Landscaping: Design and Plant Selection

March 13, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

Landscaping | Design and Plant Selection | Construction and Implementation | Maintenance

Links to external web pages are followed by the source's name in parentheses.

Landscape Design Planning

Shade, elevation, and hardscape materials are just a few of the elements than were considered when designing this backyard landscape. (Photo credit: Mary Meyer)


An effective and sustainable landscape plan will enhance outdoor beauty while minimizing expenses, chemicals, and labor inputs. Sustainable landscape planning is best achieved by following a step-by-step process that incorporates site, plant, and user specific considerations into a working plan that can be easily interpreted upon implementation. Use one or both of the landscape design guides below to lead you through the landscape design process.


For a step-by-step homeowner's planning guide to landscaping planning, see:

For a detailed look at the design process that designers typically use when designing landscapes, see:

  • Design(Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series, University of Minnesota).

Professionals versus Do-It-Yourself Landscaping

When deciding whether to hire a landscape professional to design, install, or maintain a landscape versus doing the work yourself, you must consider a number of issues. For a side-by-side chart contrasting differences in professional expertise and education requirements of landscape professionals, and a list of questions to ask when selecting a landscape professional, see:

Landscape Plant Selection

Plants should be well-suited to their site. Shown here: Plants suitable for growing in a stone wall. (Photo credit: Mary Meyer)

Selecting plants for the right site and growing conditions requires some knowledge of terms that are often found on plant labels and in gardening resources. Fitting the needs of the plants to the needs of the site will help ensure sustainable landscaping goals for the long term, such as ease of maintenance, lower chemical and labor requirements, and cost savings.

See the following articles useful for selecting the right plant for the right site:

  • Selecting Landscape Plants - Understanding Plant Labels and Terms

Plant selection information based on specific landscape criteria including hardiness zone, environmental requirements, height and spread, and aesthetic characteristics can be found in the following resources:

Value-Added Landscape Design Themes, Strategies, and Finishing Touches

Landscaping ideas that are sustainable and provide added value to the landscape by including edible plants, attracting wildlife and native species, increasing cost effectiveness through energy conservation, and promoting safety and accessibility are becoming increasingly popular. Considering these themes and strategies during the planning phase can help maximize the benefits and enjoyment of the landscape for many years after the initial design and installation.

Learn more:

  • Landscape Design Ideas for Edible, Sustainable, Safe, and Accessible Landscapes


Landscape Design Finishing Details

Landscaping or garden accessories can add life to the garden, especially when thoughtfully planned (Photo credit: Karen Jeannette).

Landscape accessories such as landscape lighting, garden decor, and outdoor furnishings provide finishing touches that help bring the landscape to life. As with all elements of the landscape design, thoughtfully planning how the accessories will become part of the garden will help ensure a unified and pleasing landscape design. For more information, see:

Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Google+


This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by




This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.