Your Guide to Landscaping in Indianapolis

With so many possibilities for home improvement, few investments can transform a property quite like professional-quality landscaping and outdoor design services. Landscape designers and landscape architects can make all the difference for homeowners wanting to revitalize a tired yard or create a tranquil oasis. Although helpful for homeowners in most parts of the country, this guide to landscaping was developed for those living in the Indianapolis area, including Zionsville, Carmel, Westfield, Noblesville, Fishers, and the surrounding communities. In it, we explain landscaping, discuss popular possibilities, the processes involved, and why engaging professionals is often the best way to achieve an outdoor vision.

What is Landscaping?

Sometimes, homeowners think landscaping is just adding plants and mulch to add curb appeal to their homes. While that is part of it, much more is involved in landscaping.

The Role of Softscaping

Plantings are one of the primary components of landscaping, which we call softscaping. Softscaping includes all the organic elements in your yard, including trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses. The specific selections and arrangements of plantings provide form and function to the space, contributing to its overall look and feel. Softscaping often provides cooling shade, privacy, and a thriving habitat for native wildlife. Landscaping greenery also contributes to environmental conservation by helping reduce erosion and improving air quality.

The Role of Hardscaping

In addition to softscaping, hardscaping elements such as pathways, patios, decks, and retaining walls play a significant role in landscape design. These outdoor living space elements provide structure and define the functional areas of a yard while complementing and embracing the natural elements.

Hardscaping materials like stone, wood, or concrete pavers are often selected for their durability and aesthetic appeal. Well-placed lighting can highlight features and create ambiance, while water features such as a pond, fountain, or stream create unique focal points that promote relaxation and tranquility.

What Makes Effective Landscape Design?

Effective landscape design requires thoughtful planning, consideration of the natural environment, and an understanding of how different elements work together to create a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing outdoor space. Some aspects required for effective landscape design include:

Knowing the Local Landscape

Knowing the local climate and soil type is crucial for selecting plants. A well-planned landscape offers year-round appeal by incorporating elements that bloom or change with Central Indiana’s diverse climate across unique seasons. 

A Commitment to Sustainability 

Sustainable landscaping practices minimize their environmental impact while conserving resources. Incorporating drought-resistant plants, rain gardens, and efficient irrigation systems can significantly reduce water usage. Using sustainable materials for garden structures and walkways reduces environmental impact. Including native plants in your design supports local wildlife and enhances biodiversity.

Maintenance Considerations

The design should match the homeowner’s ability and desire to maintain the space. By incorporating maintenance considerations into the initial design phase, landscape architects and designers can ensure that the outdoor space is not only beautiful at the outset but remains functional, manageable, and enjoyable over time.


Beyond aesthetics, thoughtfully designed landscaping must serve practical purposes. Whether providing areas for outdoor entertainment, enhancing intimate privacy, or promoting everyday relaxation, the best backyard landscaping accomplishes a homeowner’s functional goals for the space. Additionally, traffic flow and accessibility should be considered. Pathways and layout should allow easy movement throughout the space without obstructing any elements while considering who will use the space, regardless of age and ability.

Aesthetic Appeal

A well-thought-out landscape strikes a harmonious balance between its various elements, including plantings and greenery sections, hardscape areas, and surrounding structures. Using color effectively can influence mood and perception. Different textures and forms add interest and contrast. The design should complement the home’s architectural style, creating a seamless visual flow from indoors to outdoors.

Landscape Architects or Landscape Designers?

While landscape designers and architects contribute to creating outdoor spaces, key differences lie in their respective training, unique expertise, and the types of projects they typically handle. Landscape designers are skilled professionals in outdoor design principles, spatial arrangements, and plant selection with a keen eye for detail. While formal education in landscape design is beneficial, it isn’t always a requirement, and many professionals in the field have backgrounds in horticulture or related fields. 

A landscape designer’s primary focus is typically the aesthetic and functional aspects of homeowners’ backyard landscapes. On the other hand, landscape architects often have a broader focus that includes visual appeal and functionality, site planning, environmental sustainability, accessibility, and more. 

Landscape architects typically hold higher degrees in their discipline and, in Indiana, must be licensed to practice through the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency. The licensure process involves the following:

  • Completing a professional degree program.
  • Relevant internship and work experience.
  • Passing the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (LARE).

A licensed landscape architect comprehensively understands site design and construction techniques for complex or large-scale residential projects.

Professional Landscaping or DIY? 

While do-it-yourself (DIY) landscaping projects can be appealing to some, enlisting the expertise of a landscape designer or architect offers several advantages.

Professional designers and architects have extensive training and hands-on experience in the landscaping field. With creativity and an eye for innovative solutions, a landscaping professional can assess a property’s unique characteristics and constraints and develop a custom-tailored design that maximizes its potential. 

Many available DIY landscaping solutions are generic for broad appeal but lack unique personal touches that result in truly one-of-a-kind environments. Professionals have privileged access to a wide range of premium materials and recognize which are best suited for a homeowner’s project requirements and environmental conditions in the Indianapolis area.

Larger landscaping redesign and construction projects often require adherence to Indiana or local municipality zoning ordinances, building codes, or other regulations. These regulations can be complex for homeowners to navigate independently. Landscaping professionals at Aspen Outdoor Designs are well-versed in the relevant permit processes and can ensure all necessary compliance to avoid delays or potential legal issues.

While DIY efforts can be beneficial, investing in professional landscaping traditionally yields long-term value for homeowners’ property. Landscaping professionals understand how to maximize a project’s return on investment by incorporating timeless features that will maintain their appeal to potential buyers after years of enjoyment.

Finding the Right Landscape Professionals for Your Project

Searching online for a landscaping company near you may produce many results. Finding the right one for you may require a little extra effort. The following essential criteria can guide the selection process and ensure your landscaping project is in capable and trustworthy hands.

Credentials and Licensing

Ensure all designers or architects have the credentials and licenses required by Indiana and your local county or city government. Memberships in professional organizations, such as the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Indianapolis Landscape Association, and Indiana Nursery and Landscape Association, are positive indicators of industry expertise and sustained professionalism.

Portfolio and References

Review past projects to assess the landscaping firm’s style, versatility, and quality of work. Browse reviews or request references from previous clients to gain insight into their satisfaction with customer service and final results.

Communication and Collaboration

Choose a designer who listens attentively to your ideas and communicates clearly throughout the design process. A collaborative approach helps realize your vision and benefits from the designer’s expertise and recommendations.

Budget and Timeline

Professional landscaping experts will discuss budgetary constraints or project timelines upfront to ensure alignment with their capabilities and availability. Transparency regarding costs and deadlines is essential for a successful partnership.


Finally, homeowners must trust their instincts and choose a designer or architect with whom they feel most comfortable and confident. Establishing a rapport and mutual trust fosters a positive working relationship and enhances the overall experience.

Local Landscaping: The Top Trends and Environment Factors Across Indy’s Northside


With suburban sprawl continuing across Northside Indianapolis and new neighborhoods popping up on former farmland throughout Zionsville, Carmel, Westfield, Noblesville, and Fishers, many homeowners wish to add character to their outdoor environments.

While smaller properties in the old-town portions of Zionsville and the Village of West Clay tend to present unique spatial challenges, landscaping design trends throughout Hamilton, Boone, and Marion counties continue to add in-home comforts to outdoor spaces. Features such as ceiling fans, heaters, weather-resistant area rugs, and full outdoor kitchens are increasingly popular options design teams are incorporating into landscaping and outdoor living projects.

Central Indiana’s weather and climate can significantly influence plant selection and design decisions for local professional landscaping projects. Understanding the area’s climate patterns, temperature extremes, precipitation trends, and soil conditions is essential for creating sustainable, resilient, visually appealing landscapes and outdoor living environments.

Indiana’s clay-heavy soil can make it difficult for many plants to thrive. Landscaping professionals can amend soil to improve its fertility and accommodate certain desired species, but native plants are best for traditionally harsh environments that also undergo extreme seasonal temperature swings. Effective landscaping can transform ordinary Greater Indianapolis yards into extraordinary retreats, creating connections to nature for private enjoyment or hosting friends and family.


The Process Behind Your Landscaping Project

Aspen Outdoor Designs has a clear collaborative process. We actively listen to your wants and needs, interpret them, and work with you to formulate a plan for your outdoor living space. Our process includes the following:

First Contact

Initially, homeowners calling the office may be asked basic questions about their outdoor space and the nature of their project. We may recommend browsing our project galleries to help them find inspiration. Some homeowners have found our personality quiz eye-opening for exploring their style. The information gathered in the first phone conversations is all delivered to the landscape designer who is best suited to help achieve the homeowner’s goals and vision for their space. The homeowner can expect their designer to call within two days of the initial phone call for more discussion, leading to an estimate.

Design Discussions

One of a landscape designer’s best traits is the ability to listen closely to a homeowner’s goals and vision for their project. As the homeowner and designer discuss potential ideas, a clearer picture of the project and its budget begins to take shape. With the ideas outlined, the designer first gives the homeowner a ballpark estimate. If the homeowner approves of the ideas and budget, the designer drafts a design agreement detailing what Aspen Outdoor Designs will provide, including design drawings and the cost. 


With design plans finalized and approved, it’s time for highly skilled and specialized crews to bring the vision from drawings into real life. During a pre-construction meeting, the project’s designer introduces homeowners to the operations manager and the department superintendents overseeing each phase of work. It isn’t uncommon for plans to change or surprises to pop up during construction and installation. However, our skilled crews can usually adapt without requiring significant changes to a project’s timeline.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Like any other part of a home or property, regular maintenance will be necessary to keep a new landscaping project or outdoor living space looking its best. Education from the Aspen Outdoor Designs team goes a long way in enhancing homeowners’ long-term enjoyment of their new space. 

New plantings will require the most attentive maintenance to ensure they establish firm roots that take hold and thrive for years to come. Frequent watering is essential. Most hardscape elements, such as decks, paver patios, or natural stone features, require minimal maintenance. 

The Aspen team provides homeowners with detailed instructions for maintaining their new landscape through a client-only portal on our website. Additionally, our team meets personally with clients to answer questions and offer detailed instructions for proper watering, pruning, and deadheading.