Northern Californians are increasingly replacing their lawn with something a little more environmentally friendly. Some parts of northern California may have a more grass-friendly climate than southern California, but that doesn’t mean grass is exactly a great choice for any lawn. Grass doesn’t tolerate water stress and even mild drought well, it takes a great deal of water to maintain along with other maintenance like mowing, and it doesn’t really do anything to support the local environment. There are better lawn options than grass, here are five of the best lawn replacement options for northern California.

hardy clovers

1. Hardy Clovers

Clover was once a popular addition to grass seed mixes as it could support grass growth. But why not let this hardy, low growing plant be the star of the show? It can handle drought easily.

As most clovers are happy in growing zones three to ten, they can work in any growing zone in northern California (which range from the warm 9A on the coast to the chilly 6A further inland.) White clover is the most popular option. It grows 4 to 8 inches tall and will produce white or pinkish flowers. Red clover is your other major option, but it is a little bit taller and produces purple flowers which you may, or may not, like.


2. Rocks

A rock garden is one sure way to never water or mow your lawn again. But, how do you cover your lawn in rocks and make sure the neighbors are still happy about it? We suggest that you work with landscape designers to create a rock garden that no one can complain about. Mixing different rocks, creating patterns, and even adding some drought tolerant plants can help. Also, if you’re not working with he professionals, be sure to completely kill the grass before you lay down the rocks, or the grass may grow up through it.

3. Kurapia

If you’ve seen a lawn with short dark grass, covered with white flowers, that is entertaining a healthy population of bees, you’ve seen kurapia. This plant was selectively bred from a California naturalized plant, Lippianodiflora, to be an ideal lawn replacement. It grows low, and thickly, without hampering other plants you might want to place within in. It’s sterile and won’t seed, but also won’t die in droughts.

In some areas of northern California, kurapia will go dormant over the winter and may look off-color until spring arrives. As long as temperatures don’t drop below negative five, it should return healthy with the warm weather.

Baccharis Piluraris

4. Native Ground Covers

Adding a native ground cover won’t eliminate the need to maintain your lawn, but they will make it much easier. Most do not require mowing, regular watering, or fertilizer. Some good options include:

  • Baccharis piluraris ‘Twin Peaks’
  • Salvia sonomensis ‘Dara’s Choice’
  • Arctostaphylosuva-ursi ‘Point Reyes’
  • Lessingiafilaginifolia ‘Silver Carpet’

5. Artificial Turf

If you wince at the thought of “fake” grass, then you may have only seen your options a decade ago. Artificial grass technology has come a long way, and the latest options are softer and more realistic looking. They still have the benefits of not needing watering or other maintenance, and are even easier to repair if they are damaged.

If you’re looking from help from a local low-water landscape specialist, you’re in the right place. From water-wise plants to artificial turf installation, we can do it all. Call or contact us today to get your free consultation.