Ground Cover Lawn Substitutes

Ground cover plants, grown in lieu of turf grass, can be a low maintenance, low cost, and environmentally friendly alternative to maintaining a lawn. You can have the green color and lush plants with less water, much less fertilizer and infrequent or no mowing. When ground cover is chosen for its compatibility for the sun or shade exposure, soil conditions, and the climate, it can remain green year-round.

Woolly Thyme

Thymus pseudolanuginosus or woolly thyme is a low-growing, matting plant that grows to 1 inch or less in height. It is drought tolerant and can be grown in full sun when irrigated. Its green-grey hue and slightly white, hairy skin presents a dramatically textured expanse when used en masse.

Carpet Bugle

Ajuga reptans is a sun- and shade-tolerant, flowering ground cover. Depending on the cultivar, it can flower in white to purple and reaches up to 6 inches in height. It requires consistent irrigation to remain green and in bloom. It has a spreading growth habit and can be planted at intervals of 12 inches, filling in quickly.


Cerastium tomentosum or snow-in-summer is a white flowering ground cover with silvery foliage that is thick and matting in form. It requires easy draining soil and will tolerate full sun and partial shade. When grown on slopes it will scramble and cascade.

Sweet Woodruff

Galium odoratum is a ground cover for shady sites where soil is or can be kept moist. It is low and sprawling in form, maxing out at between 6 and 12-inches in height. The white flowers bloom in May and can persist for a month or more.


Sedum, commonly known as stonecrop, is a succulent ground cover that thrives in full sun and can tolerate nutrient deficient and rocky soils. There are numerous cultivar choices which can vary in foliage and flowering coloration and in varying heights up to 6 inches or more. It is somewhat drought tolerant and does not always require constant irrigation.

Keywords: alternatives to lawn grass, groundcover plants, walkable and ornamental lawn options

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An omni-curious communications professional, Dena Kane has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals, as well as film and broadcast media. Kane studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.