedule for the installers. In some cases, the designer also oversees the installation.
What to Do Before the Designer Comes
Do Your Own Plant Research
You’ll save time and money by having a clear idea of the types of plants you want and whether or not they will grow on your property before the designer comes. That way, you’ll be able to ask the right questions to quickly get the design process off on the right foot.
Talk to the Neighbors
A landscape project changes the character of the entire neighborhood, so it’s a good idea to have the neighbors on board with the changes you want to make before work starts. You might need their cooperation to handle drainage and boundary issues, and by keeping them in the loop, you’ll avoid work delays and other problems.
Cost Out Materials
It’s important to have an idea of the costs of the various materials before the designer starts drawing up a plan. That way, you won’t be shocked by a work estimate that comes in at several thousand dollars more than you expected, and you won’t have to pay extra for an alternate design.
|$300 - $1,000||$500 - $3,000||$6,000 - $30,000|
To get an idea of the range of cost variations, we consider a landscaping plan for a 1,000 square-foot lot.
Installer Acts as Designer: $300-$1,000
- • Level Lot, Basic Design: The main intention is establishment of a border and installation of shrubs, ground cover and gardens.
- • Level Lot, Enhanced Design: Plans include walkways and other hardscape features and a watering system.
- • Sloped, Irregular Lot, Basic Design: The lot requires retaining walls and drainage solutions.
- • Sloped Lot, Enhanced Design: Design include watering system, drainage solutions, walkways, decks and other landscape construction projects.
Professional, Non-Licensed Designer: $500-$3,000
- • Level Lot, Basic Design: Designer creates plans for bordered landscape that includes shrubs, ground cover and garden beds.
- • Level Lot, Enhanced Design: The design includes hardscape features and a watering system.
- • Sloped, Irregular Lot, Basic Design: Retaining walls, drainage pipes, terracing and other topography-dependent features are included in the design.
- • Sloped Lot, Enhanced Design: Plans includes decks, walkways, trellises and other construction projects. Designer oversees installation.
Licensed Designer or Landscape Architect: $6,000-$30,000
- • Level Lot, Basic Design: Designer works closely with homeowner to produce detailed drawings for borders, plants, and groundcover.
- • Level Lot, Enhanced Design: Design includes hardscape and water features. Plants may be selected thematically or based on climate and growing conditions, and the plan includes an appropriate watering system.
- • Sloped, Irregular Lot, Basic Design: Design is sensitive to topography and includes appropriate drainage systems and retaining walls.
- • Sloped Lot, Enhanced Design: The project is large and complex, requiring retaining walls, hardscaping and water features, as well as installation of trees, shrubs, ground cover and garden beds.
Pros Offer Experience and Expertise
While you can do your own landscape design, there are many advantages to hiring a contractor or designer to do the job. A pro has a solid appreciation of horticultural principles, which can take years to develop and which is a must for planning a healthy yard and garden. He or she also has an understanding of best building practices to ensure your project remains an asset to your property for years to come. Pros that specialize in design usually have facility with computer software that can create a variety of scenarios and provide you with a whole range of feasible options from which to choose.
Landscape Design Services
If you’re ready to get that landscaping project off the ground, locate a landscape designer in your area by connecting with qualified contractors to compare quotes. It’s the best way to ensure your project turns out just the way you want it to.