Landscaper, Landscape Architect, Landscape Designer... Which One Do You Need?

We know, we know. With all of these professional designations being bandied about, and your backyard project in desperate need of attention, it can be both confusing—and a bit frustrating—to figure out who exactly you need to call for landscape-related support.


Landscapers are the infantrymen of the outdoor design profession. They’re the ones that are actually doing the heavy lifting, all the grunt work that architects and designers set in place for them to do—the actual planting and pruning and maintenance.

Alternately, if they’re not implementing the designs that a landscape architect has dreamed up, landscapers can usually be hired to do routine sprucing up around your property from month to month. Potential responsibilities could include:

  • Digging
  • Mowing
  • Mulching
  • Planting
  • Pruning
  • Raking
  • Trimming

So, here’s the 411 on landscapers: they’re perfect for straightforward, no-nonsense yard maintenance and upkeep.

If you just need someone to come trim the azalea bushes back when they get out of control in the springtime, you don’t need a landscape architect, you need a landscaper—something much simpler (and, in all likelihood, much less pricey)!

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Landscape architect

Just what does a landscape architect do, anyway?

Well, there’s not really a generic, one-size-fits-all answer that we can provide to that question. Because landscape architects—depending on whether they work in residential, commercial, or public arenas—can serve a very different professional function from setting to setting.

Basically, landscape architects dream up large-scale transformations to the physical landscape—to the earth itself. They’re drawing up the blueprints for your yard, public park, or corporate office courtyard in the same way a residential architect might sketch out a plan for a new single-family home.

Here are a few key differences in skills, qualifications, and other areas of concern that set landscape architects apart from their peers.

  • They’re licensed – Landscape architects, like traditional architects, have to pass a comprehensive exam and receive an official license from state government officials in order to do their job
  • They’ve got an artistic sensibility – Landscape architects study and apply the principles of design to each project they take on, so that there’s sophistication, artistry, and (optimally) originality for each new project
  • They need a Master’s degree from an accredited university – The American Society of Landscape Architects selects which university programs it does and does not accredit, determining which students are officially “masters” of landscape architecture and which are not

Bottom line? If you’re doing anything that requires significant movement of raw earth, or a large-scale outdoor project involving a structure or edifice of some kind, then you’re definitely going to need support from a landscape architect.

Check out the comprehensive list of common, smaller-scale landscape architect-supported projects below for further clarification.

  • Drainage systems
  • Entries
  • Gardens
  • Irrigation systems
  • Retaining walls
  • Slopes

Landscape designer

The inclusion of the term “design” should say it all. Landscape designers are driven by, and focused on, the aesthetics of an outdoor space. Landscape designers also tend to focus on smaller-scale projects, such as residential and private properties.

Designers aren’t required to have the same credentials as architects—they don’t need the state-approved business license, nor do they need to pass an exam to be allowed to offer up their services to interested parties.

There is such a thing as the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD); they serve a certification function, and would be an excellent resource to verify the suitability of the landscape designer you’re considering for your project.

What’s the big takeaway here? If you’re financially able, invest, invest, invest in your landscaping.

Not only will it maintain the curb appeal of your home, in the event you want to sell sometime in the future, studies have shown that doing so literally increases your property’s value, and contributes to a priceless overall sense of well-being and contentedness.