16 Lawn-Free Landscaping Ideas That'll Convince You To Ditch the Mower

Landscape architect Walt Ray
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Having a lawn isn't always a luxury. Whether it's work to keep weeds away or never-ending mowing, lawn maintenance is hard work. And don't get us started on the proper way to water a lawn.

Landscape architect Walt Ray, owner of Outdoor Studio in Atlanta, Georgia, uses dwarf mondo grass to create a lawn look but with minimal maintenance and no mowing. Complete your lawn maintenance in five minutes with a leaf blower for a quick change of annual color. Want to shorten your outdoor to-do list? Follow Walt's advice and try one of the ideas for lawn-free landscaping.

01 of 16

Lawn-Free Living

Lawn-Free Yard
Ralph Anderson

Here's a yard we all aspire to: It's pretty year-round and requires almost no work. Not your traditional landscape (there's no lawn), this curbside eye-catcher has people passing by, hitting the brakes and strollers slowing their pace.

Homeowner Andy McKinnon couldn't be happier. "I enjoy cocktails on the porch with neighbors, and people are always stopping to ask about the mondo grass." Occasionally Andy pulls a weed or two, and that's about it. The yard is treated with a pre-emergence herbicide each February and May to keep the weeds in check.

02 of 16

Extend Living Spaces

outdoor living space with sectional and porch swing
Jason Donnelly

One way to reduce your yard work is to cut back on the size of your yard—without losing all the precious space. Instead, extend your living space to an outdoor dining area with tables, couches, end tables, and an outdoor rug. Keep some greenery by using container plants for simple yet effective pops of color.

03 of 16

Try Mondo Grass

mondo grass ground cover
Getty Images

Pack in mondo grass to avoid weeds. Walt confesses to overplanting low-maintenance yards so they'll fill in faster, leaving little room for weeds. For instance, the dwarf mondo grass in Andy's yard was planted six inches apart (as opposed to nine to 12 inches). The Heller Japanese hollies are 2½ feet apart (rather than 3½ feet). Consistent spacing is critical―and be sure to mulch.

04 of 16

Create Outdoor Entertainment

Sara and Billy Jack Brawner's Waco, TX home at Chrsitmas with the Kids around the firepit
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Paige Mullins

Make your lawn less stressful by filling it with activities and features you and your family can enjoy. Pools are a fun substitute for lawn care if you have the room. Pavers are also a great way to take up lawn space, making a perfect space for firepits and outdoor gatherings.

05 of 16

Microsize Your Garden

Heller Japanese Hollies
Ralph Anderson

Microsize your garden to save time—Focus your efforts near the front door if the area is large, and then mow the rest. Define your space with a fence, wall, or low hedge of shrubs that never need pruning, as Walt did with the Heller Japanese hollies near the street. Other good choices: dwarf yaupon holly or rosemary.

06 of 16

Grow Wildflowers

monarch butterflies feeding on blooming aster in a field of wildflowers
DebraLee Wiseberg / Getty Images

Embrace the natural growth of wildflowers by spreading seeds throughout your yard. This simple, low-maintenance solution to lawn care is also good for the environment as you can plant flowers that attract bees and butterflies. Plus, the array of flower colors will dazzle as they bloom throughout the seasons.

07 of 16

Minimize Plants

Southern Gardening: Gardenias in Charleston
Van Chaplin, Ralph Anderson

Choose no more than a dozen different plants. They should be evergreen, require no pruning, and fit site conditions so that they won't need much care. Save one spot for annual color. Fragrant plants like gardenias are a welcome bonus.

08 of 16

Plant Trees

Type of Tree Name Here
Getty Image

Strategically positioning trees in your yard is one way to avoid mowing the grass. You may need a few years of growth before young trees fill out and mature in the space, but once established, you can have your private getaway in your backyard. Choose trees that will thrive in your area, and be sure not to plant them too close to your home or other structures, so the roots don't cause any damage in the future.

09 of 16

Decorative Garden Stones

Decorative Garden Stones
Ralph Anderson

Rock your world—Break a sea of green while adding texture, color, and contrast. Purely decorative, this swath of stone could also be functional, moving water away from your home. Here, it forces your eye across the garden.

10 of 16

Use Pavers

Side Terrace
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Pavers can be a unique way to break up patches of grass. Create a design with stones, concrete, or rocks positioned to trail throughout your yard. Build a pathway to a garden or simply a standalone design feature.

11 of 16

Add Color

Mona Lavender Plectranthus Flower Pots
Ralph Anderson

Color a corner of your yard. Forget the tried-and-true boxwood. Add an unexpected pop of color with a pot of 'Mona Lavender' plectranthus. It will brighten the shorter days of fall and add wow to your yard.

12 of 16

Use Floral Ground Cover

Moss pink aka creeping phlox (Phlox subulata)
AQtaro_neo / Getty Images

Use a creeping plant or floral ground cover if you want quick results. Plants like the 'Creeping Phlox' produce flower blossoms that will fill your yard with a sea of color. If you use this plant around a border or pathway, you will need to trim it regularly so that it might be best for large undisturbed areas for a low-maintenance solution.

13 of 16

Try a Grass Alternative

A simple yard of grass with a stone path. Hanging plants are on the fence walls.
Getty Images

If you are opposed to mowing the lawn, opt for an alternative. Wood chips create a natural appearance that can cover scorched grasses, allowing them to heal and improve the soil's nutrients. Also, artificial grass is an option if you prefer the look of a perfectly trimmed lawn.

14 of 16

Get a Green Thumb

Jacksonville, FL River Home Kitchen Garden with Raised Garden Beds
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Barbara Schmidt

Maybe mowing the lawn isn't fulfilling, but gardening is something that brings many people joy and produces delicious home-grown vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Carve out an area to try out your green thumb and see what your yard can produce other than grass. Raised garden beds are great for beginner gardeners because some have self-watering features and assist with drainage.

15 of 16

Gravel Garden

Container Garden
Photo by: Van Chaplin

Planting a gravel garden is a simple way to avoid lawn maintenance. After choosing your site, adding gravel, and growing your flowers and plants, there is not a lot of care required in this type of garden. The best plants for gravel gardens have low watering needs, including coneflowers, baby's breath, and allium.

16 of 16

Plant Picks

Autumn fern
Steve Bender

Walt got a new look by using widespread plants. Best of all, they're low-maintenance. Choose a carefree plant that grows well in your region, and you will have less lawn maintenance stress. Some popular plants include:

  • 'Tropicanna' canna
  • Asparagus fern
  • Aster
  • Dwarf gardenia
  • Heller Japanese holly
  • Dwarf mondo grass
  • Autumn fern
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