The lawn is so over: Beautiful alternatives to consider.

Lawn Replacement Ideas | Pacific Nurseries

Time to lose the mower?

Thank heavens we’ve finally had some much needed rain in the Bay Area. But unfortunately, the experts inform us that our nasty drought is far from over.

As conscious landscape professionals, you should be doing all that you can to encourage your clients to avoid installing new lawns in their landscape project. The reasons include a lawn’s consumption of horrific amounts of water, continual maintenance and ongoing need for chemical fertilizers required to prevent intrusion from weeds and pests. And did we forget to mention that it has to always be mowed?

Time to let your turf mindset go.

So what’s a landscape pro to do when their client can’t see anything but freshly mowed turf in their project? Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of alternatives that can accommodate foot traffic, pets, and plenty of romping on the green. A more thoughtful landscape installation strategy should also include plants that are better adapted to our local conditions and less demanding on resources.

For those addicted to turf, you don’t have to go through withdrawal pain by removing every spec of grass from a project. If your project includes some lawn areas that currently look great in some places but not so great in others, it makes sense to consider replacing only the grass areas in need of improvement.

Healthy, practical and beautiful alternatives.

Consider ground covers or eco-lawn varieties that reduce or eliminate the need for mowing, heavy irrigation, or use of toxic chemicals that can have ill affects on your client, pets, native wildlife or others.

With ground cover plants, you can eliminate the dreaded chore of mowing the grass. These low-growing plants spread easily in even the toughest sites, providing thick coverage that will eventually benefit the soil beneath. Ground covers can also add appealing texture, with some varieties having seasonal blooms and colorful fall foliage.

Trifolium repens

Clover | Pacific Nurseries

Clover (Trifolium repens) | Pacific Nurseries

Choose a nitrogen-fixing plants, like Clover (Matricaria chamomilla), which act as a soil conditioner. Take a look through our gallery below for a few great candidates to consider for lawn replacement.

Isotoma fluviatillis

Blue Star Creeper | Pacific Nurseries

Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatillis) | Pacific Nurseries

Surprisingly nearly as rugged as ordinary grass, Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatillis) is a ground cover that’s fast growing and can take heavy foot traffic. It creates a floral meadow in the spring and summer.

Herniaria glabra

Rupturewort | Pacific Nurseries

Rupturewort (Herniaria glabra) | Pacific Nurseries

Another good option is the Green Carpet Rupturewort (Herniaria glabra) This beauty has an abundance of tiny leaves that grow in a very low flat manner to create a dense evergreen carpet. It turns a reddish color in winter and has a great undulating texture.

Matricaria chamomilla

Chamomile | Pacific Nurseries

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) | Pacific Nurseries

There are many easy-care varieties of aromatic plants that trigger their pleasant scents when exposed to foot traffic. Popular choices include Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Pennyroyal (Hypnum).


Sheet Moss| Pacific Nurseries

Sheet Moss (Hypnum) | Pacific Nurseries

If you project or installation has a lot of shade and not much sun, consider Sheet Moss (Hypnum). It’s easy to cultivate and stands up to foot traffic. It forms a low dense mat, making it a favored lawn alternative.

Thymus serpyllum

Elfin Thyme | Pacific Nurseries

Elfin Thyme (Thymus Serphyllum) | Pacific Nurseries

A very drought tolerant option for lawn replacement is low-growing Elfin Thyme (Thymus serpyllum). This fragrant alternative forms a tight solid mat of green foliage that blooms with light pink flowers in summer. It’s a vigorous creeper that stands up well to foot traffic and is great for sunny areas.

Ajuga reptans

Ajuga| Pacific Nurseries

Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) | Pacific Nurseries

Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) is a creeping evergreen that works well in both sun and shade. Varieties with purple foliage are also available.

Lysimachia nummularia

Creeping Jenny | Pacific Nurseries

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) | Pacific Nurseries

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) is sometimes considered an invasive weed in the yard; however, this plant will make a great ground cover to replace a lawn. With its yellow blooms and coin-looking foliage, creeping Jenny will easily brighten up the lawn, especially shady areas.

Lamium maculatum

Spotted Deadnettle | Pacific Nurseries

Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) | Pacific Nurseries

Don’t let the name Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum) put you off. This is a very attractive ground cover with lovely variegated foliage and stunning spring blooms.
If you have a shady site that doesn’t take grass well, consider installing Ivy (Hedera). This hearty alternative comes in many varieties and variations. Once you install just about any ivy, you’ll soon have a lush carpet of green.

Open up your grass replacement options.

Dropping turf grass for various other plants is a grass replacement option that seems to be catching on. For your projects that have perfectly good grass growing conditions, it makes sense to consider environmental and aesthetic alternatives.

Rather than scrap grass altogether, consider an eco-lawn mix of grasses and flowering plants. They offer a low-water, low-maintenance meadow-like lawn that can be left to grow or can be mowed (albeit far less frequently) to keep it low.

Both Fescue (Festuca) and ornamental grasses provide another alternative to the traditional lawn. Fescue grasses are tolerant of everyday wear and tear and can thrive in a variety of locations. Tall fescues are coarser, drought tolerant and provide a very low maintenance lawn for your home.

Ornamental grasses are also low-maintenance plants that make great lawn alternatives. There are numerous types to choose from including fescue. Consider choosing a variety that is native or acclimated to your area because it will increase your chances of a successful installation.

Selective use of ornamental boulders, native rocks, colored mulches, and a wider variety of drought tolerant plants all provide beautiful and lower maintenance alternatives. The secret to success, as always, is using the right plant in the right place and our team is ready to help you with your selection.

Lawn replacement help is within reach.

If you want to discuss or learn more about lawn replacement alternatives, feel free to contact any of our experts at Pacific Nurseries. As both a grower and a plant broker, we’re ready to work with you to provide just the right plants that will make your project a water-wise success. It’s one of the many qualities that makes us different from just an ordinary nursery.

Contact us online or just give us a call at 650.755.2330.

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Share your favorite turf alternative.

Have you recently installed a great lawn replacement alternative? Share your story and any insights with our community.

  • Dr D Missouris

    I would be grateful if you would let me know if you have available seeds and whether you can deliver it to London:
    Trigolium repens
    Isotonic fluviatillis
    Hernia rip Glabra
    Matrix aria chamomile
    Thymus serpyllum
    Lysimachia nummularia
    Sagina subtula

  • Gail Shelton

    Thank you for this helpful article. I live in Yakima WA and we have hot summers and bitter cold winters. I have a red rock garden in front of our house and I absolutely detest it. I needed a different solution that was easy and not going to break the bank or my back. I was faced with either completely removing the vast quantities of red rock and replacing it. Or completely removing the faded red rock and trying to grow grass. I never knew there was a solution such as ground cover plants. I’ve already bought the seeds for rupture wort green carpet. 🙂