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Maintaining a lawn is one the most demanding aspects of the garden. They need constant cutting and easily develop bare patches. Grass also becomes dry and brown in summer and wet and slimy in winter.

And that is before you start feeding, watering, aerating and scarifying. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Lawn alternatives are becoming better and more widely available.

Here are the best ground cover and creeping plants to replace your grass.

Clover

clover-lawn-alternative-grass-substitute-uk-green-carpeting-ground-cover

Clover was once considered a weed in the grass, but it’s surprisingly beneficial as a lawn plant. It creates nitrogen, enriching the soil and helping other plants grow stronger. The added nitrogen also means that the lawn remains green, even in dry weather.

White flowering clover makes good lawn alternatives and attracts plenty of pollinators. You can also use microclover, which is a variety with tiny leaves. It doesn’t flower but it is hardier for walking on and really low-maintenance. Look for seed mixes containing clover or microclover.

Sedum mat

A sedum mix is a great drought-tolerant alternative to lawns and is available to buy as matting. Lay it like turf and keep watered until established.

Sedum matting features a wide range of fleshy sedums and can be mixed with a variety of wildflowers and taller plants.

Wildflower meadow

wildflower-meadow-with-grass-poppies-and-cornflowers

There are hundreds of wildflower meadow seed mixes available. They make a great lawn alternative in areas like front gardens. Simply strip off the turf, scatter the seeds and water in.

You can choose colour-themed wildflower seed mixes, or mixes designed for wildlife. Look for varieties that include some meadow grasses too. Here is how to create a wildflower meadow.

Alternatively, let your existing lawn grow out and add plug plants into the mix. Mow a path through the middle for access.

Creeping thyme

Bird on creeping thyme lawn. The best lawn alternatives to grass

This is a fantastic ground cover plant and very common lawn alternative. Creeping thyme is a great choice for sunny spots and releases a rich scent when you walk on it. The purple flowers also look stunning in summer.

Sow creeping thyme from seed or buy plug plants and let it spread. It is really low-maintenance and can also be used to fill gaps and cracks in the patio.

Chamomile

chamomile-best-lawn-alternatives-low-growing-creeping-plants

This scented plant does the same job as creeping thyme and has a lovely fragrance. It needs full sun to grow well, and doesn’t like soils that are very wet or very dry. You can choose from flowering and non-flowering varieties.

Eco lawn

These seed mixes are ideal if you don’t want to get rid of grass entirely. They use hardy, slow-growing ryegrass and fescue that will only need mowing once a month or less.

They are widely available in America and slowly making an appearance in Britain. Eco lawns are perfect if you still want to have grass, especially if you want a hardy lawn that children can play on.

Moss

moss-lawn-alternative-grass-substitute-best-plants

Replacing grass with moss seems the wrong way round, but it’s a great idea if your lawn is in shade. You need to buy moss plugs (small clumps of moss with roots intact) and plant them 15cm apart in bare soil.

Keep the ground moist and they will spread and join together. Make sure to keep on top of weeds too. Moss comes in a variety of colours and thicknesses to suit different types of use.

Soleirolia soleirolii

This creeping perennial is also known as mind-your-own-business. It’s a great lawn alternative because it has rich green colour and needs little maintenance.

But it is invasive and only suitable for enclosed spaces where it can’t get out of hand. It tolerates shade and sun and should be sown from seed.

Corsican mint

This is a low-growing and heavily fragrant alternative to grass. It grows happily in full sun or partial shade, but can rot in wet conditions.

Like all mints, Mentha requienii is invasive and spreads quickly, so only plant it in enclosed spaces.

More great gardening content

8 steps to greener grass in spring

How to save time on garden maintenance

How to plant a herbaceous perennial border


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