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Lawn alternatives in hot zones?


I have a large flat sandy area about the size of 3 tennis courts that I would like to plant greenery on but my attempts at growing a lawn have failed miserably. I am seeking a hardy alternative that looks somewhat neat but can withstand Southern California heat, intense sunlight and dry spells. I do water every other day but it's just not enough to sustain a lawn and at that size it gets expensive quickly. Maybe there's some lowgrowing xeric plant that spreads easily and tolerates the occasional foot traffic? Any ideas?


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I stayed for several months with friends in Woodland Hills some years ago. They had a dichondra lawn, and it always looked nice. It did require water, but as I recall, they didn't water very often. They mowed it, but only occasionally. While I wasn't responsible for maintaining the lawn, it seemed pretty carefree to me.

Perhaps you've already tried dichondra, though, and didn't find it satisfactory. :)

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Dichondra is what I grew up with as a kid in SoCal. But I do remember being out every morning watering. Eventually when my mom was on her own with kids and had other things to worry about, she had the lawn ripped out and put gravel down. Gravel is definitely easy care, but I'm not recommending it! :)

But google Xeriscaping, or look for a good book on it. Nothing says you have to have a lawn at all. My sister is in Albuquerque, NM now and I visit there. Lots of people there don't have lawns, but do have yards with beautiful plants, colorful flowers. You have lots of native wildflowers that like your climate. I still love california poppy and most years plant it in my planting strip between sidewalk and street. But of course it doesn't belong here and doesn't thrive or reseed itself very well.

[url=]Albuquerque xeriscaping sample[/url]

[url=]another sample[/url]

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Size of THREE tennis courts?!

I hope you will plan a diverse biology-xeriscaping rather than a monoculture expanse.

It could look really lovely. I picture a small flat area ("lawn") surrounded or inter-spaced with beds of variety of flowering plants from low ground covers to shrubs and butterflies and hummingbirds as well as other birds everywhere. Maybe some kind of self-contained water feature.... 8) :D

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Hello DonFerrando. What a nice landscape pallet you have to design. I like
applestar’s idea of diverse biology-xeriscaping. Here are some plants to consider
that don't need much water.

SHRUBS - Ceanothus (wild lilac)
Cistus (rockrose)
PERENNIALS - Achillea (yarrow)
Rosemary (upright)
LOW-GROWING - Ice plant
Creeping thyme
Trailing rosemary
Oenothera (evening primrose)

Good luck and have fun with this.

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I have a friend who wanted to do the same thing, getting rid of the lawn and putting in low-water, low-maintenance plants. She finally decided to go with all indigenous plants, reasoning that if they had survived centuries in dry, arid Wyoming, they would require little care as a lawn.

She found a book at the local library that was chock full of native Wyoming flora. Using the book as a guide and many a cleverly placed rock, she came up with a front yard that was really quite attractive, a nice mixture of bushes, shrubs, wildflowers, and low ground covers. I think she even put in a lovely berm and maybe a dry creek bed, although that might have been a different friend :oops: I'm not certain she even waters her lawn anymore. Maybe during an excessive dry spell . . .

Having lived in Southern California many, many years ago (Chula Vista), I believe your annual precipitation should be close to what we have up here in Wyoming. There should be a book on native species available somewhere.

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Have you checked out a copy of Sunset's Western Garden Book yet? They have a lot of good information about plants that would suit your requirements. You can probably find a copy at your local public library. :)

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You guys,

Thank you so much for all your suggestions and great feedback! I love the Dichondra idea though upon further investigation it seems that it is fairly difficult to start and maintain and it does need lots of water. Kind of the same thing I would be faced with going for lawn. But wow, it looks beautiful and lush, I love it!

I have been thinking about gravel and I do have some pathways in other areas that are treated this way but I can't bring myself to do it in such an expansive area. It would probably take a few truckloads.

I think I really want to go with some form of xeriscaping as long as it has a carpet feel and doesn't mind the kid roaming around in it on occasion. I have lush and mostly vertical landscaping around this area so I really would like to keep this clear and low and accessible.

Iceplant is a great idea. I am already using this inbetween some of my flowerbeds but till now didn't think of it as a lawn replacement. I haven't stepped on my flowerbeds much so I am not sure if it could take the occasional human traffic. Native plants sound great too, though it seems it's the native weeds that have been spreading fastest on that patch I am hoping to fix. :wink:

So looking at everything you guys suggested I am thinking all types of different creeping thyme might do the trick, you know: red, white, green, purple - the more colors the better. If it turns out thick enough it could look great between the palm trees and create a bit of a "What dreams may come" feel. Do you guys think this is doable? Will it spread across such a large area? Maybe if I do well-spaced patches of different thyme they will grow and connect and eventually form that carpet I am after. If there remain holes I could just try and fill them up with something else of a similar nature. I do believe there's a blue variety of Trailing Rosemary. Maybe even try creeping Phlox. Do you think this could work?

Perhaps three tenniscourts worth of this would become a bit too psychedelic?


Hmmm... I guess it's all about the size of the patches.

I do love the look of this Phlox:


I should follow your book suggestions before I lock in on this... :D

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