What is Soft Landscaping?

Both hard and soft landscaping are the two main aspects of landscaping for domestic and commercial outdoor design. While hard landscaping defines the structural and material elements of a design, soft landscaping refers to the greenery and planting that fill in the spaces.

In this article, we will explore the different resources used in soft landscaping and how they can be used to complement or contrast with other elements.

Definition of Soft Landscaping

Soft landscaping is usually used to describe the horticulture chosen to decorate and adorn an outdoor landscape. It is generally derived from natural living things.

You usually find it includes planting such as shrubs, plants, flowers, grass and trees. It may also include the soil and compost used around the planting.

Soft landscaping may be considered the decoration of an area, but the quality of the soft landscaping often defines the theme or design. It can also be used architecturally to enhance spaces and create a striking aesthetic to elevate a commercial landscape design.

Why do we need soft landscaping?

The primary purpose of the soft landscape is to soften the area. It helps create a welcoming, warm environment like soft furnishings used inside.

Well designed soft landscaping will create a cohesive design alongside hardscaping structure by adding texture, colour and character.

It can draw your vision away from eyesores or mark the edges of a pathway. It will enormously enhance an area and create a scene that draws people in if done well.

Soft landscaping can rarely be done without some hardscaping used to construct borders, paths, or beds to house the soft landscaping. Hardscaping structures both define or hold the soft landscaping elements in place.

Choosing Soft Landscaping

There is a whole range of considerations when undertaking soft landscape design. By planning the soft and hardscaping together, you will maximise the result.

Professional landscapers consider many things when designing, starting with a site survey that will highlight any problem areas.

Types of Soft Landscaping

Herbaceous Border

A herbaceous border is a collection of plants, normally perennials. By arranging them close together, you can create a splash of colour.

This type of border can break up hard landscaping, run along a path or at the edge of a lawn.

This kind of mixed border often requires maintenance, such as uprooting and plant division.


Shrubs are a wonderful low maintenance option. If you think about the environment, you can choose shrubs that will thrive in local conditions.

Landscapers often carry out a soil test to ascertain the acidity and condition of the soil. Knowing whether the ground is clay or sandy will prevent costly mistakes.

Shrubs vary enormously, with some growing to six meters in height. It is worth employing an expert, so you don’t get the size wrong.


Trees make a great focal point in a design and are an essential aspect of any landscape plan.

Important considerations are the shape, height, blossom and leaf type. It would not be good to have a deciduous tree with a significant drop of leaves that would make a pathway slippery in some designs.

Size is also important, with many species growing between 20 and 45 metres tall. Roots need to be considered as they can cause problems with nearby buildings or interfere with other hard landscaping.


Lawns are a popular choice for an area with ample open space that needs breaking up. It can provide a space for visitors or employees to sit and relax.

Lawn maintenance is an essential factor as it will need weekly mowing in the summer months and treatment for weeds twice a year.

Planting Design

Soft landscaping is an art. It requires an understanding of shape, colour and how plants will change as they grow.


Soft landscaping should be chosen to complement an area’s hardscaping and overall design. There doesn’t need to be a named theme, but the overall design should be cohesive.

Planting must be suited to grow in local conditions, but it can reflect an English garden, an urban landscape, Mediterranean style, or even tropical planting. Often this will be chosen to suit the materials used in landscaping, such as natural stone, cobbles, concrete, wood or tiling.

Some plants may be chosen to make a style statement or create a focal feature.


Areas are often marked by fencing or walls to create a boundary or offer privacy, but soft landscaping can be used as an alternative in the form of hedging.

Hedging is excellent for hiding an eyesore or acting as a windbreak in an open area. It can even help reduce noise pollution.

Hedging will take a while to establish and does require some maintenance. It will need to be trimmed annually to keep its shape.


Security is something that should always be considered when doing a landscape design.

For example, plants can create an unwanted access point if they can be used to climb to access a window. Alternatively, a spiky shrub can be planted to deter unwelcome intruders.

Maintenance of Soft Scaping

It is impossible to include soft scaping in a design without developing a plan for ongoing maintenance. Sustainability is not just about choosing the right plants for the environment but also considering the impact they will have in the future.

Most plants and shrubs will require some watering in the warmer months, and some pruning will be necessary to prevent overgrowth and keep plants in top condition. Since you will need to employ contractors for commercial landscaping maintenance, this ongoing cost should be considered at the outset.

You need to assess the environment before choosing to plant to consider the natural challenges of the ecosystem.

For example, it is possible to reduce the amount of maintenance by choosing plants to suit dry or wet conditions. Some plants are better for drought, while others are flood resistant.

In a design which needs to be low maintenance, plants that require very little attention can be used. Weeds can be controlled by adding mulches or planting densely to discourage weed growth.

If you have a commercial project that requires landscaping, why not let Kings Landscapes take care of your design, implementation and aftercare. We are an established landscape company based in Milton Keynes with a wealth of experience in commercial landscaping.