Are you looking for lawn alternatives for your garden project? A lush, healthy lawn is visually appealing, welcoming, and can add to the value of a home or business. But while grass is the most common choice, it’s not necessarily the best.
Whether you’re tired of mowing the lawn constantly or simply want a different look and feel to your outdoor space, lawn alternatives may be the perfect option for you.
Explore the factors you need to consider before choosing a lawn type and why traditional grass may not be ideal.
Why the Grass Isn’t Always Greener?
All grass is created equal, right? Wrong; there are multiple types of grass, each with its own benefits and disadvantages. Property owners typically report the following issues with traditional grass:
- Requires consistent maintenance
Grass needs to be mowed every week or two and requires the additional expense of a lawnmower, whipper snipper and fuel. By using lawn alternatives, you save on maintenance cost, just make sure you have a lawn edger ready to help you do the edgings for your lawn.
- Requires the addition of chemicals for pest control
Pests love grass. To keep them at bay and protect your loved one outdoors, you need to perform routine pest control treatments. This can harm the environment by killing beneficial insects, as well as being dangerous to children, pets, and wildlife.
- Require weed control
Traditional lawns do suffer with weed growth, and that means hours of manually pulling weeds or using herbicides. Herbicides can be dangerous to pets, wildlife, and the environment as they wash into water systems, and they aren’t inexpensive either.
(If you deem it necessary, check out our guide to weed killers to learn its types and how to use them safely in your garden.)
- Requires supplemental irrigation
Particularly in dry areas, grass is prone to die during times of drought. Keeping a lush lawn intact during dry seasons will require frequent watering and maybe even installing an irrigation system.
If you’re looking for easier ideas to create a beautiful landscape, you’re in luck. Alternatives to traditional grass lawns are convenient, stunning, and naturally inviting.
Choosing the best lawn for your property requires an evaluation of its purpose, location, and environmental risks. Will the lawn remain relatively undisturbed by traffic, or will it be an area where people play, work, or drive?
Do you have pets and children? Are you interested in native, indigenous alternatives or plants that will work in your climate? Consider your unique needs and local climate before selecting a grass alternative.
Top 10 Lawn Alternatives Australia
1. Native Grasses
A new way to achieve a beautiful lawn, reduce water consumption, and cut your workload in half all at once is to plant native grasses. They also help support native ecosystems of butterflies, beneficial insects and wildlife, so they’re ideal for an eco-friendly garden.
There are a number of different species suited to different regions and climate, including shade and sunshine varieties. Some of the best native grasses alternatives to use for lawn include:
Weeping Grass (Microlaena Stipoides)
This cool-season grass is found in Australia and New Zealand. Although it thrives in wetter zones, it also has a very high drought tolerance. It’s a spreading grass that can be mown to any height, making it a good choice for traditional lawns.
It has a high frost tolerance, moderate salt tolerance, and is shade tolerant too. It is not recommended for heavy traffic areas and has a low dog urine tolerance.
Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia)
Another cool-season grass, wallaby grass grows well in Australia’s temperate zones and has a high frost and drought tolerance. It’s a tufted grass that should not be mown lower than 4cm, and can grow to heights of 30-80cm.
It grows easily without irrigation or fertiliser, and are good decorative or pasture grasses rather than lawn grasses.
Kangaroo Grass (Themeda Triandra)
Kangaroo grass is one of the most widespread indigenous grasses in Australia, and thrives in all states and territories. It’s a tufted grass that can be mown twice a year but can grow to heights of 40-90cm.
It is a beautiful decorative grass that changes colour from green to maroon through the seasons, with rusty-red seed heads. It is very drought and heat tolerant, with a low frost tolerance.
Redgrass (Bothriochloa Macra)
A second popular warm-season native grass is redgrass, which is a runner so it grows more like a traditional lawn. It reaches heights of 10cm, has a high heat and drought tolerance with a low frost tolerance.
It thrives in coastal, tablelands and slopes environments, and has beautiful green and reddish foliage with reddish-purple flowering stems in the summer and autumn. Because it only reaches heights of 10cm, you may never need to mow it.
2. Blue Star Creeper
From use as a decorative landscape accent or complete ground covering, Blue Star Creeper grows in light shade or full sun and features charming blooms in hues of blue and white.
Native to Eastern Australia and New Zealand, this perennial is ideal for areas of light foot traffic, and has moderate heat and drought tolerance, although it prefers moist conditions.
This Australian native ground cover lawn substitute is evergreen throughout the year and is effortless to maintain, providing you keep it moist until it is established (about 12 weeks from planting). The most common varieties are Isotoma Fluviatilis Australis, Laurentia, Borealis, and Fluviatillis.
This grass alternative grows quickly and makes a bold statement in any landscape, and looks beautiful as a lawn, in rockeries, or around paved areas.
3. Oregano Grass
If you are looking for a beautiful, scented and useful lawn alternative, oregano is a great choice. Creeping oregano or oregano grass is a type of groundcover, and comes in multiple forms, with creeping oregano (Origanum vulgare humile), creeping golden marjoram (Origanum vulgare aureum) and mounding marjoram (Origanum majorana) performing very well.
It grows well in sun or partial shade, including around trees and rockeries. It’s soft to walk on, tolerates light to moderate foot traffic, and is very low maintenance. You can either mow it in the very early spring to create a neater lawn for the summer
that’s the only time it needs mowing), or leave it for a wilder, more natural look. Most varieties produce pretty flowers through the summer, attracting bees and butterflies.
Unlike traditional grass, this fully-edible ground cover requires little watering or fertilising, and has plenty of texture, making it an ideal accent for a detailed landscape or ground covering for an open field.
4. Elfin Thyme
Also known as creeping thyme, elfin thyme is studded with vivid lavender and pink flowers through the summer, resistant to drought damage and has multiple uses, such as a full ground cover or stepping stone accent.
Like the oregano grass, it’s fully edible and has a wonderful, lemony scent! It grows to a height of 5cm in sunny or partial shade, so you don’t need to mow it unless you want to neaten it up (best done after the flowering season is over).
Despite its delicate appearance, it tolerates traffic from kids and pets, and it’s well-suited to the Australian climate. Because this grass alternatives need adequate drainage, it’s ideal for dry or exposed slopes, sandy soil, rockeries, well-drained lawns, and footpaths.
Whether you plan to cover a large portion of your lawn or simply want to accent a landscape’s focal points, rock is a cost-effective solution requiring virtually no maintenance. Rocks also provide shade and shelter for native insects and wildlife, so they are a very eco-friendly option for green gardening.
Choose strategic locations in which to feature rock groupings, like those where irrigation or maintenance is not ideal, or where the ground is too exposed or heavily shaded for lawn. You can also use glow stones for added beauty when night comes check out the best glow stone here.
Gravel is a great lawn alternative that stands up to heavy traffic although it is not child or playground-friendly. It can be used to create striking outdoor spaces when paired with larger rocks and native plants, or when used on driveways or pathways.
6. Lawn Chamomile
An aromatic alternative to grass, chamomile serves as a soft, lush ground cover perfect for sunny areas. Best suited for remote pieces of land with light foot traffic, chamomile lawns are low maintenance and beautifully-scented. Although it enjoys full sun, it will grow better in partial shade in areas that have a very high heat index.
It will need mowing once or twice a season to keep it looking like a neat lawn, or you can let it grow wild for a meadow-like effect. These plants prefer a well-drained light sandy or loam soil, and don’t do well in heavy clay soils.
The flowering variety produces small white and yellow flowers resembling daisies that you can use to make herbal tea, but some people prefer a non-flowering variety like Chamaemelum nobile “treneague” for lawns.
7. Australian Violet
Recognized by its small but exceptionally pretty violet and white flowers, the Australian violet (Viola hederacea or Tasmanian Violet) is a stunning indigenous alternative to grass. It spreads underground as it grows, creating a thick and lush carpet that remains evergreen through the seasons.
Australian Violet tolerates temperatures as high as the mid-40 °C as long as it is watered, and can manage low temperatures around 5 °C in the winter, although the plant may go dormant until it warms up.
It prefers damp conditions and grows well in shade or partial shade, is very hardy and provides the added benefit of edible flowers year-round in warmer locations. Because of its shade tolerance, you can grow it in areas where grass doesn’t thrive.
It will grow in sunny conditions as long as you keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. You can plant it in almost any soil type, as it will grow in slightly acidic, neutral pH and slightly alkaline soils that are chalky, clay, loamy, or sandy.
Once established, it can tolerate moderate foot traffic, doesn’t need any mowing as it only grows to a 15cm height, and has a good frost tolerance and moderate drought tolerance.
8. Kidney Weed
Despite being called a weed, dichondra repens is a very effective lawn alternative that has a lot to offer. Native to Australia and New Zealand, it can be used instead of grass or as a soft buffer between stepping stones and requires little or no mowing because it is very low-growing.
These creeping plant is low maintenance, hardy, and feels luxurious underfoot. It grows best in partial shade and prefers light clay soils, although it still grows well in full sun.
It is a good choice for coastal gardens, tropical, moderate and cool temperate zones, and it tolerates light frost well. Kidney weed grows quickly, is playground and pet-friendly, and has a good level of drought-resistance.
It’s also very pest and disease resistant, and the thick carpet it creates helps prevent weed growth too, making gardening maintenance a little easier!
9. Green Carpet Rupturewort
With its low stature, the herniaria glabra plant came to be called “green carpet,” which makes it a perfect grass alternative. It grows well in any soil type, including gravel, and is able to manage heavy traffic easily, making it one of the toughest lawns that anyone can grow.
It’s ideal for families and pets, and despite it’s tough nature, is soft and cushion-like underfoot. The bright green foliage turns a bronze or red colour in winter months, transforming your garden though the season and creating an eye-catching visual effect.
It requires little in the way of fertiliser and only struggles in very boggy soil. Green carpet only grows about 2.5cm high, so it needs no mowing – ever – and although it produces very tiny white flowers, it doesn’t draw bees, making it safe for bare feet.
The only fault with this groundcover is that it is slow-growing, so it’s best to plant your lawn up well if you want an established lawn in a quick amount of time. On the positive side, this slow growth means it needs almost no maintenance.
10. White Clover
Requiring little maintenance and mowing, white clover seed ground cover replaces traditional grass easily in sunny, partial shade or full shade areas while being fairly drought resistant.
It’s native to northern Africa, Europe, the Middle-East and Western Asia, and is highly recommended for temperate zones in Australia and is a popular forage crop or cold season pasture option.
It doesn’t tend to do well in very hot or very dry climates, but grows well in fertile as well as non-fertile soil, as long as it isn’t waterlogged or too boggy. As a perennial legume, it is a great organic “living mulch” plant that suppresses weed growth and helps trap moisture.
It reduces nitrogen leaching from the soil and is often used in orchards and vegetable gardens as well as a lawn alternative. The flowers are a favourite for bees, which produce a high quality honey as a result (which is great if you want to try your hand at bee-keeping!), but you do have to be careful not to step on a stinger as a result.
White clover remains relatively short at 10-20 cm, so you can leave it to grow without mowing it to enjoy a meadow-like look, especially during the blooming season when you’ll see a carpet of gorgeous flowers in white and light pink. As an added benefit, clover ground cover does not need regular pesticide or herbicide treatments.
One important thing to be aware of if you are considering this lawn alternative is that white clover is considered an environmental weed in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.
If you live in an environmentally-sensitive area or want to support the indigenous environment, you should plant a native alternative rather than white clover.
Wrapping Up Our Lawn Alternatives Guide
A gorgeous lawn doesn’t need to take hours every week to maintain, treat, and groom! Choosing a grass alternative, especially a native plant, is a wonderful way to add diversity and beauty to your garden without compromising functionality.
Many lawn alternatives can be used for cooking and bee-keeping, support beneficial insects and wildlife, and offer colour and flowers that traditional grass does not.
These lawns can help suppress weeds more effectively to reduce herbicide use, grow better in harsh or tricky conditions, and are more drought, heat and frost-resistant than traditional grasses.
Using these lawn alternatives mean less mowing, less fertiliser, less pesticide and less watering than ever before – and most importantly, you’re rewarded with chemical-free surroundings safe for children and pets.