Are You Letting Go of Your Lawn? Try One of These Lawn Free Yards

Many facing a drought are swapping turf for less thirsty plantings. If you’re one of them, we’d like to hear about it! Leave us a comment below letting us know what you’re planning to put in its place!

We can’t help how much we love our lawns. As children we played on a lush green carpet in the front yard; we’ve spent countless Saturdays watching Little League baseball and soccer games. Lawns are woven into the cultural fabric of Americans.

But the American lawn’s popularity might be waning. Record droughts are facing the West resulting in homeowners wanting to reduce garden maintenance and cost while contributing to a healthy ecosystem; and a freshly cut lawn just isn’t working anymore for many. According to a new survey, one in four homeowners in the West will be starting a yard from scratch this year. Is it time to ditch the grass for good?

Continue reading to see how to ditch thirsty grass in favor of beautiful, easy care yards, and the benefits of doing so.

Instead of grass, Replace with Native Plants

Instead of a lush green lawn, this outdoor space features native plants, gravel, and a raised water feature. A typical suburban lawn requires 10,000 gallons of water beyond natural rainfall per year, according to the Enivronmental Protection Agency. In Los Angeles, where this backyard is located, the Department of Water and Power offers $3 per square foot of green grass ripped out and replaced with drought-tolerant plantings, which is also available to San Diego residents! Click the Department of water and power link above for more information.

Instead of grass, plant a natural back yard
Plant natives, and birds will follow. After removing the lawn, these home owners installed a meandering path bordered by fragrant ‘Bee’s Bliss’ salvia, wild lilacs, and an existing non-native purple tree mallow ― all pretty, low-water plants.


Instead of grass, plant low-water Echeveria and fescue

This former front lawn is now a tapestry of low-maintenance, low-water Echeveria and fescue. The average homeowner will spend 150 hours per year maintaining a lawn. Wouldn’t you rather be doing something else?

Instead of grass, plant succulents

A tapestry of succulents replaced the lawn in this San Diego front yard.
They used five kinds of aloes, two types of aeonium, Bulbine frutescens, Agave attenuata, and lots of blue Senecio mandraliscae to play off the Moroccan blue of the pots.

She added a new set of pilasters along the stairs—perfect perches for more pots—and faced the risers with blue and white Spanish tiles.

Don’t know what plants are native to Southern California? Try one of the below plants that are natives to our area, and are a great alternative to grass.

Perennials and Annuals

Instead of grass plant california poppies







California Poppy
What native plant list would be complete without the flower chosen as the state emblem in 1903? Great for grassy slopes, foothills, along drives or in naturalized gardens. Cup-shaped yellow, orange or white flowers bloom from February sometimes through summer. A perennial more often grown as an annual, and this wildflower is easily grown from seed.
Instead of grass, plant deer grass 





Deer Grass
Bright green leaves in a dense clump growing to 4 feet wide and high. Slender yellow or purplish flower spikes in autumn are erect at first, and then leaning. Takes full sun or light shade, and little or no water.
Instead of grass, plant Island Alum Root 





Island Alum Root
This evergreen perennial plant attracts hummingbirds each spring when hundreds of pinkish white flowers blossom in 2-3 foot clusters. Makes a good ground cover or border. Very drought tolerant and cold resistant. Grows to approximately 1 foot high by 2 feet wide.


Instead of grass, plant California Redbud shrubs 





California Redbud
An interesting plant all year long, with magenta flowers on leafless stems in summer, followed by crimson seedpods and heart-shaped blue-green leaves. Deciduous, with yellow or red fall foliage falling away in winter to reveal smooth reddish brown trunks. Long lived, very drought tolerant, and flowers more profusely as it matures.
Instead of grass, plant cleveland sage shrubs 





Cleveland Sage
With nearly 100 species available in Western nurseries and an estimated 900 the world over, it was hard to choose just one sage to include, but we did. The Cleveland sage is the most fragrant, its scent carrying 20 feet on a warm night. Its fragrant pale lavender to violet blue flowers bloom in early summer. Drought tolerant.
Instead of grass, plant Ceanothus shrubs 





Ceanothus ‘Concha’
This California lilac is a large shrub with a dense mass of dark green, 1-inch leaves, with dark blue clusters of flowers appearing in spring. Requires good drainage; can tolerate summer water. Grows to six feet.
Instead of grass, plant coffee berry shrubs 






Coffee Berry
Very drought tolerant, particularly when established. Dark green to yellowish green leaves can be either shiny or dull. Berries turn from green to red to black during a lengthy ripening period. Moderate growth that can be pruned and shaped. Grows from 3-15 feet tall, 8 feet wide.


Instead of Grass plant a Coast Live Oak tree 





Coast Live Oak
Handsome shade tree. Round-headed with dense foliage, grows 20-70 feet tall. Smooth, dark grey bark, with leathery dark green leaves. Native to coastal central and Southern California.
Instead of Grass plant a Western Sycamore tree 





Western Sycamore
Smooth, gracefully twisted branches, multiple or leaning trunks. Patchy brown, gray and white bark. Can grow 15-20 feet in 5-10 years. Drought tolerant once established. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
Californians and others living in dry places: Are you planning to lose your lawn this year? What are you planning to put in its place? Please add your photos in the Comments below, we’d love to hear from you!