9 Best No-Mow Lawn Alternatives


While the American lawn used to be synonymous with lush green grass, the tide is changing. More and more people are recognizing the downsides associated with the mowing, fertilizing, and watering required to maintain a healthy grass lawn. Not only do these steps take up a lot of time and money, but they also slurp up fossil fuels and water like a thirsty camel at an oasis.

Fortunately, a Kentucky bluegrass or bermudagrass lawn isn’t your only option! If you’d like to skip mowing but still want an area where kids and pets can play, plenty of perennial plants remain short. And if you’re okay with a taller landscape, transform your dull lawn into a lush, wild meadow.

I’ll provide nine of the best no-mow alternatives so you can find the lawn that’s right for your landscape and life. Not only do the following plants flourish without a regular cut, but they also provide your home and garden with a unique look.

Establishing a No-Mow Lawn

You must complete a few essential steps before you seed your lawn with a no-mow option. First, clear out any of the current vegetation so the new plants can establish without competition. If your lawn currently contains grass, remove the grass, level the soil, fertilize as necessary, and get to work planting your new lawn.

When it comes to deciding which type of plant you’d like to add to your lawn, think about your environment and needs. Do you live in a drought-prone area and want to avoid irrigation? Is your lawn shaded most of the day? Are you hoping to attract pollinators or make your lawn part of a larger edible landscape? Answering questions like these can help you land on the right plant.

Clover

Close-up of a blooming Trifolium in a sunny garden. Trifolium, commonly known as clover, is a genus of plants characterized by their distinctive trifoliate leaves, consisting of three leaflets arranged like a shamrock. Clover plant produces dense clusters of small, globe-shaped flowers held on slender stems. These flowers come in soft pink with cream color.
Lawns full of clover are low maintenance and easy to establish with various types available.
botanical-name
botanical name


Trifolium spp.
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


2-8 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


3-10

Children and adults alike relate to the simple joys of searching through a green patch for that elusive four-leaf clover. While clover used to be something that popped up in weedy lawns or forgotten meadows, it can also be the backbone for your lawn. Not only do clover lawns require less maintenance than traditional grass lawns, but they also produce sweet flowers that support pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Multiple clover types work well as a lawn, including Dutch white clover, microclover, and red clover. Each of these varieties has its own drawbacks and benefits—for example, microclover remains shorter than other options, but it’s more likely to turn brown in the winter. So, spend some time researching the different varieties to determine which one is best for your landscape.

One of the great things about using clover as a lawn is the seed is relatively inexpensive and quick to establish, so you can broadcast seeds and enjoy a lush lawn all in the same year. And since clover has a long taproot and hosts nitrogen-fixing bacteria, the plants remain green without any fertilizer or irrigation. However, remember that clover won’t hold up to foot traffic as well as a grass lawn and also benefits from a mow or two during the growing season.

Wildflower Meadow

Close-up of a field with blooming Wildflowers on a blurred green background. Plants such as red Common poppy, Cornflower Flowers, and Cosmos are blooming on the field.
Planting a native wildflower meadow attracts wildlife, and adds vibrant color.
botanical-name
botanical name


Variable
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


2-6 feet
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


2-10

If you don’t mind a lawn covered with taller plants, go ahead and plant a wildflower meadow. Picking flowers native to your area results in little maintenance and an explosion of color in the spring and summer. Not only will you be able to enjoy the colorful blooms, but you can also spend your days watching butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other critters flock to your microhabitat. You sure don’t get that experience with a standard grass lawn!

The best type of flowers to plant depends on your climate, soil type, and sun exposure. I always recommend opting for native plants since these are well-suited to your area.

Here are some popular low-maintenance perennials for a wildflower meadow:

  • Purple coneflower
  • Yarrow
  • Goldenrod
  • Milkweed
  • Bee balm
  • Coreopsis

If you want to walk through your yard without trampling your plants, remember to add a path in the middle of your planting. Flagstones, wood chips, and pebbles are all great options for paths.

Creeping Thyme

Close-up of a flowering groundcover Thymus serpyllum in a sunny garden. The plant forms dense, mat-like carpets with tiny, elliptical leaves. The leaves are glossy green. Thymus serpyllum produces clusters of small, tubular flowers of lavender color.
This thyme variety creates a lush, no-mow lawn with year-round greenery and colorful flowers.
botanical-name
botanical name


Thymus serpyllum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun
height
height


2-4 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


4-8

While you may imagine English or lemon thyme mingling with sage and mint in small herb gardens, the creeping version of this evergreen plant works well in a no-mow lawn. As its name suggests, creeping time spreads along the ground, eventually filling large areas. Since the plant remains green throughout the year, it’s a nice option if you still want to keep the look of a lush lawn. The plants also send out oodles of small pink or purple flowers in the warmer months.

If you plant a creeping thyme lawn, recognize that you may deal with some patchy spots in the first year. Regardless of whether you plant transplants or seeds, the herbs take at least a year to grow into a thick lawn. There’s no need to mow the plants, but trimming the top few inches once or twice a year encourages new growth.

Creeping thyme can handle a small amount of foot traffic, so don’t worry about stepping on the plants every so often. However, if you plan to make a daily trek across your creeping thyme lawn, add stepping stones or a mulched walking path.

Blue Star Creeper

Close-up of a blooming Isotoma fluviatilis in a sunny garden. Isotoma fluviatilis, commonly known as Blue Star Creeper, is a fast-spreading perennial ground cover appreciated for its delicate appearance and profusion of tiny star-shaped flowers. The plant forms dense mats of small, rounded, bright green leaves, creating a lush carpet-like effect. Isotoma fluviatilis produces an abundance of dainty, sky-blue flowers with yellow centers that cover the foliage, creating a charming and colorful display.
This lovely creeper spreads quickly, tolerates foot traffic, and produces light blue star-shaped flowers.
botanical-name
botanical name


Isotoma fluviatilis
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Partial shade
height
height


2-8 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


6-8

Another flowering groundcover, blue star creeper spreads via runners. It’s a quick spreader in the right environment, making it a great option for a no-mow lawn. It even tolerates moderate foot traffic! However, since the plants easily spread outside the desired area, it’s always a good idea to line your lawn in stones or landscape edging.

The plants produce their namesake light blue star-shaped flowers in spring and summer. This ground cover prefers moist soil, especially during its first year of growth. And since these plants prefer dappled sunlight or partial shade in hot areas, they make a great addition to lawns covered with a few shade trees.

Although these plants can tolerate freezing temperatures, the above-ground growth may die back with uncommonly cold temperatures. However, the below-ground portions of the plants typically remain alive and send out new growth the following spring.

Stonecrop

Close-up of blooming Sedum album in the garden. It is a low-growing succulent perennial cherished for its compact habit and ornamental value. The plant features small, fleshy, rounded leaves that are tinged with red at the tips. Sedum album bears clusters of tiny, star-shaped white flowers atop short stems.
Short, spreading stonecrop varieties create a dense ground cover in a no-mow lawn.
botanical-name
botanical name


Sedum spp.
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


3-10 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


3-10

Stonecrops are a group of plants in the Sedum genus with thick, succulent leaves. While any type of stonecrop works well in a no-mow lawn, I recommend sticking with short, spreading varieties like woodland stonecrop (Sedum ternatum), cascade stonecrop (Sedum divergens), and white stonecrop(Sedum album). With time, the plants spread and form a dense ground cover.

While stonecrop’s fleshy leaves may make you believe these plants prefer dry soil, the ideal soil moisture varies by species. Woodland stonecrop prefers moderately moist soil that replicates the woods it’s native to, while white stonecrop tolerates drier soil. However, all types of stonecrop grow best in well-draining soil.

Since stonecrop plants are tender, they aren’t an optimum choice for areas with heavy foot traffic. However, since they grow well in rock gardens, you can easily mix these plants in with rocky steps and staircases.

Creeping Phlox

Close-up of a flowering Phlox subulata plant in a sunny garden. The plant features small, needle-like evergreen leaves that form dense, mossy mats, creating a lush ground cover. Phlox subulata produces an abundance of five-petaled flowers in various shades such as pink and delicate purple, forming a striking carpet of color. The flowers have a star-like shape and create a visually appealing display.
This phlox forms dense mats with colorful flowers, attracting pollinators.
botanical-name
botanical name


Phlox subulata
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


4-8 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


3-9

Also known as moss phlox, this low-growing plant forms dense mats of green, needle-shaped leaves. When spring arrives, the bright flowers turn the carpet shades of pink, purple, and blue. These flowers last about a month and attract all sorts of pollinators.

Deer and rabbits tend to leave this flowering ground cover alone, so you don’t have to worry about mammals destroying it. And since it grows well on slopes, rock gardens, and open lawns, you can fit it into yards of all sorts.

Creeping phlox isn’t too picky about the soil as long as it’s well-draining. While you must keep it well watered for the first few weeks after planting, it’s drought-tolerant once established. And since it spreads via runners and also self-seeds, it quickly fills empty areas.

Wild Strawberry

Close-up of Fragaria virginiana in a garden, commonly known as Wild Strawberry, is a perennial herbaceous plant appreciated for its low-growing habit and edible fruit. The plant features trifoliate leaves with toothed edges and clusters of small, flavorful berries. The berries are bright red when ripe and are dotted with tiny seeds.
Virginia strawberries, suitable for no-mow lawns, spread via runners and attract wildlife.
botanical-name
botanical name


Fragaria virginiana
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


3-5 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


4-9

You probably think of strawberries as a plant that belongs in edible gardens and U-pick patches, and that’s true for the edible variety. However, the wild strawberry (aka Virginia strawberry) has a spreading habit and small fruits, making it an appropriate option for a no-mow lawn.

If you opt to fill a patch of your lawn with wild strawberries, you’ll plant transplants or bare root plants. Either option is a sizable upfront cost, so plant the strawberries a foot apart. While this will create bare areas, the plants will eventually spread via runners to fill in the empty spaces.

The Virginia strawberry produces small red fruits that are edible, but the flavor is more subdued than that of the popular garden strawberry. Despite this, wildlife, including squirrels, skunks, and raccoons, happily munch on the fruits.

Common Blue Violet

Close-up of a blooming Common Blue Violet in a sunny garden. The Common Blue Violet, or Viola sororia, is a perennial herbaceous plant known for its heart-shaped leaves and delicate purple-blue flowers. The plant grows in clusters with a basal rosette of leaves and sends up slender stems bearing single flowers. The flowers have five petals with dark veins.
Replace your lawn with quick-spreading, adaptable violets for a no-mow option with winter color.
botanical-name
botanical name


Viola papilionacea
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


4-10 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


3-8

If you’ve avoided herbicide applications for the past few years, you may have seen violets popping up amongst your grass. But have you ever thought of replacing your entire lawn with these low-growing, native wildflowers? Their quick-spreading nature, adaptability, and beauty make them a worthwhile option for a no-mow lawn.

These plants are native to most of the eastern United States, and that’s where they perform best. Although they can tolerate various soil types, they don’t perform well in drought. Therefore, they work best in areas with moist soil or in landscapes that receive afternoon shade. But they adapt to various light settings.

Blue-violet leaves remain alive during the winter, so you don’t have to worry about a blank lawn at risk of erosion. However, the flowers will fade during cooler months.

Irish Moss

Close-up of a flowering Sagina subulata plant in a garden. Sagina subulata, commonly known as Irish Moss, is a low-growing perennial prized for its dense, moss-like appearance and delicate white flowers. The plant features small, bright green, needle-like leaves that form dense, cushion-like mats. Sagina subulata produces tiny, star-shaped white flowers that rise above the foliage.
This plant offers a low-maintenance, green lawn alternative but prefers moist environments.
botanical-name
botanical name


Sagina subulata
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


1-2 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


4-8

If you like the look of a low, green lawn but hate the thought of mowing, check out Irish moss. Not a true moss, this plant won’t be happy in damp, shaded environments. However, its low-growing form and ability to tolerate sun or partial shade make it a great option for a no-mow lawn.

The plants grow in a spreading habit with many stems covered in dark green, thin, needle-like leaves. You can also find plants with lime green leaves—just look for the label Scotch moss. During the late spring, the plants send out simply adorable small white flowers.

Although this plant makes a gorgeous lawn, it doesn’t stand up well to regular foot traffic or drought. Therefore, it’s best suited for areas that receive regular rainfall.

Final Thoughts

Replacing a grassy lawn with another type of plant can be a big change! But if you’re committed to putting away the mower and opting for a low-maintenance option, consider any of the plants I listed above. Remember that these plants can take a full year to establish into a dense lawn, so don’t worry if there are a few bare patches after planting.



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