Use Plants Instead of Grass

So you want to fill your yard with “something”, but think grass is just not the best idea? These plants easily fill traditional turf’s shoes and then some. The varieties listed below are among the many attractive ground covers that make excellent lawn substitutes.

Fair warning: None of these plants will hold up in a high-traffic area. The kids’ soccer practice will have to be held elsewhere. But for light traffic, these living carpets offer less work, more interest, and fresh scent.

• Creeping Thyme and Red Creeping Thyme: Don’t confuse these with the common culinary thyme, which doesn’t have the right prostrate habit as these thymes. Creeping thyme is very drought tolerant. In fact, it reacts poorly to over-watering, and excellent drainage is important. It has a wonderful scent. The red creeping thyme has dark-green leaves that turn to bronze as the temperatures dip. Flowers are a red-pink that fade to a lighter pink through the summer. Thymes should be replaced about every four or five years as they become woody and unkempt.
Wooly Thyme

• Woolly Thyme: Again, don’t offer too much water once woolly thyme is established. I like the texture this thyme brings to the garden with its dusty-gray, furry foliage and pink blossoms. An added perk is that this soft herb feels fabulous on bare feet! Woolly thyme seems to make its home anyplace where the environment is dry.

• Chocolate Chip Ajuga or Dwarf Bugleweed: It’s exactly what it sounds like: chocolate chip[nd]colored foliage. Both in the spring and fall, it blooms in blue. Ajuga is one of the great ground covers that will grow well under trees, too.

• Creeping Mazus: Both the lavender-blue and white flowering forms of mazus like their soil a little on the moist side. Its spring flowers resemble tiny snapdragons. While mazus’ stems form mats , it isn’t aggressive enough to push out others and take over.

• Sunny-side-up Fleabane: Fleabane is low growing and thick mat forming, with fernish foliage and aThymes bazillion little white daisies with yellow centers. What’s not to love?

• Roman Chamomile: This is an aromatic plant that has fernish foliage and daisy flowers. Chamomile has long been used as a lawn substitute because it deals with light foot traffic well.

• John Creech Sedum: This plants bright-green stems grow close together and form an excellent mat as it spreads. John Creech has teeny, purple-pink flowers and the foliage turns burgundy come fall.

• Scotch Moss: This ground cover makes a lovely golden, moss-like carpet. In the spring, it blooms with little white, star-shaped flowers.

• Bronze Dutch Clover: This clover’s leaves are a garden stand-out with its red-bronze leaves edged in green, although the leaves will have more green in light shade and more bronze in the sun. In the summer, it blooms with pom-pom-type flowers.

Tips for Choosing the Right Ground CoverSweet Woodruff

If you’re looking to fill in a sunny area, check out blue fescue, lamb’s ear, speedwell, bergenia, varigated sedge, variegated velvet grass, cranesbill, campanula, and candytuft. For shady yards, dwarf periwinkle, sweet woodruff, mondo grass, Solomon’s seal, mock strawberry, and ajuga are all great varieties.

For best results, be sure that the area is weed-free before planting them, as ground covers don’t enjoy competition. However, once they’re established, you’ll find that they tend to crowd weeds out!