Groundcovers Instead of Grass

Replacing your grass with groundcovers means less maintenance in the long run.

Jill Staake

As I went out to get my mail a few days ago, I noticed something wonderful in my front yard. The Sunshine Mimosa I planted several years ago as a groundcover has finally started to out-compete the grass in that area, and the green foliage and pink blooms are looking great!

The idea of replacing grass with groundcovers is becoming very popular as gardeners focus more on plantings that work with their environment, rather than struggle against it. Groundcovers are plants that are low-growing and able to spread over a wide area. They are often able to be walked on without damage, like grass, but compared to traditional sod, they almost always require much less water, mowing, and general maintenance. Some even have flowers, like my Sunshine Mimosa, and there are often some great native options available.

Groundcovers

Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) is an excellent groundcover in zones 8 – 11.

If you’re not quite ready to give up all your grass, or you have kids or dogs that need a place to play, consider starting small with an area of the yard that people rarely walk on anyway. My groundcover shown here is growing in the tree lawn, which is what we people from the Cleveland-area call that strip of grass between the road and the sidewalk. (You’d be surprised how many regional names there are for that, by the way.) This is an area that no one is going to play on, but it does see some occasional foot traffic (and even cars parked on it from time to time). Since no one wants to spend time weeding a flower bed so close to the road, this strip is the perfect place to try out groundcovers to see if you like them.

When you first plant groundcover, the fastest way to get it established is to clear the area of grass and other growth first. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, though, and your growing season is long enough, you can try just plugging in the plants and letting them gradually overtake the surrounding grass, as I’ve done. My Sunshine Mimosa has taken about 4 years to completely overtake my tree lawn. It would have been much faster if I’d cleared the grass out first, but I was in no hurry.

Groundcovers

Jill Staake Mimosa is also called Sensitive Plant, because the leaves fold up when touched or disturbed.

My groundcover, Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) is a Florida native. It’s also known as Sensitive Plant and Powderpuff. You can learn more about it here, and see if it’s right for your garden here. If this plant won’t work for you, check out this article for Birds & Blooms Top 10 Colorful Groundcovers. Do you have areas in your yard where you’ve chosen groundcovers over grass? Tell us why and give us your favorite growing tips in the comments below!

  1. Matthew says

    Your last link for the top ten colorful ground covers goes to the detail page for Mimosa Strigillosa.

  2. anita says

    Fl. zone 9- native – bought it last year- planted it in a clean flower bed- and it bloomed for the first time this year and is not spreading.

  3. Cathy Warriner says

    Hi
    I have a small rectangular area between my gate and patio. When we bought our house it was lawn which was inconvenient to now, so we tried flower beds, which was hard to keep watered. So know I am using ground cover sedum & loving it. It is very minimal maintence, looks great and is attractive. I am looking for more areas & ways I can use ground covers, even considering replacing my lawn!

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