With temperatures rising in many places, lawn care season has officially begun and the struggle to keep the grass from turning brown through the heat of summer looms ahead. With many areas in some form of drought restriction for water use, our yards usually suffer, saving water for more important things. But there’s a growing interest in drought-resistant or drought-tolerant lawn alternatives, to achieve a yard you can use without using all that water.
Is a drought-tolerant lawn right for you?
The first thing to consider when replacing a grass lawn with drought-tolerant and drought-resistant plants is the way you plan to use the space. If you want to barbecue and use your yard for play, sport, or gathering, you’ll need a step-tolerant plant. If you’re more interested in the space’s visual appeal, you can choose from a wide variety of flowering or evergreen plants that will stay beautiful during hot, dry summer weather.
You can also opt for a patio area and keep the plants for borders, depending on your preference — creating a patio area with pea gravel, flagstone, or crushed granite won’t use any water at all.
Keep in mind that drought-tolerant plants are adapted to drought conditions and will thrive under them; drought-resistant plants will hold up better than thirsty varieties, but they do need some water. Depending on where you live and your growing conditions, you should determine which varieties are best for you.
Drought-tolerant lawn alternative
For drought-tolerant, walkable ground cover, common choices are creeping thyme, stonecrop, and snow in summer. These are all simple to grow, although to grow from seed, they will need to be sprouted indoors.
There are also more colourful options for ground cover that will hold up to foot traffic that are affordable. Herniaria Glabra is a choice that will give you a green, carpet-like lawn in summer and will turn red in winter. It is a low-spreading, creeping plant that has deep roots that make it very drought-tolerant. Turkish Veronica is also an option, although it’s only tolerant to occasional foot traffic. It is drought-tolerant and stays low, making mowing unnecessary.
Drought-resistant lawn alternative
One popular drought-resistant, walkable ground cover is clover, which comes in a wide variety of colours and leaf sizes. Clover can be mowed just like grass, or you can find varieties that will stay low to the ground.
Another simple and affordable option for an evergreen lawn alternative is Roman Chamomile. It is drought-resistant and doesn’t need much water, stays low to the ground, and can be clipped and separated. For a tenacious, low-growing vine, creeping wire vine can be used for high-foot-traffic areas and will stay green even under dry conditions.
Other tenacious plants to consider
If you don’t need to walk on the area where you’re replacing the grass, there are lots of possibilities for plants that will keep their colour and hold up through hot, dry weather. Cacti, succulents, and native wildflowers will all be good at surviving summer. To be sure you’re heading in the right direction, check with your local university gardening extension, parks department, or gardening club. Getting advice from locals is a good way to make sure you’re choosing plants that will last in your particular weather conditions, and you might get some good tips on maintenance, as well.
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