Hardscapes, Softscapes, Landscapes: What’s the Difference? 

If you’re new to the world of landscaping, you may be confused about the differences between hardscapes, softscapes, and landscapes or how they fit into your overall landscape design. While these terms are not as complicated as you may think, understanding them better will allow you to make the best choices for your outdoor spaces, including maintaining them, so they last for your relaxation and pleasure for years to come. 


The term hardscape refers to the solid, non-living elements in your yard. This category includes anything built with wood, concrete, or rocks and human-made outdoor structures such as:  

  • Paving
  • Gravel
  • Retaining walls
  • Outdoor kitchens
  • Gazebos
  • Driveways
  • Decks
  • Fountains
  • Stone walkways
  • Fencing

Hardscape Function 

Hardscapes tend to be immovable and are used for functionality rather than just aesthetics. For example, hardscapes can minimize rainwater runoff, prevent soil erosion, and aid your lawn’s drainage. Rocks and stones can attract the sun’s heat, allowing wet soil to dry more efficiently, while fencing and gating add security to your home and its property boundaries.

Hardscape Outdoor Kitchen and Dining

Features like an outdoor kitchen, fire pit, or outdoor fireplace bring continuity between your indoor and exterior living spaces and allow you and your guests to enjoy your yard even when the temperatures start to drop. Incorporating the same materials and similar styles can make the transition between indoors and out more seamless.

Hardscaping Tips

When planning for hardscapes in your landscape, it’s essential to remember the following tips. 

  • Consider your yard’s drainage needs.
  • Incorporate curves rather than only having sharp angles, which will look unnatural. 
  • Create a defined focal point rather than multiple focal points that overwhelm the viewer. 
  • Mix in greenery where possible so your landscape isn’t cold and unwelcoming. 

Hardscape Maintenance 

Hardscapes do not require the same care and upkeep that softscapes do, but time and harsh weather can affect their appearance. So, it is wise to do preventative maintenance to ensure these structures look and operate their best in your yard. A few examples are using pressure washing, sealant, or paint to protect your wooden surfaces and inspecting between pavers and stones regularly for weed growth. 


As the name suggests, this term refers to any living, horticultural elements in your yard. This includes things that grow: 

  • Trees
  • Grass or turf
  • Flowers
  • Gardens
  • Soil
  • Plants
  • Shrubs
  • Vines

These are fluid and can be moved as they continually evolve, spread, and reproduce. 

Softscape for a Residential Home


Softscape Function 

These permanent or seasonal elements bring colorful beauty to your lawn and contribute to the ecological stability of bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators, as well as the overall health of the surrounding environment. Moreover, they contribute to your yard’s ambiance and mood, making your outdoor spaces truly enjoyable for everyone who visits your home. 

Softscape Maintenance

Because this category incorporates alive and ever-changing things, maintenance is essential to ensure these elements look and grow their best. Pruning, mowing, planting, mulching, removing dead facets, and fertilizing are just a few of the tasks necessary for a thriving landscape. 


Your landscape defines the shape of your yard and is composed of your hardscapes and softscapes together – your outdoor elements as a whole. When designing your yard, you should not have one without the other, as they are both necessary and work in tandem to create enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing spaces for your family and friends. Balance is key, as too much of one or the other can quickly overwhelm your landscape and allow features to either look sterile and cold or overgrown and messy. To avoid this, before you begin a landscape design, plan, or installation, you should consider all of your yard’s needs for structural, safety, spatial, and drainage concerns. 

SkyFrog Is Here to Help 

Designing a beautiful and practical landscape for your home or business can be a daunting task. But when done correctly, these elements can add curb appeal to your home and limitless enjoyment for you and your guests. At SkyFrog Landscape, our team members are experts in design, installation, and maintenance, so when you rely on us, you know your outdoor living spaces will always look their best!