Backyard landscaping ideas made easy with the help of these online landscape design services

Digitally generated relaxing exterior garden. A perfect place to meditate and relax.

Digitally generated relaxing exterior garden. A perfect place to meditate and relax.

Bulgac/Getty Images

When you want to upgrade your backyard, you typically need a couple different experts: a designer and an installer. An experienced designer has a knack for where things should go and has spent years perfecting backyards of all layouts imaginable. They’re also great at knowing what kind of plants will grow well in your yard.

Meanwhile, an installer is good at buying, installing and maintaining those plants so they don’t die. However, installers are only executing someone else’s vision, not devising a grand and beautiful layout. In this sense, upgrading your backyard is like doing a major remodel of your home—you need an architect or designer to help you make all of the decisions and then a contractor to build and install everything.

To help you find an easy and affordable way to redesign your backyard, we looked into the four top companies that provide online landscape designs for your home. But, first, let’s dig into the main things you need to know before redesigning your backyard paradise.

Problems when Searching for the Best Backyard Design

When trying to find someone to create the best backyard design for your home, where you might run into problems is in how most landscaping services are really just installers and won’t do a great job with design. At best, the design portion might be an afterthought just to sell the job and get it done. Remember that planning is worth every penny in ensuring you get the vision for your backyard you dream about.

Another problem with contacting a local landscape architect is they are all about the size of the job, typically only focused on commercial properties or homeowners with hefty budgets. You might even own a million-plus dollar house in The Heights or West University, and your yard still wouldn’t be a priority for an architect focusing on an entire master planned community or sprawling estate in the River Oaks.

Because of these potential setbacks, if you want something affordable—or maybe just less complicated—you ‘re probably going to have a rough time finding the right designer who actually cares about your home (although if you’re lucky, you might have a friend who knows someone).

As a result, many people try the DIY route, as evidenced by the extraordinary number of garden centers throughout the Greater Houston area. The problem is that it’s difficult to come up with a stunning design that will also do well in YOUR backyard, since the sunlight and soil can vary greatly.

What many home network remodeling shows do is make everything beautiful while the cameras are running even if the end result is completely impractical for the home’s usual climate. That beautiful reveal you admired is left to quickly deteriorate after the contractors are long gone. Don’t believe us? Google your favorite home remodeling show and see how many homeowners on completed projects have filed lawsuits.

How to Choose the Best Backyard Design for Your Home

A solution for choosing the best backyard design service for your home might lie in the rise of online landscaping design. Innovative and convenient, the main websites with this offering typically work in similar ways. You purchase a package of services that include either your backyard, front yard or both. After uploading and sending the requested videos and photos, the company will supply a plan using 2D or 3D software. To make additional changes, you can speak with the designer personally. You then have the choice of finding your own installer or using one they connect you with.

One huge advantage of this approach is that it’s usually much cheaper than using a local designer or architect. The company has hundreds of templates on file to quickly piece something together. Since you are doing the photography and video work, they don’t have to send someone to do an in-person visit.

The biggest negative of this approach is the designs could be a bit cookie cutter, especially when it comes to the design of hardscaping, including patios, walls, furniture and more. However, this isn’t necessarily an issue. That same cookie cutter design can easily be personalized by flipping the layout, altering the placement of plants, using different colors and several other simple customization tactics.

To help you get started, no matter if it’s a massive job or you’re just gathering a few small backyard landscaping ideas, we’ve taken a thorough look at 4 of the best backyard design services you can use for your home, all of which are accessible online.

A modern landscape design by Yardzen in Houston, TX.

A modern landscape design by Yardzen in Houston, TX.


Widely known as the current leader of the online landscaping design market, Yardzen is the brainchild of an entrepreneurial married couple. Their basic principle in founding the service is that everything else in the world can be done on an iPhone or mobile device, so why not landscape design? This was especially important considering data that proves millennials are more interested in outdoor spaces than previous generations when home-shopping.

In addition to Los Angeles and the Bay Area of California, Austin and Houston round out the only markets where the service was first introduced. Yardzen offers 3 different packages for property design and they then refer you to an optional local installer who can carry out the plans. Plans are either $649 for just hand-selected plants, $995 for either a small front or backyard design that includes deck ideas, backyard lights, furniture and other personalized hardscape planning. The third plan for $1,495 is a discounted bundle including the entire yard, front and back.

Overall, when exploring Yardzen, just know you are not getting one-on-one, in-person attention, yet you’re paying considerably less. That’s really the entire point of Yardzen, to get the backyard landscaping you need for a local installer to do the job without racking up exorbitant hourly billables.

Spanish backyard landscape design by ShrubHub designer, Seasons Landscaping.

Spanish backyard landscape design by ShrubHub designer, Seasons Landscaping.


ShrubHub offers backyard design—as well as front yard service—for a low base rate of $89.95. It should be noted though that while this includes a consultation over the phone with a real landscape designer, you will then be sold on multiple upgrades, quickly raising the final price.

Many users have positive ratings for ShrubHub and are amazed at how little they ended up spending for yard designs they love, but keep in mind, despite actually getting design plans from a real designer, other users have less-than-stellar feedback. Common complaints include inconsistent communication with long impersonal wait times, pushy upselling, and plans being 2D rather than 3D, creating an unreliable preview of what the finished backyard design is going to look like.

At the end of the day, if you’re on a low budget, ShrubHub could still be worth rolling the dice and hoping you get one of the more positive experiences.

A playful and relaxing backyard design created by Tilly Design.

A playful and relaxing backyard design created by Tilly Design.

Tilly Design

Like the other landscaping design services, Tilly Design is an entirely virtual experience. When they first began, for only $75, anyone could receive a 30-minute facetime call with their professional designer to discuss personalized landscaping ideas. Due to surging demand, they’ve since gone to a flat-rate model where an entire backyard landscape can be designed for $525, with 3 optional upgrades: 3D renderings ranging between $250-$350, backyard lighting plans between $100-$150 and side yard plans at $150 for each side.

When considering Tilly Design, it truly does seem they are using technology to make landscaping design more affordable for people who otherwise couldn’t afford expert property design, but that’s not to say the designs themselves are subpar. All of the examples we saw from satisfied clients were gorgeous.

Before and after view of a drought-tolerant backyard landscape design in West Texas created by Home Outside.

Before and after view of a drought-tolerant backyard landscape design in West Texas created by Home Outside.

Home Outside

If you’re still set on tracking down the #1 backyard design ideas out there to get your money’s worth, you should also take our fourth and final online service into consideration. Home Outside has the least amount of reviews available, but from what we gather, that is due to them being more of a boutique close-knit team rather than a churn-and-burn mill focusing on volume. Another indicator of this is Home Outside’s slightly higher prices, more comparable to Yardzen. A single design will cost you $999, while 2 designs (front and back) will run you $1,399. The accompanying 3D views are an additional $400 per design.

Before deciding, we recommend taking a thorough look at Home Outside’s website, especially their image galleries where high-quality before and after photos are shown. If you feel their plant suggestions and hardscape details match your aesthetic, this could be the choice for you.

Get Started with Your Dream Backyard

When deciding on the best backyard design service for your home, it’s important to remember there should never be a one-size-fits all model. The top providers customize the experience to make your outdoor paradise uniquely yours. By taking our overview into account, make sure you are being given the one-of-a-kind attention you deserve.

Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. 

Backyard landscaping ideas made easy with the help of these online landscape design services