A Shady Guide to Curb Appeal: How to Achieve Beautiful Landscaping

A house in a tropical location with palm trees and other foliage in the front yard.
  • 2-200 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100-2,000

If you've purchased a house since the dot-com boom, you surely know the process of home buying in the modern age. Whole websites are dedicated to the promotion of new real estate listings, always beginning with a wide shot of a home’s exterior.

Yes, even online curb appeal plays a huge role in a listing's success, though its importance is often rooted in something unexpected. Window shutter styles and the color of the siding are important, but experts say a healthy and prosperous yard greatly impacts the sale of a house. Yet, before you buy out all the flowers at your local nursery, there are a few key tips you need to know.

1. Invest in Fully Grown Trees

A tree in a front yard being mulched.

When an elderly driver drove through my front yard a few years back (which is a long story for another time), we had to replant most of the damaged shrubbery and trees decorating the outside of our house. Though our landscape looks beautiful now, it took many years for the greenery—especially our new trees—to grow into their newly planted beauty and potential. When selling a home or simply trying to add some needed curb appeal, however, one may not have the time (years in our case) to wait for a design’s appeal to blossom. Therefore, whenever possible, the planting of fully grown trees are ideal.

The downside of this notion is an adult tree’s price tag. According to one resource, a fully-grown oak tree can cost tens of thousands of dollars to transport and plant in the ground. Now, I don’t know about you, but I for one don’t have an extra grand or two just sitting around to invest in my home’s front. But less grand species and sizes of tree are certainly available that can well suit your style and design budget.

2. Don’t go too Frilly with Flowers

When planting beds of flowers, the common route of creation is to purchase the plants that are prettiest or would best complement a house’s color scheme. For the sake of curb appeal, however, it is always advised that homeowner do not do this. Instead of buying something because it's visually appealing, research should be done to ensure the plants can match beauty with hardiness and longevity of lifespan.

There are a few reasons for this, but the main idea centers on making the most of investment. If you are going through the trouble to purchase and plant shrubs or flowers, you surely want them to stick around longer than a month or two. As nothing makes a house look more unkempt then dead flowers sitting in a bed, the greatest way to ensure your home looks its best is to simply choose them wisely!

3. Think Long-term

An island of plants in a front yard.

As mentioned above, a home's exterior is an investment. Therefore, when first considering how to add appeal to a home using landscape design, keep a long-term perspective.

When planning a home landscape, ponder the following questions: How big will these plants be when they are fully grown? Did I leave enough room surrounding this plant to keep it from overbearing a neighboring plant? (I have personally planted plants in my gardens that I didn’t realize would grow with vines until they overtook my otherwise well-thought-out green spaces in every direction.) Thinking in this way will save a lot of time and effort in the long run and will protect your investment while also maintaining the polished look of the home.

4. Be Strategic

Finally, a wonderful piece of advice that applies to landscape design is the idea that less is more. First-time landscapers can get carried away with creativity and stick oddly paired plants anywhere that looks bare. This tactic should be avoided. Most experts agree a great way to begin the process of creating curb appeal is to create green space strategically or only where it will be the most successful. A quote I once read is, “Plant trees, but not a forest.” Adhering to this lovely sentiment will enhance your home's physical beauty and also ensure your budget isn’t strained, either.