How to Grow a Lawn Without Grass

How to Grow a Lawn Without Grass

Why Grow a Grass-Free Lawn?

Growing a lawn without grass has become an increasingly popular option for environmentally-conscious homeowners. There are several benefits to having a grass-free lawn:

  • Reduced water usage – Grass is thirsty and requires a lot of irrigation to stay green during dry spells. Grass-free lawns require little to no extra watering once established. This saves water and money on your utility bills.

  • Less maintenance – No weekly mowing or annual aerating and dethatching. Grass-free lawns have lower maintenance requirements.

  • Increased biodiversity – Grass monocultures support little wildlife. Diverse grass-free plantings attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

  • Drought tolerance – Many grass-free options are native plants well-adapted to withstand drought. This makes them ideal for dry climates.

  • Appealing aesthetics – Thoughtfully designed grass-free lawns can have visual interest and beauty without a blade of grass.

Grass-Free Lawn Options

There are several drought-tolerant groundcover plants to consider using instead of turf grass:

Low-Growing Perennials

  • Sedums – Succulent perennials with colorful flowers. Many low-growing varieties.

  • Creeping thyme – Fragrant ground-hugging herb good for filling spaces between pavers.

  • Wild strawberry – Produces petite edible berries. Spreads to form lush mats.

  • Ice plant – Bright flowers on succulent trailing stems. Handles foot traffic well.

  • Snow-in-summer – Silver-green foliage with white blooms. Thrives in poor soil.

Lawn Substitutes

  • Clover – Nitrogen-fixing and stays greener than grass during drought. Different varieties available.

  • Low-growing native grasses – Slow-growing, drought-tolerant native bunch grasses can provide a meadow-like look.

  • Moss – Forms a soft emerald carpet. Prefers shade and ample moisture. Fun alternative for small spaces.

Groundcovers for Shady Lawns

Many shade-loving perennials work well as carefree grass replacements in the shade:

  • Creeping Jenny – Chartreuse trailing stems with round leaves.

  • Sweet woodruff – Fragrant whorls of green leaves. Spreads into mats.

  • Deadnettle – Low-growing perennial with purple blooms resembling orchids.

  • Epimediums – Low-growing with heart-shaped leaves. Delicate flowers.

  • Ajuga – Dense blue, purple, or bronze foliage. Tolerates foot traffic well.

  • Lilyturf – Grass-like clumps of slender leaves. Evergreen in mild climates.

  • Foamflower – Forms spreading mats of green leaves topped with white flowers.

Designing Your Grass-Free Lawn

Aim to create an aesthetically pleasing space with year-round interest. Here are some design tips:

Select a Mix of Plants

  • Choose a variety of plants with different colors/textures to create visual appeal and biodiversity.

  • Mix evergreen and deciduous plants so some remain verdant in winter.

  • Plant fast-growing fillers alongside structural plants and focal points.

Consider Bloom Time

  • Ensure something is blooming in spring, summer & fall for seasonal interest.

  • Use plants that develop colorful foliage in autumn when flowers fade.

Include Hardscaping

  • Break up planting beds with pathways, patios, or gravel.

  • Edge beds with rocks, bricks, or metal to clearly define lawn boundaries.

  • Add decorative features like ornamental rocks, benches, or arbors.

Establishing and Caring for Your Grass-Free Lawn

Proper planting and care will lead to success with your new grass-free lawn:

  • Remove existing grass/weeds thoroughly before planting beds. Solarize soil or smother with cardboard/mulch.

  • Amend soil with compost to improve fertility and drainage before planting.

  • Group plants with similar needs together for efficient watering.

  • Use drip irrigation and mulch to conserve moisture. Water deeply/infrequently.

  • Expect the lawn to take 1-2 growing seasons to fully fill in. Be patient!

  • Weed regularly when plants are young and vulnerable to invaders.

  • Leave seed heads/winter interest for wildlife. Trim back any dead growth in spring.

  • Re-mulch annually with fresh compost or wood chips to enrich soil as the beds mature.

Final Thoughts

Converting your high-maintenance turf grass lawn to a diverse grass-free landscape requires planning and preparation but offers rewarding benefits. Your new lawn will be resilient, ecologically friendly, and beautiful. By taking the grass-free leap, you’ll save water, time and money while creating healthier habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.