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Phyla Nodiflora vs. Lippia Nodiflora - what's the difference between California's best ground cover lawn options?

Phyla Nodiflora vs. Lippia Nodiflora -  what's the difference between California's best ground cover lawn options?

California lawns have gone through a serious roller coaster ride in the last 10 years. In many parts of the state, conventional lawn sod wasn't able to survive the strict watering mandates laid down by drought-stricken water departments in the summer and fall of 2021. Then letting old, outdated lawns die off became very en vogue in a number of trendy Los Angeles and SF Bay area neighborhoods. But what comes next? 

Here at California Wild Gardens, we are dedicated to the creation and development of great lawn replacement options. Like low-water plant packages that help repair habitat. But in some cases, you still need a lawn. Or at least something lawn-like that to serve the needs of your kids, pets and picnics. While native grass (like Bentgrass and native Fescue) is slowly getting it's foothold, native ground cover lawn options are another great alternative to consider. 

What are California's best ground cover lawn options? 

Sterile Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) - charms bees, grows low and goes months without water in the cool season. It's a "weed" native to many coastal regions of the world that was hybridized in Japan to prevent aggressive spreading. This ground cover lawn is ideal for sun or part-shade, survives on 1x week watering and no winter water, can take a good amount of foot-traffic and is dog-friendly. It's a no-mow lawn alternative but, if the bee-attracting flowers are a concern, mowing once per month keeps them under control. 

California Frogfruit (Lippia nodiflora) - the true California native ground cover parent plant of Phyla nodiflora this free-spirited lawn replacing plant goes by a lot of names inspired by its long runners (like 'turkey tangle foot'). As a lawn in full sun it stays flat and causes no issues for human feet. It's a succulent that's edible in small quantities so gopher prone properties may need to take extra precautions.  

What's the difference between California's best ground cover lawn options?

Lippia nodiflora is the non-sterilized California native parent plant of Phyla nodiflora. Lippia is much cheaper, a touch less verdant and a bit more clover-looking in its flower type than Phyla nodiflora. Because it readily sets and self-sows seed Lippia is more resilient than the Sterilized Frogfruit plant.

This is why it was originally discouraged from mass lawn replacement in the 1970's due to state legislature concerns about it taking over in unwanted ways in residential landscaping. Today this resilience is something we are in desperate need of as climatic shifts and water shortages continue to present challenges. State legislatures are no longer concerned with it's spread as this plant is excellent bee habitat and boasts exceptional water savings in comparison to conventional sod.  

comparison image of phyla nodiflora and lippia nodiflora groundcover lawns
Both plants can present some regular weeding requirements needs. Nut sedge is the biggest annoyance. However, these ground cover's extreme drought-tolerance means that watering deeply every 2 weeks in summer will easily dry-up many weeds without hurting your lawn. Specialty topical sprays may be recommended in other scenarios. 

Lippia Nodiflora is only available in flats today. We are working on changing that. Phyla nodiflora, the sterile succulent ground cover lawn, presented some surprising challenges through the unusually rainy California winters of 2022-2024. Here's some great examples of what Native Frogfruit lawn looks like. In a hot, inland region of California:

Photos of Lippia Nodiflora Lawn Alternative

Lippia nodiflora ground cover lawn image in hot southern California frontyard
Lippia nodiflora ground cover lawn before and after

^Before and After of Lippia nodiflora ground cover lawn installation

These photos show the lawn in the midst of watering restrictions and the heat of July. The best way to install Native Frogfruit is to divide rooted flats to create "starts" or "plugs." The plugs fill-in within 6-10 weeks in hot seasons  and 3-4 months in cool seasons. Full lawn-like coverage can take up to 6 months if planted in November-December due to the plants natural dormancy cycles. The L.A. Times posted a great article with new research on Lippia Nodiflora as a leading sustainable lawn alternative (click here and scroll down to Lippia). 

Sterile Phyla nodiflora is available as sod. Meaning you can get an instant green carpet, ready for heavy foot-traffic in as little as 4-6 weeks in warm seasons. It can take longer to root fully in cool. The soil prep that is required is typically some drainage amending. As this plant can drown and die from fungus if it's roots can't get air. Aerate soils with a broad fork and fill the holes with sand or DG mixed with a bit of organic compost before laying sod. This gif shows Phyla nodiflora ground cover lawn at 2 years old having never been mowed. Here are some other great examples of what Phyla nodiflora looks like as a lawn. So you can get a better sense of the difference between the two plants. 

Photos of Phyla Nodiflora Lawn Alternative

kurapia no mow lawn alternative lawn sod order online
phyla nodiflora lawn sod dog-friendly family friendly california lawn alternative

 Where to buy no mow lawn alternative groundcover online

If you're looking to buy ground cover lawn at a fraction of the cost of other native options you can click here to contact us and get a quote setup for flats of Lippia nodiflora. This means you're not in a rush for full coverage lawn. You'll be dividing flats to establish the rapidly spreading ground cover. 

If you're looking to order low-water ground cover lawn sod online than click here to get phyla nodiflora. As of the writing of this article summer 2024 there are some availability delays. Southern California expects to have full sod delivery availability for mid-July. Northern California expects to have full Sterile frogfruit sod availability in August of 2024. 


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