1. Plan and Design

Principle No. 1 

It is a good idea to develop a plan before lifting a shovel or purchasing a plant. Beautiful landscapes – whether new or renovated – each began with a landscape plan.

Create a base plan


  • Draw a simple scaled drawing of your property. Include all exterior building dimensions, driveways, walkways and existing plants, trees and shrubs.
  • A manageable-paper size is one that has a scale of eight or 10 squares per inch.

Make a bubble diagram

  • Use the diagram to identify site amenities and constraints. The diagram should also define water requirements, sun exposure, area functions and themes. For instance - is there a lot of drainage in a certain area; does the house shade certain areas; do you want a get-away garden?
  • Consider movement (like paths) and usage (like patios). Are there areas that you want to cover or screen?
  • Use tracing paper over the basic map to experiment with alternative ideas.
  • Explore various design elements and incorporate a specific xeriscape style - such as natural, cottage, alternative turf, mountain or informal.  

Finalize the landscape plan

  • Convert the bubble diagram into a well-designed landscape plan to scale, identifying specific site details, planting schemes and hardscape layouts.
  • Select plants based on water needs, exposure conditions and mature size. See Principle No. 5 for more information about selecting plants. 
  • The planning and design stage is when many people seek a professional landscape designer for their knowledge of plants. You may also want to review our Plant Finder for ideas on low-water-use plants that thrive in this area.