Tired of Mowing? Try These Plants and Groundcovers
If you're tired of your high-maintenance lawn, discover a wide array of good-looking plants you can use as grass substitutes.
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Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
Groundcovers don't just provide color and interest in winter; they can also help control erosion and suppress weeds that try to sprout when the weather warms up. Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum, a mat-forming woolly thyme) is rugged enough to walk on and releases a pleasant scent when crushed.
Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Irish Moss (Sagina subulata)
Creeping Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)
Also known as monkey grass, creeping lilyturf is a tough perennial groundcover that withstands some foot traffic. Pale lavender flower spikes appear above leaves in midsummer. Plants spread by underground runners to form a weed-resistant mat. This is a groundcover that can compete with tree roots, making it an ideal lawn replacement beneath trees. Creeping lilyturf is bulletproof, resisting high humidity, heat, pests, diseases, deer and rabbits. Plants are hardy in Zones 4 to 10 and tolerate sun or shade, but prefer rich soil in light shade. Mow lilyturf in spring to remove winter-killed or discolored foliage and encourage new growth.
Black Scallop Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’)
Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi)
Dutch clover (Trifolium repens)
Dwarf Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus 'Nanus')
This evergreen turf alternative grows in dense clumps. It prefers filtered light and to be watered regularly. It's a good match for Zones 7 to 11. As the name of the grass suggests, it is a smaller plant and only grows up to four inches in height. It is fairly drought-resistant as long as it has enough water during germination. It does take some time to fully grow, but is worth it for how striking it looks in full landscapes or as edging.
Juniper 'Old Gold' (Juniperus x pfitzeriana)
Spreading junipers like 'Old Gold' can be planted approximately three feet apart for groundcovers that hold their color all winter. This slow-growing juniper, which tops out around 2 to 3 feet tall, is an attractive golden-yellow. It is a low maintenance variety that serves as a great hedge as well. It grows best in Zones 4 to 9.
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
Creeping Jenny, sometimes also called moneywort, is a creeping evergreen that is another great option for winter color. In the summer, the plant blooms with small, cup shaped flowers to add another dimension to the lovely groundcover. It is a quick-growing plant that only takes a little time to establish, so it is best to plant it 18 inches apart in moist soil. It's best in Zones 3 to 8.
Vinca (Vinca major or Vinca minor)
Plant Vinca major, sometimes called periwinkle, or Vinca minor, for an evergreen ground cover in shady or wooded areas. Both will bloom, starting in the spring, and both can spread aggressively under the right conditions. Some states list one or both as invasive, so check to see if there are planting restrictions in your area. Shown here: Vinca reticulata, an annual trailing plant for containers or landscapes that is hardy in Zones 7 to 10.
Dead Nettle (Lamium galeobdolo)
While there are over 50 varieties of the Lamium species in the mint family, Lamium galeobdolo will produce small yellow blooms. As any gardner knows, mint plants can run wild if left unchecked. However, that makes Lamium a perfect alternative to traditional turf. It grows great in partial to full shade. Called "dead nettle" because of its resemblence to the stinging nettle plant, this beauty is best for Zones 4 to 10. Another bonus: it's deer-resistant.
Asiatic Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum)
Something of a misnomer, this plant isn't related to the common jasmine plant. It is, however, another low maintenance groundcover option for the turf-averse. The plant grows anywhere from 6 to 18 inches tall and at least 3 feet wide. It tolerates many different growing conditions and actually prevents weed growth. They should be planted 18 inches apart and will take two growing seasons to completely fill in. After that, the plants require very little maintenance to look spectacular. Asiatic jasmine is best suited to Zones 8 to 10.
Blooming Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)
The lovely lilac blooms in this picture represent blooming lamb's ear, a wonderful groundcover plant that prefers full sun. Too much shade can make this wooly plant prone to disease as it won't dry out all the way. For use as a groundcover, it is best to plant lamb's ear 12 to 18 inches apart in Zones 4 to 8.
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Creeping phlox, a deer- and drought-resistant flowering plant, is a great groundcover option. Native to rocky and sandy areas of the Appalachian region, these beauties bloom in April or May. Pictured is the 'Candy Stripe' variety, a lovely, pink-and-white-striped creeping phlox that creates a carpet of color in the spring—plus, its foliage is evergreen and its typically hardy in Zones 3 to 9, making it a great year-round groundcover for most gardeners.