To come up with these 10 grass-free alternatives to a traditional lawn, my criteria is that they must be easy to grow, low-maintenance, and look stunning.
Some of them are purely for aesthetics, a few for light traffic, while others are for heavy traffic. Several options are suited for full sun to full shades.
I also tried to diversify the options to meet more specific lawn needs. So, whichever of your needs, there will be at least one best choice here.
Clover grows well in most conditions – from full shade, partial shade to full sun – and it can tolerate drought decently. Besides, it can thrive in either fertile or non-fertile soils and prevents weed growth effectively. It doesn’t require herbicide or pesticide treatments.
White clovers are the most popular alternative to a traditional lawn because it also requires little mowing due to the short height, only from 5-10 inches tall.
Not saying that they bloom in the spring for a beautifully seasonal look.
Take note that clovers aren’t a good choice for an environmentally sensitive area.
Sedum & Stonecrop
If you’re looking for a natural alternative to grass, sedum and stonecrop are worth considering. They are a large range of succulents – which is a renowned sun-loving plant with great drought resistance and few maintenance requirements.
The biggest benefits of these plants are the ability to control erosion and limit weed growth.
You can plant them from clippings.
But take note that sedum and stonecrop are just for adding aesthetics to your outdoor space, not for kid’s playgrounds or traffic due to their sharp leaves.
Don’t let its name fool you! Kidney weed doesn’t cause harm to your lawn soil, if not saying that it has a lot to offer.
Aside from being an effective grass-free alternative, it is frost-resistant and friendly to naked feet, which is perfect to be used as a playground for pets or kids. The plant also resists pests, diseases, and weeds pretty well.
It is a great choice for moderate to cool temperate zones, tropical, and coastal gardens. Although it can grow well in full sun, kidney weeds do their best in clay soils and partial shade.
Ice plant is quite similar to sedum and stonecrop – which appears to be a decorative plant for your lawn, not for traffic or a pet's/kid’s playground.
They are affordable, easy to plant, low-maintenance, and quick to form a thick ground cover. However, they might require extra effort to control the growth (ice plants actually spread very fast and are listed as an invasive plant by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife).
Ice plants grow well in coastal California.
If you want to grow a multifunctional lawn, choose this plant.
Once established, it quickly forms a dense, foot-friendly ground cover while adding a stunning look to your outdoor spaces through blooming. The best part is that they’re edible year-round.
Australian violet grows in all soil types as long as they are moist without being waterlogged. They can thrive in full sun, but the most favorite environment is a full shade or partial shade.
California Meadow Sedge
If you’re living in Southern California, then this plant is a great alternative to grass. They grow fast in all soil types (including clay soils), rarely require mowing, need less watering than conventional grass, and are perfect for high traffic.
The only minor drawback of this plant is that it might require frequent weeding until established.
For a little traffic, creeping lilyturf is a nice option.
It is originally an ornamental creeper that establishes and spreads fast to hence control weed growth efficiently. Once established, it can resist deer and drought pretty well. Another big advantage is that it can be grown in either shade or sun places.
Just take note to control their growth.
Lawn chamomile is best suited for sunny, little-traffic areas or those partially-shady lawns suffering from high heat index.
Once established, they give a beautifully scented, foot-friendly, and low-maintenance ground cover. Depending on your preference, leave them to grow wildly for a meadow-like effect or mow them 1-2 times per season for a lawn look.
Note that lawn chamomiles love growing on loam or well-drained light sandy soil.
Ornamental grasses are the perfect grass-free alternatives to your traditional lawn, especially if you are a busy lawn owner or a novice gardener.
It is easy to plant, low-maintenance, non-invasive, and drought-tolerant once established.
However, they are not for traffic or a playground of kids or pets due to their extra height. If you want shorter grass, choose low-growing varieties, such as mondo grass.
Dwarf yarrows are a wonderful choice that gives a great balance of aesthetics, low-maintenance, and traffic tolerance to hence alternate natural grass.
Some yarrow varieties do bloom in the spring for the seasonal look and they are also ideal for a little traffic. When growing yarrows, a basic rule of thumb is the more you mow them, the denser the ground cover to act more like a conventional lawn.
While the plant still requires irrigating, the amount of water required is just ½ of that for a natural grass lawn.
Aside from the 10 grass-free alternatives to a traditional lawn that I listed above, there are many other options you can consider, such as artificial grass, moss, rock garden, and hardscapes. However, they mostly are expensive.
Consider your budget and preference before making your decision. Hope that my article was helpful to you. Thanks for reading!