9 Landscaping Ideas to Maximize Your Budget

flowers and a decorative tree in a reused bathtub

A greener yard doesn’t have to mean losing green from your wallet. Whether you want to design a new yard or transform your current one, these tips will help you get the most out of your budget. 

9 landscaping ideas to maximize your budget

1. Pick the perfect plantings

No backyard is complete without flowers and shrubs, but homeowners often miss out on saving money and time by choosing the wrong ones. When you’re picking out your next showstopper bloom or creeping vine, think about these three criteria: duration, native origin, and functionality. 

Duration of plant

Duration refers to whether a plant will die during the winter (annuals) or come back next year (perennials). Perennials are the gift that keeps on giving. Instead of repurchasing and installing the same flowers over and over, buy them once and get your money’s worth. Perennials are slightly more expensive than annuals, but you’ll save in the long run by not having to repurchase flowers every spring.

For some plants, their duration depends on what climate you live in. Check your USDA Hardiness Zone as well as the plant’s preferred zones. 

Native origin

We love native flowers, shrubs, and trees because they’re low maintenance and good for the environment. Because they’re adapted to your climate, they require less intensive care and have a better chance of survival, which means fewer costs for things such as fertilizer, herbicide, and repurchasing plants.

Some of the benefits of choosing native plants are:

  • Usually don’t require supplemental fertilizer or water
  • Attracts pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies
  • More resistant to pests
  • Deep root system helps prevent flooding


If you are a practical person, choose plants that are pretty as well as useful. Herbs like mint, lavender, and sage provide visual interest as well add great flavors to some of your favorite dishes. Some plants repel pests like mosquitoes and fleas. A vegetable garden adds color to your landscape, puts healthy food on your plate, and saves you money at the grocery store. 

Pro Tip: Plants with multiple seasons of interest give you more bang for your buck. Look for trees with summer flowers and autumn colors, flowers that produce beautiful seed pods in the winter, or anything with eye-catching bark. 

Cost: Perennials can be anywhere from $3 to $50 or more per plant. 

2. Add a walkway

If you need to break up space in a big backyard or want a smoother transition from turfgrass to garden, consider a walkway. A path made of stepping stones or pavers is an easy, budget-friendly project that combines style and functionality. 

To elevate the design, add some moss or ground cover that can take foot traffic like sedge. A gravel pathway will add a more seamless look.

Cost: Pavers cost between $1 and $15 each. Gravel is around $4 per bag which covers 3 square feet at a 2-inch depth. 

3. Build a rock garden

Why stop at a walkway? A rock garden is an area where boulders, stones, and rocks are arranged in unique designs. Rock gardens don’t require much care and provide a calming sanctuary to enjoy alone or with friends and family. 

They’re especially great landscape features for locations prone to drought. With a rock garden you’ll save on the cost of water and fertilizer compared to having a traditional lawn.

Rock gardens also make your yard appear larger and increase your home’s curb appeal. And rock gardens are an investment that can increase your property’s value by up to 14%. 

Add drought-tolerant plants, sand, and mulch to your rock garden to create a xeriscape, a type of landscape design that focuses on water conservation by eliminating the need for irrigation.

4. Get creative with edging

Is your landscape trying to establish boundaries? Edging can help. 

The best way to save money is to work with what you already have. Think of all the possibilities on how to design with:

  • Stone
  • Brick
  • Wood
  • Concrete
  • Cinder blocks
  • Metal
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Garden fencing
  • Iron fencing 
  • Pebbles

You can use any of those edging materials to contain mulch, highlight a tree, or make any landscape feature stand out. Edging also helps prevent erosion by interrupting runoff. 

Cost: Professional installation can cost between $70 and $1,500, depending on the scale of the project. You can use scrap wood or leftover stones to cut costs and do this project yourself. 

5. Plant a sapling

There’s nothing like a beautiful magnolia or oak tree on the border of your property. We know homeowners are eager for their landscapes to fill out and look mature, but a little patience will pay off by saving you big bucks. A fully grown tree can cost as much as $200, whereas a sapling can be as little as 50 cents. 

Cost: 50 cents to $2 per sapling.

6. Raise your garden bed

If you would love to grow a garden but don’t have a green thumb, a raised garden can help. How is it different from a regular garden? A raised garden is off the ground and isolated, so you’re less likely to deal with weeds and pests. If you don’t have weeds and pests, you don’t have to spend money on pesticides and herbicides. 

You can use a number of materials to create a raised garden bed including wood, cinder block, and brick. If you’re comfortable with a drill, you can easily create one yourself using cedar boards. 

Cost: A DIY raised garden bed can cost as little as $35.

7. Go for (ground) cover

You don’t have to have traditional turfgrass to have a green yard. Traditional grass needs regular maintenance and detailed care, and that means regular fertilization, herbicide, and watering, not to mention equipment upkeep for lawn mowers and other equipment. 

Ground covers are a great, low-maintenance alternative. They’re cheaper than traditional grass too. These low-lying plants have a creeping, spreading habit that can (you guessed it) cover a lot of ground. You can use them to cover your whole lawn, mixed in with traditional grass, or as an accent around hardscaping. 

Ground cover options include: 

  • Creeping thyme
  • Creeping phlox
  • Sedum
  • Corsican mint
  • Clover 

Choose a ground cover that suits your landscape. If you have a lot of shade, Corsican mint is a good option. If it’s always sunny at your house, try creeping thyme. Creeping phlox tolerates high foot traffic, making it perfect for those who spend a lot of time entertaining outdoors. 

Cost: The only cost is the plant itself which ranges from $5 to $25. 

8. Repurpose found objects for planters

Who said every plant needs to be in a 12×12-inch terra cotta pot? Anything that can hold soil can be repurposed into a planter. Not only does it save you money buying planters, but it also gives your yard a unique flair.

Here are some things you can find around your home to use as planters to create garden centerpieces:

  • Old tubs
  • Pianos
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Tires
  • Tin cans
  • Water cans
  • Glass jars
  • Baskets
  • Vases
  • Wooden boxes
  • Fish bowls
  • Paint cans

If your object doesn’t have drainage holes, pick plants that don’t mind sitting in a little moisture. Otherwise, you can drill in a few holes yourself. 

Cost: Your only cost is soil and the plants themselves. A 50-quart bag of potting soil costs $15 while plants will be between $3 and $50.

9. Light it up

An easy way to take your outdoor living space to the next level is budget-friendly outdoor lighting. The right lights can make your garden magical. There’s no need to go all out for professional landscape lighting if you don’t want to — all these ideas can be DIY.

Front yard lighting 

Lighting for your front yard should be focused on illuminating pathways and spotlighting your home. Small lights on stakes are an easy way to illuminate walkways. Add some strategically placed solar lights to highlight a well-landscaped area of your yard, your home, or just add ambiance to your outdoor space. Remember, you need fewer lights than you think unless you have particularly rocky terrain. 

Backyard lighting

Backyard lighting sets the tone for your outdoor entertainment. Twinkling string lights create an inviting space for dinner parties. Hang paper lanterns from trees to highlight their beauty. If you have a deck or patio, point soft spotlights to objects around it. This will eliminate glare while still providing light. 

Pro Tip: If you’re willing to spend a little more now to save in the long run, think about solar landscape lights. They come as string lights, stake lights, spotlights, and even hanging mason jar lights. It won’t take them long to pay for themselves in energy savings.

Cost: Simple lighting installed yourself can cost as little as $15. Solar lights range from $25 to $60. 

Things to consider when designing your landscape

If you live in a drought-prone area…

Consider a rock garden or ground cover. You’ll save money on repurchasing plants and irrigation, and maintenance. 

If you want to keep your turfgrass…

Focus on edging to define your lawn. Add a walkway to bare patches or shady areas and to add some dimension to your yard. 

If you just want to spruce things up…

Add simple lighting and a statement planter. This will add a little character to your landscape.

If your yard gets a lot of sun…

Plant a sapling in an area where you’d like to get some shade like next to your entertainment area. 

Time is just as precious as money. If you’d rather spend yours doing something other than landscaping, call a pro in your area to take care of design, installation, and maintenance. They also can help you maximize your landscaping budget.

Main Photo Credit: terimakasih0 | Pixabay

Rachel Abrams

Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Rachel Abrams studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. She enjoys volunteering at her neighborhood community garden and growing herbs in her New York City apartment.