Table of Contents

No Lawn? No Problem – Lawn Alternatives

The Perfect (Grass) Cut

Like any true-blue American gardener, I’ve paid my respects to the gods of turfgrass around my humble abode. I’ll admit it – lawns do provide a soothing place to rest the eye and showcase my mixed borders. They also create a sense of order and safety around the house.

But you know what? Turfgrass is boring. Not to mention high maintenance. All the buying and schlepping of products, the constant mowing and watering – it’s just overwhelming. Maintaining my lawn required carrying a heavy mower down some tricky stairs, and because I didn’t water it religiously, it looked brown for most of the summer. So I was actually being a little selfish when I dug up and composted my turfgrass.

And with the grass gone, I also kissed goodbye to the mower, the fertilizer, the sprinkler, and almost all of the weeding. If you don’t need a tough playing surface for kids and dogs, grass can be replaced with just about anything – trees, shrubs, perennials, edibles, patios, gazebos. But me? I chose to simply copy the look of a lawn using plants more to my liking.

The Gorgeous Ex-Lawn

My ex-lawn, as I affectionately call it, is thriving with a mix of evergreen ground covers that enjoy sun, can handle light traffic, and will survive a heavy garden hose being lugged across them. No mini-meadow for me – just low-growing, interesting, and fun-to-grow plants that look good all year round.

The most “grasslike” plant I’ve experimented with is lilyturf (Liriope spicata and cultivars). Definitely in the thug category, lilyturf is best planted alone and in controlled sites. I recommend it for the hellstrip between sidewalks and streets, but its vigorous runners may still reappear on the other side of the sidewalk. I would avoid planting it in areas you walk over because it has a lumpy growth habit and reaches 8 to 16 inches tall.

Because lilyturf does not require mowing, you could also plant it on steep banks where erosion is a problem and mowing is difficult. In moist or dry soil and in sun or shade, this plant thrives, but it spreads less aggressively in full shade. And since it fills in fast, this type of liriope will cover large spaces at little or no cost. In my town, neighbors are always willing to share their extras.

A well-behaved cousin, Liriope muscari and cultivars (USDA Hardiness Zones 6-10), is a much better choice where spreading would be a problem. It has the same carefree qualities as lilyturf, including the optional care of late-winter clipping or mowing to remove ratty foliage.

Thyme and Time Again

Where my oval-shaped, 20-foot-long by 11-foot-wide front lawn once grew, I planted a few varieties of thyme (Thymus spp. and cultivars) for their fragrance and drought tolerance. Slow-spreading and at a cost of $3 to $6 per plant, they’re not an inexpensive option. You can expect each plant to spread about 6 inches per year, so filling a large space takes a hefty budget or a lot of patience.

I learned the hard way that plopping thyme into regular garden soil just won’t do. It needs a good 6-inch depth of fast-draining soil for optimal growth. If you are growing thyme, expect to weed aggressively the first year. During the second year, it will begin to outcompete new weed seeds, and by the third or fourth season, it will reach full coverage.

To speed up the process, I divided larger clumps to fill in any gaps. Once filled in, thyme is close to trouble-free. It doesn’t require mowing or fertilizing and only needs water in drought conditions. It can handle moderate foot traffic, and it releases a lovely fragrance as you stroll over it. I grow Bressingham creeping thyme (T. doerfleri ‘Bressingham,’ Zones 6-9) and white creeping thyme (T. serphyllum ‘Albus,’ Zones 4-9) – both are under 2 inches tall.

Shady Mazus

An option for shady sites with some daily foot traffic is mazus (Mazus reptans and cultivars). It spreads by creeping stems that root as they creep along, and at 2 inches tall, it appears almost flat against the soil. Mazus prefers moist soil, so you’ll need to provide some irrigation in dry climates. When established, it’s a dense green carpet that outcompetes weeds and sports attractive lavender blooms in spring through summer. It’s also noted for fall color in some climates and is evergreen in warm areas.

Golden and Green

Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) is a known thug. It doesn’t play well with its neighbors, but it’s perfect for replacing lawns as it can be kept within bounds simply by edging. The plant is less than 3 inches tall with an aggressive spread. Its eye-popping chartreuse leaves turn an attractive red in winter, then green up again in early spring. It tolerates full sun to partial shade and needs supplemental water during periods of moderate drought. It’s tough enough to handle occasional foot traffic.

If a single species massed together is not exciting enough for you, you can create your own growing mosaic by combining a few species together. Vigorous enough to be combined with golden creeping Jenny is dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla neumanniana ‘Nana’). Together, they form a lovely mosaic in chartreuse and light green. From April to June, dwarf cinquefoil has small but buttery gold flowers that hover over delicate, strawberry-like leaves that reach 3 to 4 inches tall with about a 1-foot spread. Plant it in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade and then leave it alone – it’s tough as nails but doesn’t tolerate being transplanted. Dwarf cinquefoil can take more foot traffic than the other lawn alternatives I’ve planted, but it still can’t handle any soccer games.

Succulents and Clovers

In my 1,000-square-foot backyard, I planted golden carpet sedum (Sedum acre, Zones 3-8), a creeping variety that is only 4 inches tall. Because I already had this succulent growing along my dry streambed, I simply lifted chunks of it and planted them a foot apart across the expanse that was once lawn. Within two months, they completely filled in without costing me a cent. It’s drought-tolerant and never needs fertilizing – or really any care at all. By the second year, the sedum was thick enough to completely outcompete weeds. Golden carpet sedum has bright yellow blooms in late spring that are covered by pollinators, and its undulating habit is lovely. Despite a short root system, it retains the soil on the hillside in my back garden.

Although it is slower-growing, creeping red sedum (Sedum spurium and cultivars, Zones 4-9) sports multicolored leaves and makes an interesting combination with golden carpet sedum. Both varieties handle light foot traffic.

For a nice companion to creeping sedums, I tried Dutch white clover (Trifolium repens, Zones 4-8). Clovers were once added to turf mixes for their excellent nitrogen-fixing or self-fertilizing talents until the weed killer 2,4-D turned out to kill it too – after that, advertisers simply rebranded it as a weed. But it’s not a weed – it’s a self-feeding wonder plant. And compared to common turfgrasses, it tolerates more shade, poorer soils, and less water. Yet when I mixed clover with a creeping sedum, by the second season, it shaded and then killed the shorter plant, so don’t do what I did. Clover is best grown alone to form a cheap, easy-care lawn, though one that’s not tough enough for sports. Clover growers can mow regularly to mimic the look of a lawn, mow once in summer to remove brown flowers and encourage rebloom, or not mow at all.

The Evolving Exlawn

My ex-lawn is certainly more colorful and interesting than turfgrass could ever be, and it’s less work – that is, less work than the perfect-looking, overwatered, overfed, and oversprayed lawn my dad was so proud of. My mix of lilyturf, thyme, mazus, creeping Jenny, dwarf cinquefoil, sedum, and clover is always evolving. I’ll be tweaking it for years to come. After all, what I love is gardening, not yardening.

Today’s Gardens, the garden design and landscaping company I work for, has been helping homeowners like me ditch the traditional lawn in favor of more diverse, low-maintenance, and environmentally-friendly options. If you’re tired of fighting with your grass and want to try something new, I highly recommend checking out their website and services.

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

Contact Us

General Contact :
[email protected]

Information :
[email protected]

Subscribe For Great Promo

Join with our subscribers and get special price,
free garden magazine, promo product announcements and much more!

© All rights reserved 2022