7 Incredible Lawn-Free Front Yards
We scooped up the cutest totally turf-less front yards we could find to show you just how much is possible with low-water plants. Check them out...
Looking for ideas for lawn replacement? We've been snooping the streets to document the best (and most eco-forward). Checkout our favorite Southern California lawn-free front yard ideas. Because living without grass can still be bada- awesome. It can still be awesome.
Scrolling down, you'll notice one thing these yards all have in common: a lot of plants
. Gorgeous walls or oceans of foliage. Why? Because plants are the best water storage mechanisms on the planet. And their leaf canopies provide shade which cools surface temps at an efficiency rate of 23x air conditioning
Yes, it's important we replace lawn grass with plants. Just plants that use less water! Which isn't a big ask, because the majority of perennial plants save up to %50 the amount of water as grass. And the majority of drought tolerant plants use only 20-30% the water of sod. These yards were all photographed in fall. So all the golden leaves, grasses, and pre-pruned sages are lookin' super fly.
Caveat: I am one of those people who slinks around at dawn looking for incredible yards & design ideas… Is this one yours??? or did you design this landscape?? Please leave a link in the comments so we can attribute you and/or accommodate privacy requests. Love your work!
There's nothing wrong with grass. Especially if it's a super drought-tolerant
native variety! Large ornamental grasses are MUCH more drought resistant than conventional lawn sods. And provide a lot more privacy too. Mound your soil up to create drainage and improve rainwater infiltration. Mix in flowers for seasonal variety. And be ready to cut back
ornamental grasses hard in Nov-Dec for the best growth in the following year.
Find 1-3 low-water ornamental grass varieties that you like and space 3-4' apart to fill in where your dead lawn used to be
Mix ornamental grasses with a few other similarly sized mounding shrubs for a more colorful look.
Avoid invasive grasses (like Mexican hairgrass or this purple pennisetum variety - use new zealand flax instead!) so they don't start showing up all over the place.
FEATURE PLANTS Garden 1:
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens
- can be hard raked instead of cut back), Westringia 'Morning Light', Baby Sage (Salvia Microphylla
) Garden 2:
Mexican Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii
), Purple New Zealand Flax (Phormium purpureum
- instead of invasive Purple fountain grass used here), Dwarf Variegated New Zealand Flax (Dianella tasmanica
) Shop the Look...
The color contrast of this sharp royal blue, brick red and white stucco house with lavender sages and golden kangaroo paws is HARD to beat. The other vibrant pops of color from the fall colors of crepe myrtle and lion's tale bring home the swan song. I happened to snap a pic of this yard 2 years ago before it reached maturity and I can tell you, it looked pretty good then too.
Play up the formal Layout / Straight Lines (notice the hedging at the right & linear walkways)
Add a clean low privacy wall for a backdrop to your brightly colored plants (just a head’s up many neighborhoods require a 3-foot setback and wall to be no higher than 3 feet)Mulch Heavily. A thick natural wood bark helps to lock in moisture and minimize water needs. The less water for many of these plants, the better.
FEATURE PLANTS Kangaroo paw (Anigazanthos), Palo Verde (Parkinsonia 'desert museum'), Velvet or Mexican Sage (Salvia leucophylla), Kalanchoe or Crassula (green varietal), Feathery Senna (Senna artemisioides)
This incredible garden is composed of blend of awesome year-round foliage plants to ensure you always have color. The variety of nicely shaped plants and drought tolerant species makes for easy maintenance. With carefully considered spacing and an occasional pruning schedule you'll be on your way to a glorious new garden!
The best part? This gorgeous wall of foliage is planted on top of mounded soil concealing a very private front yard patio / sitting space. Which also functions as a rain water absorption bed because of the level grade, natural water break created by the mounds and permeable paving at the entrance. The design ideas really go next level here. PIf you designed this, we want to know who you are!
Mound up soil towards property edges to frame private seating areas
Use dramatically contrasting foliage tones, keep flowering plants low-growing or to a minimum
Add 1-2 light-colored super spikey or angular shaped plants to frame the scene and contrast with the soft mounds of other foliage colors you’ve chosen
FEATURE PLANTS Purple Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria 'purple'), Purple Potato or Sand Cherry (Lycianthes / solanum rantonnettii), Dwarf Olive (olea 'montra), Pea Shrub (polygala myrtifolia), Variegated Yucca, Dwarf Miscanthus grass (instead of invasive Mexican Hairgrass)
If you’ve got even a bit of shade and an existing sprinkler system you can do awesome things with California native no-mow Fescue lawn
and like-minded ground cover options. Check out this beautiful installation of no-mow native Fescue
Native grass or ground cover sod (Shop Sods... )
Contrast against a Single accent tree with Seasonal interest
Edge with drought-tolerant ornamental grasses, your favorite cactus & 1-3 varieties of native wildflowers
Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis
) Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana
), Pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia
), Gramma Grass (Bouteloua graciils
), Yarrow (Achillea 'moonglow'
), Pink Penstemon, Green Aeonium, SOD: no-now fescue
With some cool coastal moisture and softened temps drought-tolerant plants can take right off. The rainbow colors of exotic leucadendron, grevillea, cuphea and so many other South African and Australian native plants blend seamlessly with California natives. Through a splash of hot colors in there and enjoy a brilliantly toned pollinator paradise nearly all year long.
Feature red and rose toned hues toward the center of the garden and edge with copper, orange or yellow colored plants.Place medium and tall plants toward yard edges to enclose more private front yard spaces. Place lower growing plants along the foundation and walkwaysUse purple flowering natives & wildflowers up against the home to gently lead the eye from hot colors to cool tones.
FEATURE PLANTSPacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica), Lion's tail (Leonitis), Verbena Lollipop, Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri), Purple Fringeflower (Loropetalum), Cigar Flower (Cuphea), Leucadendron, Grevillea 'Peaches 'n Cream, Copper Sedge Grass (Carex testacea 'Indian Summer'
This gorgeous collection of dwarf ginkgo biloba's sits over an epic rain water collecting feature. Rosemary, mandarin, lavender and silver carpet dymondia pair with other low small dry grasses and wildflowers. A bonsai pine or 2 complete the effect. The topography of this garden is SO impressive. Having a nice deep seasonally dry stream bed like this really helps capture rain water in big storm seasons. Plus all the big rocks provide a lot of great drainage. A real high-functioning beauty.
A staggered row of dwarf trees with seasonal interest
Rocks. No Japanese garden is complete without them. They symbolize miniature mountain ranges in this traditional form of design.
Large “dry” streambed or rain garden. This one takes the cake by using a blue (silver carpet dymondia) groundcover to fill in the sunken flat surface of the rain water capturing feature, giving it the feel of water year-round with blue groundcover and mounding perennials
FEATURE PLANTS Dwarf ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo biloba ‘menhir’), Silver Carpet groundcover (Dymondia margaetae), Rosemary 'Boule', Japanese Black Pine or Bonsai Juniper, Wormwood 'Silver Mound' (Artemisia 'silver mound'), African Daisy, Suncups (Calolyphus) and Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)
Contemporary Glory for this nicely terraced custom home. The large retaining walls frame conventionally modern garden beds, but instead of traditional roses, they're are filled with similarly shaped blooming grasses and native wildflowers. Plus a few perfect placement of trees (olive & strawberry tree)
Frame large STRAIGHT edged garden beds at back in long rectangles
Alternate straight rows of 3-4’ tall architecturally interesting plants in planters
Create round garden edges closer to the home where you fill in with softer smaller growing plants and a small groundcover, DG or alt lawn area
Place 1-3 medium- large growing trees strategically to enhance privacy
FEATURE PLANTS Strawberry tree (Arbutus marina), Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), Santa Barbara sage (Salvia leucantha), Pink Ruby Grass (Melinis nerviglumis) Toyon (Hetermolese 'Davis gold')
New Design Gallery
Want More Ideas?
Check-out our California wide gallery of great no lawn and low-lawn landscaping ideas
Succulent Groundcover Lawn
Okay, maybe you can have a lawn, just with a bit of a different look. There are 2 super tough succulent ground covers on the market that are really putting the idea of Alternative Lawn to the test.
GROUNDCOVER LAWN ALTERNATIVES:
- Dwarf Carpet of Stars (Ruschia lineolata) which hails from South Africa and brings a nice little lumpy ice plant into an easy low-water mat form for all your groundcover needs. Holds up to foot traffic too.
- California native Frogfruit Groundcover (California Platinum) is a mow-optional dog-friendly and also very low-water. Stays green in winter though it stops growing. Spring blooms attract bees.
- Silver Carpet Groundcover (dymondia margaetae) is another option but it's not foot-traffic friendly. And it can be tough to get it full coverage. But with great drainage conditions and the right watering system blue lawns are possible.
Ensure your soil has decent drainage and ammend lightly (lawn fertilizer is way too strong for this stuff). Lay your groundcover well spaced. Accent with broadly spaced drought tolerant shrubs or cactus