Replace Your Lawn with Perennials

kangaroo paw flax lawn replacementA perennial front yard in full bloom in early summer. This garden includes red flax, purple sea lavender near the front of this photo. Yellow kangaroo paw and true lavender are further back.  The kangaroo paw, which comes in several colors, stays in bloom for a very long time.

These homeowners have made a complete change to their front yard by removing the lawn and installing drought tolerant–and very colorful–flowering perennials. This award-winning garden is, surprisingly, only one year old which means the owners purchased almost mature plants — which can be an very expensive proposition. On the other hand, they did not have to wait three or four years for the garden to look gorgeous! Among the plants in the photo: golden yellow Kangaroo paw, purple sea lavender, aloe with tall red blooms. For ground cover between the perennials: pink flowering miniature ice plants and dark green creeping rosemary.

Drought tolerant perennialsMany homeowners take a more gradual and economical approach by replacing the lawn in a parking median first. Much of this area is covered with ground covers, including creeping rosemary, miniature ice plants, and flat gray-green Dymondia margaretae. The red flowers on spires are aloe. For more ideas and photos for parking medians, go here.

Red fountain grass roses society garlicAnother way to begin lawn replacement is to start with a drought tolerant border and then–year after year–expand it. Some plants shown here could be divided and replanted to save even more money. Plants in this border: red Fountain grass, lambs ears, society garlic, white roses and flax. Note: Flax does not do well in the intensely hot desert areas such as the Mojave or Sonora deserts.

Agaves echiverias, iceplant, golden sedgeThis is one of my favorite drought-tolerant gardens.  It has very simple plantings: agaves, echiverias, ice plants, and golden threadgrass. That’s all. Once a year in mid-winter the owner cuts the grass back to about six inches tall.  That is the annual maintenance for this garden.


Drought tolerant front yard Santa Barbara

In this drought tolerant garden in Santa Barbara the owner has planted taller plants, including bougainvillea and agaves, near the street almost as if they are a hedge. Nearer to the house the plant heights step down. Shorter plants are along the sidewalk leading to the front door. Gray-green Dymondia margaretae, a flat ground cover, fills in the space around the sidewalk pavers.

If you intend to plant your front yard with blooming perennials, spend some time at a good local nursery and ask which perennials will do well in your area. And because perennials–especially mature ones– are a considerable investment, be sure to prepare the soil by adding significant amounts of organic mulch before you plant.

Another thing to keep in mind — the scale of the plants. Make sure they will be approximately the same size when grown, so one or two perennials do not overshadow and become larger than the rest.
Replacing your lawn — read this for what NOT to do
Replacing your lawn with perennials
Replacing your lawn with ground covers
Replacing your lawn with ornamental grasses
Replacing your lawn with pavers
Replacing your lawn with mazes and knot gardens
Replacing the lawn in your parking median

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