Good landscaping can add up to 28 percent to the overall value of a house, says landscape economist John Harris, and cut its time on the market 10 to 15 percent. Even taking your landscaping to the next level, upgrading from “good” to “excellent,” in terms of design, condition, and placement, can add six to seven percent to a home’s value, according to a Clemson University study.

But don’t landscape merely to flip a house. You won’t get your money back, Sandy MacCuish, a California appraiser, tells us. Instead landscape for your enjoyment (Did you know trees reduce stress in just five minutes?), knowing that you’re making a good investment.

Listed are a few essential elements and a few nice-to-haves for value-adding and beautiful landscaping:

Essential #1: Trees

Maybe only Mother Nature can make a tree, but the National Tree Benefit Calculator can tell you what it’s worth. Your trees can even add value to your neighbor’s property.

A Portland, Ore., study found that trees with a sizable canopy growing within 100 feet of other houses added about $9,000 to their sale price and shaved two days off its time on the market.

Of course, to add value, the trees must be healthy, mature but not elderly, native to the area (more on the importance of native plants later), and appropriate to the neighborhood.

If you’re growing a forest and the rest of the neighborhood looks like a prairie, you’ll have a hard time recovering the trees’ value at sale. If your neighbor’s manicure their lawns and yours is a jumble of weeds or worse, their great landscaping will make yours look even shabbier and hurt the value of your home, says Domenich Neglia of Neglia Appraisals in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Just three properly placed trees could save you between $100 and $250 a year in energy costs, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Planting windbreaks and shade trees can reduce winter heating bills by 15 percent and air conditioning needs by 75 percent.

Just looking at trees produces “significant recovery from stress” within five minutes, according to a Texas A&M University study.

Essential #2: Native Plants

If you introduce trees, plants, or shrubs, go native. Indigenous plantings thrive without the extra TLC (time and money) you’ll devote to anything that’s forced to live outside its natural habitat.

A study by Applied Ecological Services Inc., a Wisconsin ecological consultancy, shows maintaining an acre of native plants over 20 years costs $3,000, compared with the whopping $20,000 price tag of maintaining a lawn of non-native turf grass.

Native plantings help wildlife, too. The National Wildlife Federation awards a special certification to homeowners who create natural backyard habitats for birds, butterflies, and other animals looking for places to roost or feed.

Rain gardens with native plants and trees also are becoming a plus for properties increasingly plagued by extreme weather. These gardens filter and distribute runoff underground, preventing storm water from seeping into basements and overwhelming municipal sewers.

Essential #3: Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting consistently tops the list of most wanted outdoor features. In an annual What Home Buyers Really Want survey, 41 percent rate it “essential;” 49 percent say it’s “desirable.” But that’s not the only reason it’s one of our landscape essentials.

Tasteful lighting paints your home at night, highlighting your other great landscaping choices and directing guests to your home’s focal point — the front door. It protects against slips and falls.

It makes a property a more difficult target for intruders. That added security can reduce burglaries, and therefore claims. Some insurance companies give five to 15 percent discounts to homeowners with reduced or zero claims.

It makes your home feel homier. Soft lighting on a wrap-around porch or just a front stoop feels warm and inviting.

Just of few of the extra “nice to haves” are fencing, retaining walls and terracing and walkways.

Article prepared and submitted by Lisa J. Heyer, owner/broker with Jackson Realty.