How much does landscaping cost? Experts reveal the true cost of landscaping

Experts reveal the landscaping cost to create the backyard of your dreams

How much does landscaping cost, illustrated in a backyard with water feature and patio areas, terraces, lawn and a wild meadow garden.
(Image credit: Rob Cardillo Photography)

The number of us researching backyard landscaping cost has rocketed in the past year – with an 80 percent increase in Google searches for 'backyard landscaping ideas on a budget' alone.

Whether it's planting flower beds, installing hardscaping, or getting a handle on the weeds in the garden, it seems we all want to make the most of out backyard landscaping ideas.

While some projects are DIY friendly, others will require the help of a pro. 

'DIY lawn care is feasible, but it depends on the type of lawn you have. Cutting your own grass, racking any rocks in the yard, and even seeding certain areas is probably doable for a homeowner,' says Gabe Pinchev, CEO and founder of FieldPulse, a software that helps field service professionals, like landscapers, manage their businesses. 'However, larger projects like sod installation, water features, wall/fencing installation, and things like tree trimming should be left to the professionals to avoid bigger costs down the road or damage to the property.'

This all leads to the imperative question: how much does backyard landscaping cost?

How much does landscaping cost?

The answer, of course, is far from simple – but here, we attempt to breakdown the costs of landscaping so that you can make a judgement on where to spend and where to save in your landscaping. Our experts suggest that landscaping can cost anywhere between $2,500 to $15,000, or $50-$100 per hour or $30-$100 a week

How much should I budget for backyard landscaping? 

Knowing how much to budget for backyard landscaping comes with an acceptance that costs vary wildly depending on what garden ideas you want to implement at home.

'Landscaping costs vary significantly,' says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, a company that delivers high-tech solutions to the lawn care industry. 'The main factors that will impact the overall cost include the size of your yard, the features you choose to have installed, the company you hire (and how many workers the job requires), the level of service you want (basic, intermediate, advanced landscaping, etc.), and how long it takes to complete.'

According to Yamaguchi, you can expect pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars for basic service like lawn moving and plant care to tens of thousands of dollars for things like developing new garden beds, laying a new lawn, or installing hardscaping features. 

'For average yards and average landscaping, it usually ends up being somewhere between $2,500 and $10,000,' he says. For elaborate designs or large yards, costs can quickly go up from there. 

Simple, small back yard landscaping ideas are always going to be more budget friendly than large or complex designs.

However, spend up to 10 per cent of your home's value on landscaping and you will be getting the cost-to-value ratio about right. 

But how does that landscaping cost breaks down, and what do you need to consider when budgeting for your backyard landscaping?

How much does landscaping cost monthly?

The initial spend to landscape your yard is only part of the overall cost of landscaping. Unless you've got a green thumb or don't mind spending weekends mowing the grass and pulling weeds, you may want to hire a landscaper to do monthly maintenance during the summer season.

Monthly maintenance costs can include things like mowing the lawn, pruning flowers, adding mulch to flower beds, weeding, and putting down fertilizer. It can also include annual jobs like deadheading flowers at the end of the season, cleaning up leaves, and giving your yard a spring cleanup. 

Depending on where you live and the size of your yard, expect to pay anywhere from $30-$100 a week to have a landscaper mow your lawn, or about $120-$400 a month.

For other tasks, estimate a range of about $50-$100 per hour

Costs for common landscaping jobs

Pinchev, of FieldPulse,  gives the below estimates for common landscaping jobs.

  • Pond installation: $1,300 - $6,000
  • Water fountain installation: $1,000 - $5,000
  • Sod installation: $1,000 - $3,000
  • Landscape design: $2,000 - $7,000
  • Retaining wall installation: $1,500 - $6,000
  • In-ground pool installation: $39,000 - $70,000
  • Solar panel installation: $3,500 - $35,000
  • Lawn seeding: $400 - $1,500
  • Landscape curbing: $750 - $2,000
  • Lawn mowing: $50 - $200
  • Tree trimming: $75 - $1,500
  • Lawn grading: $1,000 - $3,000
  • Mulching: $100 - $300
  • Pond installation: $1,300 - $6,000
  • Water fountain installation: $1,000 - $5,000
  • Sod installation: $1,000 - $3,000
  • Landscape design: $2,000 - $7,000
  • Retaining wall installation: $1,500 - $6,000 
  • Lawn aeration: $75 - $250
  • Gravel installation: $180 - $1,80

Consider the cost of landscaping materials

Jose Chavez – who has owned and operated Chavez Landscaping and Concrete in the greater Santa Rosa, California area since 1995 – says backyard landscaping costs are based on the customer's needs and the materials associated with those needs.

'The materials are a big part in why the cost is so high,' he says, pointing out that it's not just the hard landscaping but extras, such as outdoor speakers, integrated lighting and luxury pool ideas, that add to the costs dramatically.

Include landscaping material shipping costs

With many materials now being imported from retailers in India, Singapore and other countries, the cost for the consumer is also modified to account for shipping – and this is something you should incorporate into your budget when planning how to landscape a backyard

According to Home Guide’s 2021 estimates, that could lead to new landscaping installation costing anywhere from $3,000 to $15,950, depending on the yard size and amenities. 

Chavez estimates even higher costs, citing projects he’s worked on going up to $250,000 – but believes that high price tags often correlate more with amenities over square footage.

Include costs for extra landscaping elements

As much as these items can quickly add up, it’s important to remember the fun and beautiful aspects of a backyard's landscape, on top of its functionality. 

As we’ve seen with recent trending patio ideas, an outdoor seating space is a basic element – but adding an extravagant water fixture or a bocce ball court could tack on hundreds if not thousands of extra dollars.

'I can’t stress enough the importance of taking care of the functional aspects first –and then start thinking about flower bed ideas and your favorite plants,' Linda Greenberg, principal for Linda Greenberg Landscape and Design says.

Search terms such as 'geology,' 'swimming pool,' and 'fire pit' all saw increased popularity via Google Trends in the last year as well — and each of these options require different budgetary considerations.  

Include custom landscaping – but beware the extra costs

'Custom landscape is when the price goes up – especially stonework, because it’s so time-consuming,' Chavez explains.

Consider how your site will add to landscaping costs

Backyard landscaping costs will be higher if your space is difficult to access, needs extensive clearing or has awkwardly sited drains. Sloping garden ideas can also be more expensive to landscape. 

Additionally, city dwellers are likely to pay a premium that those outside of urban areas can largely avoid.

Know that more experienced landscape designers will cost more

Additionally, connecting with a more seasoned landscaper could drive up cost – but could also provide a better-quality experience and longer-use space. Greenberg has over 25 years of experience as a horticulturist and a landscape designer, so her services may differ from those of a newer expert.  

'If chances are good, some of the best investment decisions a client makes will outlive me,' she says.  

How do I estimate the cost of landscaping?

To estimate landscaping cost, you need to consider the following: 

  • The must-have elements you can't live without – whether a dining area, outdoor kitchen or garden room.
  • Material costs – your choice of landscaping materials, from stones to lighting, can elevate or lower your budget, and this is where you can choose to spend or save.
  • Plant costs – it is always worth investing in a few larger, mature plants or trees to anchor your scheme. Although more expensive in the long run, they can be a wise investment because you will need fewer smaller plants, the cost of which can add up quickly.
  • Design and labor costs – asked for fixed costs in these areas to stick to a budget, and keep a tight record of any extras you ask for.
  • Furniture costs – if you are landscaping, it's likely you will need to reserve some of your budget for furniture.

As we said above, the cost of landscaping a garden will vary, depending on what you want to achieve from the space. If you have a firm budget in place and know exactly what you want, you can tailor the garden to suit spending limitations, for example opting for deck ideas over more expensive stone pavers.

Linda Greenberg agrees. Typically, she meets with her clients for one to two hours at the initial meeting, with hourly on site consultation and/or design fees costing $175 per hour

With the majority of her work in the Charlotte, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina region, Greenberg notes that most clients have an HOA or ARB that shows specifics on the work allowed for individual homes. 

What should you spend on backyard landscaping?

Ultimately, each yard is going to require different things, and thus different budgets. Chavez says: 'We design according to the budget of the client – normally, they do have a budget they want to work with and a designer’s estimates,' he says. 

'I’ve landscaped yards that are considered large that have cost substantially less than yards a quarter of the size – what matters is what the client wants.'

He recommends that interested clients first work with a designer to better assess items they need – horticulture, outdoor furniture – and then assess what fun items they can incorporate in with the remaining budget – bocce ball courts, outdoor kitchen ideas, and the like.

'It boils down to what customers want – on price points, that’s all dependent on what they would want to spend,' he says. 'It is luxury, really, that you’re willing to pay for.'

Linda Greenberg agrees: 'A smaller space can be as expensive as a larger garden, because each one has so many moving parts, from the functional aspects like soil preparation, electrical grading, drainage and lighting.'

Is landscaping worth the money?

Landscaping is worth the money if you get the cost-to-value balanced. This means spending up to around 10% of your home's value on your garden ideas, to be as sure as you can be that you haven't over-spent and that you will recoup a good percentage of your spend when you sell your home. 

However, whether landscaping is 'worth the money' shouldn't be looked at merely as a financial transaction. Linda Greenberg agrees, noting that it’s imperative that the client understands the investment an updated or renovated landscape offers not only to the value of the home, but to their lifestyle. Garden zoning, for instance, can provide spaces for tranquil escapism or sociable outdoor dining.

'We’ve seen an incredible uptick in time spent at home. With a backyard, and even front yard, offering reprieve from the working hours, it only makes sense to extend your living space to the literal living land outside your home’s doors.'

Grace Stetson
Contributing Editor

Grace Stetson is a full-time housing and affordability correspondent based in the Santa Cruz region of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Alongside her full-time work, she has worked on many topics in the housing realm — from data-driven real estate stories to lifestyle-focused how-tos — for publications including Apartment Therapy, Homes & Gardens, and Real Homes.