Just as virtual technology has become a common tool for anyone planning to repaint or redecorate a home, a growing array of apps can make landscaping easier too.

But know when to use them, and when it would be easier to pull out an old-fashioned pencil and a sheet of graph paper — or to seek out a professional.

“We’ve seen an increase in virtual interior design services within the last two years, so it’s only natural that this functionality would make its way to the exterior of the home as well,” said Stephanie Sisco, Real Simple magazine’s home editor.

A few of the more popular DIY gardening apps include Garden Designer ($9.99, from Artifact Interactive), Design your New Surroundings ($9.99, from Home Revivals), Garden Plan Pro ($9.99, from Growing Interactive), and Perennial Match ($4.99, from Harmony systems, Inc.).

“We have seen several hundred thousand downloads,” says Patrick Pozzuto, founder of the iScape app ($9.99, from Home Revivals LLC), aimed at both professional and home landscapers. Based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Pozzuto worked as a contractor before launching his app.

“Arranging plants using a touch screen is way easier than using your lower back to do it,” he says.

“But while the pros have been using apps for a long time now, home gardeners do encounter some hiccups sometimes,” he admits. “They don’t necessarily know what plant goes with what, and what areas it’ll grow in. And some people don’t have an artistic mind, and get into trouble.”

Dave Whitinger, executive director of the National Gardening Association, based in Jacksonville, Texas, warns that while some tech-savvy gardeners quickly get the hang of landscaping apps, the learning curve is steep, and they may be impractical for most home gardeners. The association, founded in 1971, helps put out the “Gardening for Dummies” book series (published by For Dummies) and hosts the website garden.org.

“The reality is that while the virtual tools are great for a minority of gardeners, many more people find them far too confusing, and they get really frustrated,” he says.

Many home gardeners, he says, would be better off using a pencil and graph paper, with each square representing 6 inches, or whatever scale is appropriate for the particular garden.

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