Beyond the Green Carpet: Beautiful Alternatives to Traditional Lawns

By John Gidding in partnership with ScottsMiracle-Gro

Traditional lawns can require excessive watering which causes strains on local water resources and contributes to environmental issues, especially in areas across the country impacted by extreme heat and drought. Homeowners can benefit from pivoting to lawn alternatives that require less maintenance, boost local biodiversity, are water-conscious and can withstand foot traffic, while still creating a diverse and attractive landscape.

Below, you’ll find some great lawn alternatives using native plants and xeriscaping that can give your lawn vibrancy and keep your landscape water-wise.

Ground Covers

A popular lawn alternative for homeowners are ground covers, which provide various benefits and aesthetic appeal in the landscapes they are placed. Some options to choose from include dichondra, corsican mint, baby tears, moss and creeping thyme.

  • Clover lawns are one of the best alternatives. The low growing plant provides a soft, dense, lush carpet-like appearance and promotes healthier gardens and greenspaces. Clover also attracts pollinators and acts as a natural fertilizer for soil.
  • Wild ginger is a ground cover that works well in shady or woodland areas. With its large, heart-shaped leaves, wild ginger is a low maintenance plant that doesn’t require extra watering, as long as it's in suitable soil conditions.
  • Creeping thyme is a great choice, releasing a pleasant fragrance when stepped on and producing colorful flowers in the spring. It grows best in full sun, becoming drought tolerant once established.
  • Dichondra gives an interesting look to lawns, with both silver and green varieties. It typically grows 2–3 inches in height with trailing stems and a dense mat of leaves that covers areas quickly.
  • Baby tears are great for warm, humid regions. They create bright green ground cover, providing a cushion-like space in landscapes.

These ground covers require less water, reduce the need for mowing, and provide a visually appealing and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional lawns.


In drier, arid regions, xeriscaping is a highly beneficial lawn alternative to consider. With the use of drought-resistant plants and prioritizing water efficiency through smart irrigation techniques, xeriscaping helps homeowners conserve water significantly. As a sustainable practice, it helps reduce water consumption, which eventually lowers utility bills, and also minimizes the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, promoting a healthier landscape.

Xeriscaped gardens create visually unique and beautiful, low-maintenance outdoor space that thrives in the challenging climate of arid regions.

Consider natural rocks and boulders for their timeless beauty and dynamic shapes

Using plants like shrubs, succulents, cacti, trees and more can provide vibrant colors and textures to your landscape

To get more inspiration, head to or download one of five free Greenprints, available for free via iScape, that I created to inspire homeowners to implement the designs in their own homes. Each Greenprint is based on one of five distinct regions within the U.S. and comes with an easily identifiable planting list, so you can match the design to your individual landscape and environment.