Lawn Alternatives – The Carpet Garden

Wiggle your toes in a carpet of grass, sedges, or perennials that use less water than a traditional lawn. Versatile and easy to grow, many water-wise plants make an excellent replacement to thirsty lawns. Only occasional mowing (if needed) and watering is required to enjoy a lush garden or play area. You can have your luxurious wall-to-wall carpet of green, silver, or blue in a formal and manicured style or wild and windswept, all with less fertilizer, less water, and less work for a more sustainable grass alternative that is better suited to the Californian climate.


Carex glauca (C. flacca)
Carex glauca (C. flacca) – Clean and cool, Blue Sedge has narrow fine-textured leaves of silvery-blue that tolerates moderate foot traffic. This evergreen sedge performs well in diverse conditions like compacted soil, full sun, in the shade of trees, low water and moist areas. A low-maintenance sedge that can be mowed occasionally or kept natural for that meadow look. More irrigation may be required in hot inland areas.
Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin'
Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin'– This miniature thyme forms a tight, compact mat that tolerates light foot traffic and looks great in between stepping stones, along pathways, or as a thyme lawn. 'Elfin' is a slow growing, creeping perennial with fragrant, dainty, gray-green leaves that won't overrun your garden. Heat tolerant but may benefit from light afternoon shade in very hot areas. Provide well-draining soil.
Carex pansa
Carex pansa – Dune Sedge is often confused with C.praegracilis, but this coastal native is typically a little shorter, 8-12" tall, and has a more restricted distribution in its natural habitat. The curling dark green glossy foliage spreads by rhizomes to form a dense sod. Summer irrigation will help keep this sedge green and is less likely to go dormant. Looks excellent mowed and unmowed with water twice a month and tolerated foot traffic. Mowing six to eight times a year will keep it thick and tidy. As a lawn, it is best kept 2-3" tall. Prefers full sun to light shade. As a meadows planting, mowing once or twice a year is sufficient. Photo courtesy of John Greenlee.
Carex praegracilis
Carex praegracilis – California Meadow Sedge is closely related to Carex pansa but can grow taller to about 12" and is widely adaptable to soils. The deep green fine-textured foliage can be kept natural for a lush tousled appearance or trimmed occasionally for an excellent turf alternative. This native tolerates extremes from intense heat to drought to seasonal flooding. Water once or twice a month in the summer.
Dymondia margaretae
Dymondia margaretae – Often called Silver Carpet, Dymondia forms a tight flat carpet of gray-green foliage edged in white. Dymondia is widely used as a filler between pavers and as a lawn substitute, its dense mat crowding out any weeds. Small yellow daisy flowers bloom amongst the foliage in summer. It tolerates drought, cold, salt spray, light foot traffic and poor soils. About the only thing this plant does not tolerate well is heavy soil with poor drainage.

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