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Drought-Tolerant Lawn Alternatives

By: Sherri RibbeySherri Ribbey
Mix it up, and get efficient. Grow these water-wise lawn alternatives in place of traditional turf grass.

Lawn alternatives

Whether you have a yard that’s sunny or shady or has dry or moist soil, there’s a plant (or two) that you can use to replace traditional turf grass. A garden of pretty perennial ground covers is easier on the eye and can still help you conserve water.

Establishing a drought-tolerant lawn

Replacing your lawn with drought-tolerant plants doesn't mean you can stop watering completely. The first year or two your new perennials will still need regular watering to help them establish good root systems. After that, regular rains are usually enough to keep them looking good. But if there’s an extended dry period it’s a good idea to give even drought-tolerant plants an occasional deep watering. Use one or several different types of perennials to fill in a small area where you want a prettier view or to create a whole new look for your yard. You could end up saving a bundle on your water bill, too!

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Drought-tolerant lawn alternatives

The plants below are some reliable choices that you can use to replace your lawn.

fp-dw-waterwise-plumbago2: Plumbago is slow to emerge in spring but those midsummer clusters of blue flowers with rusty red calyces are worth the wait.

Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)

Type Perennial Blooms Blue flowers in midsummer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Well drained Size 8 to 12 in. tall, 12 to 18 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

fp-dw-waterwise-Silvercarpet: Super drought tolerant silver carpet doesn't mind being walked on so it's a great choice for growing between steppers.

Silver carpet (Dymondia margaretae)

Type Perennial Blooms Yellow flowers in summer Light Full sun Soil Sharp, well-drained Size 2 to 4 in. tall, 18 to 20 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11

fp-dw-waterwise-thyme: Go ahead and walk on this lemony scented thyme and you'll its light citrus scent. You can snip a few stems for cooking too.

Thyme (Thymus citriodorus ‘Variegata’)

Type Perennial Blooms Purple flowers late spring to summer Light Full sun Soil Well-drained to poor soils Size 6 to 12 in. tall, 12 to 15 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

fp-dw-waterwise-Snow-in-summer: Dry sandy soil is what snow-in-summer needs to thrive, too much clay and plants will rot.

Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum)

Type Perennial Blooms White flowers in early summer, gray foliage Light Full sun Soil Sandy, well drained Size 6 to 12 in. tall and spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

fp-dw-waterwise-Lilyturf: Lilyturf can grow in sun or shade but if you want to enjoy its late summer lavender flower spikes make sure plants get three to four hours of sunlight.

Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)

Type Perennial Blooms Purple, pink or white in late summer to fall Light Full sun to full shade Soil Well-drained Size 6 to 18 in. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 4 to 10

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Published: April 10, 2018
Updated: Aug. 1, 2023

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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