Substitutes for Ornamental Grass in Your Yard

Grass lawns require about 2800 gallons of water per 500 square feet per month to keep them green and healthy. This amount of water can be costly and hard to provide in Mediterranean climates. Ornamental grasses require less water but , if you want to escape from the look of grass, then there are different options. Drought-tolerant plants can be grouped together as groundcover or planted separately as accent plants to function as ornamental grass substitutes on your yard.

Plants for Sunny Lawns

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) are drought-tolerant plants that thrive in sunny yards. They are both hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 9 and will grow in any soil type. They’re also tolerant of air pollution, deer and rabbits. English lavender is a evergreen sub-shrub with creamy, gray-green leaf. It rises to a height of 3 feet and width of 4 feet, but you will find shorter cultivars with different blossom colors available. The “Loddon Pink” cultivar (L. angustifolia “Loddon Pink”) rises to only 18 inches tall with pink blooms. Russian sage is a deciduous sub-shrub with silver-gray leaf that’s tolerant of salty problems. It rises to a height of 3 to 5 feet and width of 2 to 3 feet, creating purple flowers in the summer and autumn. “Small Spire” (P. atriplicifolia “Small Spire”) is a shorter cultivar that grows to only two feet tall and wide.

Plants for Partially Shady Lawns

Several varieties of spurge (Euphorbia spp.) and sage (Salvia spp.) Are drought-tolerant alternatives for partially shady yards. The “Tasmanian Tiger” spurge hybrid (E. characias “Tasmanian Tiger”) rises to a width and height of 2 to 3 feet with stretched variegated leaf. It blooms in late spring or early summer, creating 12-inch-long clusters of pale yellow and cream white flowers. Nearly any soil is fine, so long as it drains fast. It’s hardy in USDA zones 6 to 8 and tolerant of air pollution, deer and rabbits. Deer-tolerant mealycup sage (S. farinacea) is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10, growing in most soil types as long as it drains well. The “Victoria Blue” mealycup sage hybrid (S. farinacea “Victoria Blue”) rises to a height of 1 to 2 feet and width of 9 to 18 inches and blooms from deep blue from spring to first frost.

Large-leaved Plants

The bullock’s center or Persian ivy “Dentata Variegata” cultivar (Hedera colchica “Dentata Variegata”) and the lamb’s ear “Big Ears” cultivar (Stachys byzantina “Big Ears” syn. “Helene von Stein”) are large-leaved drought-tolerant plants. “Dentata Variegata” is a vine that grows as a groundcover in which it does not own a trellis or tree to climb. Its heart-shaped leaves are 4 to 10 inches long and variegated with pale yellow. It’s hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9 and rises in partial or full shade with moderate to dry, fast-draining soil. “Big Ears” grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches and width of 1 to 2 feet with 8-inch-long furry silvery-green leaves. Average to dry, well-drained soil is fine for this plant in full sun or sites with afternoon shade. It’s hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9 and can be tolerant of air pollution, deer and rabbits.

Succulent-leaved Plants

False aloe (Manfreda virginica) and stonecrop (Hylotelephium spp.) Are drought-tolerant plants with succulent foliage. False aloe includes 6- to 20-inch-long dark green, sword-shaped leaves. In the summer and early autumn, it creates a 4- to 5-foot-tall spike having a cluster of mild yellowish-green flowers at the top. It’s hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9 and can be expanded in moderate to dry, fast-draining soil in partial shade or full sun. The “Autumn Joy” or “Herbstfreude” stonecrop cultivar (H. “Herbstfreude” or “Autumn Joy”) rises 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall and wide with around gray-green leaves. In the autumn, it creates 3- to 6-inch-wide clusters of pink flowers that change to red, then fade to copper-rust. It’s hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9 and can be grown in moderate, clay, rocky or sandy soil, so long as it drains well. Full sun is preferred however it will grow in partial shade.

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