Tired of mowing the lawn? Perhaps you have a difficult-to-maintain slope or a shady spot where grass won’t grow. There are many reasons for homeowners to consider replacing traditional lawn with a lawn alternative. Although there are many groundcover plants for Ohio Valley gardeners to use, choosing one isn’t always easy.
Choose a Lawn Alternative
Before mowing your lawn, it is advisable to first consider the growing conditions in your yard and the specific needs you have for your property. Start by posing these five crucial questions to yourself:
Are there inconveniences to growing weed, or do you want to replace the entire lawn?
Is the area sunny, shady, or a combination of both?
Does the yard have good drainage, or are there wet spots after a heavy rain?
Do you need to walk on the lawn, or do you have kids and pets that use the yard regularly?
Are there any zoning regulations or homeowners association rules that limit lawn height or prohibit non-standard landscaping?
Once you have the answers, you can start looking for a lawn care alternative that meets your needs.
All-Season Lawn Alternatives
Climate can vary widely throughout the Ohio Valley, from USDA Zone 8 in the southwestern corner of Tennessee to Zone 5 in the upper reaches of Illinois. The ground cover plants used by Tennessee gardeners may be evergreen in their area, but may be deciduous in the north.
When looking for a grass alternative that will preserve your leaves through the winter, consider these evergreen grass alternatives. From Illinois to Tennessee gardens and everyone in between, these plants stay green year-round and are mostly deer-resistant. They are all hardy in USDA growing zones 5 through 8.
Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox) Tolerant of light foot traffic, creeping thyme grows in full sun or partial shade. It reaches a maximum height of 6 inches (15 cm) and is safe for children and pets.
Spring-blooming yellow Dwarf Tickseed flowers (Coreopsis auriculata) add an element of color to lawns, but the flowers attract bees. This 6- to 9-inch (15-23 cm) plant is non-toxic to children and pets.
English chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) You don’t need to mow this fragrant herb to 6 inches (15 cm). Although English chamomile is harmful to animals, it tolerates light foot traffic.
Japanese Asparagus (Pachysandra terminalis) Although this 8- to 12-inch (20-31 cm) shade-loving plant is nontoxic to children and pets, Japanese asparagus can cause skin irritation.
Phlox in progress (Phlox subulata) Creeping phlox grows to a maximum height of 6 inches and is tolerant to foot movement (15 cm). It’s nontoxic to children and pets, but the bright spring flowers attract bees.
Partridge Berry (Michella repens) At only 2 inches (5 cm.) tall, this shade-loving partridge berry will not require pruning and is nontoxic.
Periwinkle (Vinca minor) At 6 inches (15 cm) long, periwinkle will not need cutting. The black-green foliage and purple flowers are toxic to humans and pets.
Summer Snow (Cerastium tomentosum) Although it does not tolerate foot traffic, Summer Snow has white flowers and grows in full sun to partial shade. At 6 inches (15 cm.)
Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) Nontoxic and tolerant of foot traffic, Woodland Stonecrop is a low-growing native, growing 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) tall.
Ground Cover Plants – Illinois to Tennessee
If you plan to replace only parts of the lawn, such as on slopes or under trees, consider the following ground plants. Gardeners in Indiana, Illinois, and other gardeners in the upper Midwest may find some deciduous trees in their area. Others are not hardy at all locations in the Ohio Valley.
- Snow zephyr (Centaurea montana)
- Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ersi)
- Blue cat mint (Nepeta racemosa)
- Bigley weed (Ajuga repton)
- Bunchberry Dogwood (Cornus canadensis)
- Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
- Common blue violet (Viola soureauria wild.)
- Corsican mint (Mentha requienii)
- golden star (Chrysogonum virginianum)
- Lily of the valley (Canularia majalis)
- moss (different types)
- Running strawberry bush (Euonymus obovatus)
- Spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum)
- Cream Violet Striped (Viola Strata)
- Sweet Woodruff (Gallium odoratum)
- Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
- White clover (Trifolium repens)