We all love a gorgeous lawn, right? But there are plenty of reasons to use alternatives to grass when planning your front yard landscaping. There isn’t a single landscaping “plant” that uses more water resources or contributes more to the chemical runoff issues than a lawn.  

So whether you want to implement more droughttolerant landscaping, you are interested in water conservation, or you simply want to have the best garden design on the block, try these exciting alternatives to grass! 

Alternatives to Grass : Front Yard Landscaping Ideas

Reasons To Go Grass Free 

Why would you want to relieve your garden of grass, anyway? Well, there are a few reasons to convert to a grass-free lawn! 

Low maintenance

There’s no fuss needed with many of these alternatives to grass. Whether you’re tired of mowing or watering, using rocks or gravel in place of a grassy landscape can save you quite a bit of hassle after the initial investment of getting it all laid out. Grass alternatives can save on your water bill, conserve water, and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pest control. 

State Regulations or Recommendations 

In many states, lawns are outright bans. If you plan to move to Nevada, the state requires homeowners to get rid of grass lawns by 2027. Some California cities offer an incentive to those who go grass-free, too.  

Local flora 

Some people are banishing the idea of a flat grass lawn in favor of landscaping their front yards with local, natural flora, including shrubs and flowers. While some grasses may be a part of that, they’ll usually be native to the area and appropriate for its climate. 

You like the look! 

Okay, one final reason to find a new alternative to grass could be that you enjoy the look of a rocky, diverse landscape! There’s no harm in that, and no one can blame you – these grass-free lawns are gorgeous! 


From David Morello on ‘Houzz, ‘this is a great example of an easy lawn alternative. In this front yard landscape, they used a stone pathway, and surrounded it with a mass planting of Mondo Grass – also known as monkey grass or dwarf lilyturf. 

This grass, native to Eastern and Southeastern Asia,  is a perennial groundcover, and is evergreen in many climates. It is also drought-resistant once established. It grows in this clump-like form and never requires mowing. Simple, but highly effective lawn replacement!

Mondo grass tends to thrive in most lighting and soil conditions, and is a slow-growing plant that requires minimal maintenance once you’ve got it all in place. While we’re calling it a grass, it’s actually more closely related to lilies! 

When planting this grass alternative, plant clumped up sections about 4-12 inches apart and cover the roots with loose soil. Until it’s mature, you’ll want to ensure that the earth is evenly moistened. 


Sunset Magazine‘ has a great lesson on a lawn replacement front yard landscape. They used drought-resistant shrubs as an alternative to grass, replacing the main area with permeable gravel and a beautiful stone walkway. The gravel allows the rainwater to soak into the ground instead of running into the street. 

This is also a great example of how replacing your lawn doesn’t have to look barren or like a desert. It’s a simple transformation that could be done in any front yard with just a bit of effort for a lifetime of incredible style! Check out the article to see how much they saved on their water usage – it’s a fantastic result!

Alternatives to Grass : Front Yard Landscaping Ideas


‘Be Landscape’ via ‘Houzz‘ is back with another incredible grass lawn alternative, this time with an English twist! Filled with lush plant life, this is a great example of using the English Garden style to create a front yard lawn alternative. They created a small “lawn” area with a green ground cover, and then planted the rest of the yard liberally with drought-resistant plants. 

Planting an English Garden is a stellar alternative to grass, making for the most charming front yard on the block!

Take your garden a step further, and keep it nice and eco-friendly, with the addition of local and native flora. It’s what will grow and look best in your environment, and pollinators will love it, too! 


Alright, these look beautiful, but what about grass alternatives that keep you from needing to mow at all? We’ve got you – and your lawn – covered. 

Native Grass

‘June Scott Design’ via ‘Houzz‘ has the perfect lawn replacement idea, using native grasses that require no mowing and very little water! Another great thing about using native grasses in your lawn as an alternative to the usual turf is that they’re usually more durable, bug-resistant, and drought-tolerant. 

They might not be fully mow-free, we admit, but most of them can be allowed to flourish as they please, unless you live somewhere with strict lawn height rules. 

concrete pavers and native grasses being used as alternative to grass

Photo by ‘Houzz‘.

There are three basic pointers you should keep in mind when you dive into native grasses: 

  • Keep your seeding in check: Many native grasses will want ¼” of planting depth. There are exceptions, but this is a general rule of thumb. Make sure your seeds are evenly spread. You can pack the surface of your soil if you want to firm them. 
  • Water is key: Pay attention to what kind of water your native plants need. Newly planted seeds might need a bit of extra attention until grasses are about an inch tall. 
  • Plant before the frost: If you live in an area prone to frost, you want to make sure to get these seeds in the ground 3-4 weeks prior. For some, this might be early fall. Know your zone and climate and adjust accordingly. 


Adding a dry creek bed to your front yard landscaping is a DIY project most of us can do ourselves. Whether you want to call it a dry stream, a creek, or a riverbed, there’s no doubt that these charming applications can bring water direction and grass-free appeal to your lawn. Using rock and stone to create this grass alternative requires no water usage for the dry creek itself, and very little watering of plants used to enhance it. We’re a fan of  DIY Dry Creek Beds, since they’re so versatile and easy to maintain!

Grass Alternatives – Dry Creek Bed

Adding a dry creek bed to your front yard landscaping is a DIY project most of us can do ourselves. Using rock and stone to create this grass alternative requires no water usage for the dry creek itself, and very little watering of plants used to enhance it. You can read our post to find  out all about DIY Dry Creek Beds. Photo by ‘Houzz‘.

This is also a perfect spot to set up some attractive border plants to act as a barrier for your dry creek bed. 


‘Fine Gardening’ has a reader who shared this fantastic alternative to lawn… Creeping Thyme! This easy and drought-resistant ground cover will bloom in the spring and early summer, and stay evergreen all year. It is “stepable” but never needs mowing. Great for our bee friends, and easy on water resources. Plus, it’s easy on the eyes! Photo from ‘Roberta Smith. ‘

Also known as ‘Breckland thyme,’ or very charmingly, ‘elfin thyme,’ growing creeping thyme is a simple enough process because of how adaptable it is to different levels of soil and light exposure. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the soil pH for creeping thyme should be neutral – slightly alkaline at best. 

You can also propagate creeping thyme with stem cuttings or divisions – or you can purchase it right from your favorite local nursery. If you’re working with cuttings, let them start to take in the early summer, and start the seeds 8-12 inches apart. 


We have a great idea from the world-famous “Kaufman House’ in Palm Springs. Go big, or go home! They used native boulders to create a one-of-a-kind, gorgeous front yard entry that is from the renowned designer, Richard Neutra. You can adapt this idea for use in your own yard from this desert landscape. Local rock companies will bring in and place boulders for you, so no worries about the heavy lifting.

Lawn Free Drought Tolerant Landscaping – Desert Plants

And finally, keeping with the desert theme, if you happen to live in a desert area like Palm Springs. Tempe or Scottsdale, you can create wonderful front yard landscaping with crushed granite, large rocks, cacti, yucca, agave and other desert plants. Photo from Sunset.com.

Lawn alternative - desert landscaping

We hope you got lots of inspiration on Alternatives to Grass! We think you will also want to jump right on over to our posts, 10 No Fail Drought Resistant Plants for Low Water Gardens and Great Groundcover Plants!








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1 Comment

  1. Mariah June 14, 2019 at 5:00 am

    There is no harm in trying some alternatives to grass to consider putting in the front yard. As long as it will make the landscape neat and presentable. Desert plants is something new in my taste. Is it not high maintenance?


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