20 Cheap Landscaping Ideas to Improve Your Yard

landscaped yard

Like ever-evolving TikTok trends and viral memes, your landscape deserves a glow-up that is as trendy as the latest dance challenge. We have scoured the virtual landscape for modern and budget-friendly landscaping ideas to give your yard the ultimate refresh, worthy of a trending hashtag without breaking the bank. If you are ready to level up your outdoor space, read on to discover 20 cheap landscaping ideas to improve your yard with DIY tricks, garden ideas, and budget-savvy tips.

20 cheap landscaping ideas

1. Plant perennials

Black-eyed Susan
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Practical and beautiful, what more could you ask for? Perennials return year after year and are available in a wide variety of colors and textures. Planting perennial is a budget-conscious strategy with long-lasting benefits. They are a practical and aesthetic choice for creating an attractive and low-maintenance garden space. 

Popular perennials include: 

  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Coral Bells (Heuchera)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Hosta (Hosta)

Cost: The cost of perennial plants varies depending on the size and type but typically ranges between $5 to $50 per specimen. However, large shrubs can cost as much as $100 or more. 

2. Mulch your garden beds

person mulching garden bed with hands
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Mulch is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to enhance your yard’s aesthetics. It not only looks good but also aids in weed prevention, moisture retention, and soil temperature regulation. 

Organic mulch also adds beneficial nutrients to the soil as it decomposes, enhancing plant health. This easy DIY project cuts down on the time you will spend maintaining your yard and is one of the most effective front yard landscaping ideas. 

Organic mulch includes: 

  • Wood
  • Straw
  • Pine needles
  • Shredded leaves
  • Grass clippings 
  • Compost

Inorganic mulch includes: 

  • Stones 
  • Rubber
  • Landscape glass

Cost: Mulch costs around $85 per cubic yard for professional installation. However, if you decide to go the DIY route, the project will only set you back between $20 to $60 per cubic yard, depending on the type of mulch you choose. 

Pro tip: Find free mulch in your own backyard, around your neighborhood, and in your city. Local tree service companies often offer free wood chip mulch from tree removals, and many cities and counties have free mulch programs. 

3. Add sustainable hardscaping 

Large concrete patio with a bistro set and umbrella
Photo Credit: Field Outdoor Spaces | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Modernize your backyard landscaping on a budget with hardscaping and create a versatile and functional outdoor space. From patios and decks to retaining walls, fire pits, and walkways, hardscaping elements are durable and low-maintenance. 

Consider laying stones or pavers to create a low-maintenance walkway through your landscape. A well-constructed fire pit is a great weekend DIY project that provides the perfect setting for entertaining. Once hardscapes are installed, they require minimal upkeep, allowing you to spend more time enjoying your yard. 

Cost: You can DIY build a fire pit with leftover wood and materials from other projects. However, if you opt for a fire pit kit, it will set you back around $625 or more. 

Walkways cost an average of $2,480 depending on the material, but you can spend as little as $335 for a low-maintenance pea gravel walkway. 

4. Conserve water with xeriscaping

xeriscape - front yard
Photo Credit: Person-with-No Name | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Xeriscaping is popular in the Southwest and other arid areas where water conservation is important. This landscaping approach offers a sustainable solution to saving water and involves using drought-resistant plants, thoughtfully designed irrigation systems, and native plants along with hardscaping elements. 

Xeriscapes require minimal water and maintenance to thrive, lowering your overall costs. Group native plants by watering needs to create a diverse display in your yard or consider planting drought-tolerant groundcover like creeping thyme or sedum to replace struggling turf areas. You also can incorporate rocks and boulders into your landscape to add low-maintenance visual interest. 

Cost: Drip irrigation costs less than you think, only setting you back around $490 for professional installation. 

Pro tip: Check out your local area for sources of free landscape rocks and boulders. Craigslist, landscaping companies, and construction crews are a good place to start. 

5. Mow less with groundcover

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Groundcover is inexpensive and best of all, low-maintenance. This cost-effective landscaping method reduces expensive lawn maintenance needs while still providing a green carpet for your lawn. Groundcovers also add an interesting textural element and some add a pop of color with seasonal blooms.  

Popular groundcover options include: 

  • Clover (white and red)
  • Creeping thyme
  • Sedum
  • Sweet woodruff
  • Vinca

Cost: Clover seed costs around $5 per pound or $0.50 per square foot. On the other hand, expect to spend as much as $2 per plant for creeping thyme specimens. 

6. Lay down roots with native plants 

butterfly and bee on flowers
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Let native plants take center stage in your landscape. These homegrown heroes offer many benefits, including adaptability, pest and weed resistance, and longevity. Native plants have adapted to the local climate and require less water, fertilization, and pesticides, reducing your overall costs and maintenance tasks. They also promote biodiversity and support local wildlife and pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Cost: Like perennial plants, most native plants cost between $5 to $50 per plant.  

7. Upcycle functional landscape decor

raised garden bed made of old tires
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Most trends come and go like the next viral TikTok video. However, upcycling has withstood the test of time, offering a thrifty and eco-friendly way to repurpose everyday items. Instead of splurging on expensive containers for your garden plants, repurpose some common items you have lying around your house. 

Turn old tires into colorful planters or transform wooden pallets into rustic furniture. You can also repurpose barrels, wheelbarrows, or watering cans to create unique planter boxes. Repurposing offers a sustainable approach that saves you money and creates a personal touch in your outdoor space. 

Cost: While repurposing household items doesn’t cost anything, you will need to fill your new container with landscape plants. You can expect to spend between $5 to $50 per plant and between $5 to $20 per bag for potting soil. 

8. Consider colorful containers

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Don’t underestimate the impact of colorful containers on your landscape. Pots, planters, and containers come in various sizes, colors, and materials, making them a versatile and budget-friendly addition to your outdoor space. 

Look for affordable options at your local garden center, online retailers like Amazon, or home improvement stores, and choose an array of colors and sizes to add personality to your landscape without breaking the bank. 

Cost: Flower pots range in price considerably depending on the size and material, but you can expect to spend between $1.50 to $65 per pot. 

9. Install solar landscape lighting

A solar landscape light with green in the background
Photo Credit: Petr Kratochvil | PublicDomainPictures | CC0

Shine bright with landscape lighting, an affordable and functional way to enhance your landscape design. Solar lights harness the power of the sun, so they do not require intricate wiring or add to your electricity costs. 

Consider adding path lights to illuminate walkways or installing spotlights to highlight focal points like flags or large trees. You also can hang decorative lanterns or string lights from your outdoor patio or pergola to illuminate outdoor seating. 

Cost: Solar landscape lights cost an average of $50 to $150 per fixture. However, you can often find lights for as little as $10 each if you’re a savvy shopper.  

10. Create focal points

landscaped backyard with bench and water feature
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Instead of focusing on your entire landscape, place your attention on one area to save money. As far as DIY landscaping ideas go, creating a focal point is one of the easiest and most eye-catching methods. By strategically placing an attention-grabbing element, you can elevate your curb appeal without spending a lot of money. 

Install a decorative trellis or arbor to transform your garden into a visual masterpiece. They add height and dimension while serving as a canvas for climbing plants like vines. You can also add garden statues or sculptures. Consider repurposing items like driftwood, boulders, and recycled metal to create a DIY focal point that doesn’t cost a cent. Lastly, you can also go the traditional route and plant a statement tree or shrub with vibrant foliage or a unique growth pattern. 

Cost: Prefabricated DIY arbor kits are a great way to enhance your yard’s look, costing between $375 to $1,380.

11. Opt for seeds instead of plants

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Landscape plants are a great way to give your yard a budget-friendly makeover. However, the cost of sprouted specimens can quickly add up, limiting the diversity of colors and textures in your yard. For a more cost-effective approach, opt for seeds instead of fully-grown plants. 

A single seed packet can fill a flower bed, leading to cost savings. You also can purchase multiple options for less money to create a diverse display. 

Cost: Seed packets only cost between $1.50 to $3.50 per packet. 

12. Cut costs with a vegetable garden

vegetable garden herbs in yard of a house
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Cut your grocery bills by incorporating seasonal edibles into your garden. Start with a small garden that is less time-consuming to maintain. Many edibles are low-maintenance and easy to grow, making them ideal for homeowners with busy schedules. 

Cost: Vegetable seed packets cost $1.50 to $3.50 per packet while sprouted specimens will set you back between $4 to $10 per plant. 

13. Define sections with edging

backyard lawn with xeriscaping along the fenceline
Photo Credit: Korye Logan | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Edging is a functional landscaping project that also adds visual appeal to your lawn. It adds structure and definition while providing a neat solution to keep your grass or groundcover from encroaching into your flower beds. 

Choose metal, plastic, or natural stone depending on your landscape preferences. Edging prevents mulch from spilling onto pathways and also prevents soil erosion in vegetable gardens. You also can add edging to rock gardens and xeriscapes to maintain the design’s integrity. 

Cost: Professional edging costs $710 to $2,200 for concrete installation. However, you can DIY the project with concrete blocks or other materials for a lot less.

14. Beautify a lonely mailbox

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Your mailbox isn’t going anywhere, so you might as well enjoy looking at it. Adding flowers around your mailbox is a great way to boost your front yard’s curb appeal with a burst of color. It is an easy DIY project that you can be proud of. Consider planting low-maintenance perennials topped with a layer of organic mulch for a mix of greenery, colors, and textures. 

Cost: Perennial plants cost between $5 to $50 each, while organic mulch costs $3 to $5 per bag.   

15. Mix in fluffy filler

pampas grass
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Add elegance and whimsy to your garden with ornamental grasses. These versatile plants offer texture, color, and height, making them an ideal filler for your outdoor space. They require minimal care and many are drought- or salt-tolerant. 

Popular ornamental grasses include: 

  • Fountain Grass (Pennisetum spp.)
  • Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
  • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  • Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)
  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Cost: Ornamental grasses cost $5 to $50 each, depending on the specimen. 

16. Build a raised bed

raised garden beds
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Prevent costly maintenance by building a raised garden bed. Raised beds prevent weeds and soil compaction while providing drainage and pest protection. They are versatile and work great for flower beds or vegetable gardens. You can build raised beds from many common materials, including cinder blocks, brick, or wood.  

Cost: If you have most of the materials lying around, you can build a DIY raised bed for under $30. 

17. Plant low-cost annuals

overhead view of a marigold plant
Photo Credit: Fun_loving_Cindy | Pixabay | License

Perennials are great, but they also can be expensive. If you are in a pinch and need to improve your yard on the fly, consider planting low-cost annuals. Unlike perennials, annuals bloom profusely for one season before dying in the winter. 

Budget-friendly annuals include: 

  • Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
  • Marigolds (Tagetes spp.)
  • Petunias (Petunia spp.)
  • Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
  • Zinnias (Zinnia elegans)

Cost: Annuals only cost $2 to $15 per plant, depending on the size. 

18. Construct a DIY water feature

garden pond with fountain
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Elevate your backyard’s curb appeal with a cost-effective DIY water feature. You can repurpose garden containers or find affordable options at your local store. Combine your containers with a small, low-cost, submersible pump, water, and decorative rocks to finish off your project. Once installed, water features are low-maintenance and energy-efficient. 

Cost: Pre-built water fountains cost between $130 to $2,500 depending on the size. DIY a water feature with a couple of pots you have on hand, landscape rocks from your neighborhood, and a submersible pump that costs around $25. 

19. Create a vertical garden

lettuce in a gutter garden on a fence
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Spruce up a small backyard with a vertical garden. These small gardens are inexpensive, conserve space, and offer a fun DIY project. Consider creating an edible vertical garden to cut your grocery costs or opt for low-maintenance succulents. 

Common varieties for a vertical garden include: 

  • Succulents
  • Ivy (English & Goldenchild)
  • Herbs (Basil, Oregano, & Mint)
  • Air Plants (Tillandsia xerographica & Tillandsia ionantha)

Cost: The cost of a vertical garden varies depending on the size, materials, and plant varieties. 

20. Build a rock garden

rock garden with black rocks next to a bamboo fenceline
Photo Credit: Dragonhunter | Pixabay | License

Rock gardens, a form of xeriscaping, add visual interest to landscapes while eliminating watering needs. They can be a cost-effective landscape option, depending on the materials. Rock gardens require minimal upkeep and provide year-round appeal. 

You can source many rocks for free to create a water-wise landscape. Drought-tolerant plants, including succulents, are well-suited to rock gardens. Consider adding a layer of landscape fabric and river rocks to your landscape for elevated appeal. You also can add stepping stones in your rock garden to create pathways through your landscape. 

Cost: Remember, there are a lot of ways to source free rocks locally, so be sure to ask around. However, if you’re up for opening your checkbook, you can expect to spend between $40 to $140 per cubic yard for landscape rocks, not including professional installation. 

FAQ about cheap landscaping ideas

Are there budget-friendly ways to improve my outdoor living space?

Yes. Enhance your outdoor living space by repurposing or refinishing old furniture. You can also add affordable decorative elements like lanterns, cushions, and outdoor rugs to create an inviting atmosphere. If DIY is your thing, repurpose wooden pallets into lounge chairs and a side table.  

What are some affordable ways to add privacy to my landscape? 

Add privacy to your yard by planting low-cost, fast-growing bamboo to create a living fence. You also can install lattice screens and climbing vines or hang outdoor curtains. Consider repurposing old shutters and doors to create a privacy screen. For a more traditional approach, DIY install a privacy fence. However, be prepared to spend around $3,500 for materials. 

What are the best inexpensive landscaping materials to use? 

Opt for gravel, organic mulch, recycled wood, and locally sourced rocks and stones to create a beautiful, low-budget landscape. 

Call in the professionals 

DIY trends and affordable options are as popular as the TikTok platform itself. However, not everyone has the time to DIY their own landscape masterpiece, and poorly planned projects can lead to costly mistakes. If you don’t have the time or expertise to pull off an epic makeover, let Lawn Love connect you with a local landscaping professional who can make your yard the viral sensation of the neighborhood while working within your budget.

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Kimberly Magerl

Kimberly Magerl is a writer and data analyst specializing in landscaping, gardening, lawn care, and pest control. She enjoys growing orchids, tending to fruits and vegetables in her garden, and getting outdoors. A resident of Texas, when she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.