Maintenance & Repair
How Can Hardscaping & Softscaping Improve Your Property's Appeal & Sustainability?
| 2 min. read

There's no better time than the beginning of spring to improve the appeal and sustainability of your rental property or HOA community. In this post, we'll talk about hardscaping and softscaping: What the difference is between the two, and how you can develop feasible, cost-effective plans for your property's outdoor areas.

What Are Hardscaping and Softscaping?

You may have heard the terms hardscaping and softscaping tossed about intermittently. It's important to know and understand the distinct meaning of each.

Hardscaping (hard landscaping) focuses solely on non-living elements that do not move:

  • Rocks
  • Brickwork
  • Paving
  • Pergolas
  • Patios
  • Seating
  • Decks

Softscaping (soft landscaping) refers to living counterparts that grow and expand:

  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Bushes
  • Flowers

Aim for Balance

When planning your property's landscape design, the interplay between hardscaping and softscaping is of significant note. In addition to trying to achieve a balance between the two, consider how the care and maintenance of each may impact the other. For instance, if you lay a stone or concrete walkway, addressing ensuing drainage issues will ultimately impact which supplemental plantings might aid--or disrupt--efficient overall function.

Start with Stationary Elements

Because of their relative permanence, look into hardscaping possibilities first. Consider the following tips:

  • Choose to work with materials that complement the architectural style of your structure. If your building has a stone facade, try to match stonework patios and paths.
  • Develop a design feel that emits fluidity with curves and rounded edges as opposed to a more linear, city-block-planning look.
  • Play with different horizontal levels. Consider a sunken seating area or gradual steps leading up to a scenic overlook.
  • Extend indoor living space into the outdoors. Open up an area directly off of a side or back entrance, if possible, for outdoor enjoyment. Consider adding weatherproof furniture and a fire pit or strategic terrace lighting. If all of this sounds exorbitant, consider the ROI when it comes to attracting and retaining residents in the long run.
  • Consider the view from inside. Exterior decorative features should ideally enhance perceptual interest from within.
  • Work with adjacent frontage. If your property abuts a forest, field, or body of water, make sure that your hardscape design works with--and doesn't block--surrounding natural beauty.

Fill in Hardscaping with Flora

Once you've determined your walkways, patios, porches, and seating areas, it's time to fill your plans in with appealing softscape elements. Check out native flora options. Not only are indigenous plants more likely to thrive in your location; they should also require less water and maintenance due to their inherent adaptive qualities.

Accentuate path lines by lining each side with tall grasses--perhaps a varietal with colorful blooms like lavender or Russian sage. Consider setting space aside for a community herb and vegetable garden or composting. Try to incorporate floral pops of color in a range of complementary hues.

Don't have much in-ground space for decorative gardening? Think vertical. Place planters on top of pillars and hang baskets under eaves. Cover retaining walls with climbing ivy or vines. Is there room for window boxes along porch railings? Consider container gardening on top of running walls, and planting narrow shrubbery along the far perimeter of your property.

If you live in a wildfire-prone area, try placing gravel walkways between sections of vegetation to create firebreaks. Choose plants that are high in moisture (like aloe) or fire-resistant (like French lavender); and avoid flammable trees like conifers. Throughout the season, be sure to keep grass short; trim dead branches; and remove unnecessary shrubs and thin trees.

Plan for Necessary Landscaping Maintenance

Drainage, runoff, and erosion are the big three when it comes to landscape maintenance threats. Anytime that you combine hardscaping and softscaping, water and weather elements come into play. Protect your property design investment by planning for routine care and upkeep from the get-go. Consider taking the following steps:

  • Buy more hardscaping materials than you need. Extra supplies help you to keep installation timelines on schedule by preventing characteristic back-to-the-store delays, as well as providing built-in reserves for future replacement.
  • Consider reclaimed material sources to keep costs low and enhance the sustainability of your project.
  • Make sure that drainage systems deposit run-off as evenly as possible to protect against erosion.
  • Match softscape plant root systems with drainage requirements.
  • Remove nearby deep-rooted trees before building patios and on-ground decks.


The right combination of hardscaping and softscaping can bring significant value and appeal to your property. What are your go-to landscaping tips and tricks? Share them in the comments below!

Megan Wild
Megan is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate, home improvement, and coffee consumption. Follow her on Twitter @Megan_Wild, or check out her blog, Your Wild Home’s weekly newsletter.
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