For some homeowners, a well-maintained lawn is just as important as a white picket fence and two-car garage. But for all the joyful moments that patch of grass may bring, it can cause just as many headaches. Traditional grass lawns take a lot of work, and much of that effort damages the environment through pesticides, fertilizer, and wasted water.
Luckily, there are plenty of grass alternatives that look beautiful, are easy to maintain, and minimize your impact on our planet. We investigated alternatives to lawns and came up with seven options.
1. Ornamental Grass
Drought-resistant and incredibly low-maintenance ornamental grasses, like New Zealand flax or Mexican feather grass, are ideal for homeowners who want to feel like their home sits in a beautiful field. There are several varieties, some of which can grow up to 15 feet tall, so you want to research what works best for your zone.
Once planted, ornamentals don’t need to be mowed and almost never require fertilizer. The one downside is that you can’t really walk on. That means you either need to keep your yard off limits or build a path through it.
Moss may be the perfect option if your yard doesn’t get a lot of sun. It’s already a drought-resistant plant, and with the right amount of shade, moss doesn’t need watering. Moreover, moss is resilient and can handle some foot traffic, making it more like a traditional yard. These characteristics make moss a good choice for areas where severe drought conditions occur regularly.
You can choose from dozens of moss varieties, and most never grow higher than one inch. That eliminates the need for mowing. Even better, moss is one of the few grass alternatives that is super easy to install.
3. Ground Cover
Ground cover is a term that describes plants, often perennials, that creep along the ground but don’t grow in height. Because they stay low to the ground and grow with a minimal amount of effort, most are excellent to use as an alternative to a lawn. Common examples of plants used a ground cover include:
- Creeping myrtle.
- Wild violet.
Ground cover often has other benefits. For example, flowering ground cover can attract pollinators. Again, ground cover describes several types of plants, so be sure to research what’s appropriate for your zone.
4. Flower and Shrub Beds
You most likely wouldn’t replace all of your grass with flower and shrub beds, but using them in your yard reduces the amount of space dedicated to a traditional lawn. The other big benefit here is curb appeal. Brightly colored flowers and shrubs of various heights can add visual interest that people find attractive.
You should note, however, that the degree of maintenance required depends on the types of flowers and shrubs you plant. You could be watering just as much as you would a lawn unless you try your hand at sustainable gardening. For example, choosing native perennials usually means you need less water and fertilizer.
5. No-Grass Alternatives
Some homeowners have found that the best grass alternative is no lawn at all. In many cases, this means adding simple hardscaping that can boost your curb appeal, like a :
- Path out of gravel or stone.
- Rock garden.
- Retaining wall.
But some forgo grass altogether, opting instead for yards filled with gravel or sand. Another option that may work if you’re looking for something with absolutely no maintenance is artificial turf. Once you install it, there’s no water, sun, or weeding required. The big downside to artificial turf is the cost, which can be anywhere from five dollars to $20 per square foot. However, artificial turf can last a long time, keeping its appeal for up to 25 years.
A yard without any grass isn’t for everyone, but the idea is becoming more popular in areas where drought makes it difficult to keep a lawn looking healthy. Artificial turf, rocks, and other nonliving grass alternatives are great options in many areas of the country.
Remember, too, that no one is asking you to give up your yard completely. Simply adding one or more of these grass alternatives can make your lawn easier to maintain while you also help out Mother Nature. One note of caution before you make the switch: your homeowners association may have rules about your yard, so check with it first!