Grass is the most common choice as groundcover throughout much of the country for good reason: It’s cheap, attractive, easy to care for, and for most property owners, it’s the norm. But just because lots of people use it on their property doesn’t mean it’s your best option. There are plenty of alternatives that can add unique colors and textures to your yard, which isn’t possible with even the most well-manicured turf.
Fortunately, many groundcover alternatives to grass are easy to install and maintain. Below you’ll find some of our favorite groundcovers and brief explanations about why you might consider using them on your property.
Moss. If you’re looking for a durable groundcover that needs almost no maintenance, it’s hard to beat moss. While not typical in the United States, moss is a common groundcover in countries like Japan where it has been used for centuries as an attractive alternative to grass. Moss can withstand heavy foot traffic, requires little watering, and you have more than 20,000 species to choose from. Of course, some species fare better than others, and good choices for a Midwestern climate include sheet moss, Irish moss, and cushion moss. Also keep in mind that moss works great between stepping stones and in conjunction with hardscaping features. On the downside, moss isn’t the best choice for large yards with few landscaping features, as it has a uniform appearance.
Elfin Thyme. Also known as creeping thyme, Breckland thyme, and wild thyme, this hearty plant has a dazzling pink/purple color when blooming that can accentuate any landscape. It’s a relatively slow-growing thyme that can work well in both large and small spaces. We recommend this specific variety because of its beauty and speed of growth; other species, including pink lemonade thyme and caraway thyme, are also attractive, but can quickly overtake a landscape. Creeping thyme also doesn’t grow very tall, making it an ideal choice for groundcover. The downside? The flowers often attract bees, so if you’re allergic or have pets, it’s probably not the best choice.
Blue Star Creeper. You’d be hard pressed to find a better alternative to grass than blue star creeper. This plant requires little water, grows to a maximum height of about three inches, is fine in the sun or shade, and produces small blue flowers in spring. The only disadvantages to blue star creeper are that it spreads quickly, making it a threat to other plants, and it doesn’t usually maintain a healthy, vibrant look during winter months. However, it’s well suited to a Midwestern climate, and is nearly impossible to kill.
English Ivy. Whether it’s on a tree, wall, or trellis, we usually think of ivy as something that grows upward. But this leafy vine can also serve as an excellent alternative to grass, especially when it’s English ivy. As an evergreen groundcover, it provides a unique look that’s often associated with well-maintained, high-end properties, and it requires little maintenance. It’s able to withstand harsh Midwestern winters, and it has a texture that’s unlike most other groundcover options. If you decide to use English ivy, keep in mind it does best in aerated soil, and that wet and muggy conditions make it vulnerable to disease. While it’s an ideal choice for many landscapes, know that English ivy does best in shadier areas, and it will require regular watering during a drought.
Clover. There are plenty of reasons why clovers are good groundcover: One of the biggest is that as a legume, it adds nitrogen to soil, which can help boost the growth of your other plants. Clovers also tend to be slow-growing, making them easy to control and a good option to plant around gardens. When it comes to a particular species, we’d recommend checking out dwarf white clover if you live in Indiana. It will do great in both the sun and shade, is a perennial, and typically won’t exceed more than three to five inches in height. Like elfin thyme, clover tends to attract bees, so you may want to avoid planting it near doors or places with lots of foot traffic.
While grass will always be the king of all groundcovers—at least here in the Midwest—don’t forget you have plenty of other options. While some people use non-traditional groundcovers throughout their entire landscape, remember they’re also an excellent choice for smaller parts of your yard, such as walking paths, borders, and other transitional areas. If you’re looking for an alternative to grass, we can help you make a great decision—and design and install it on your property. Contact us today to learn more.