Are you tired of your traditional grass lawn’s high maintenance and water demands? Or are you looking to replace your artificial turf with something more eco-friendly? If so, it’s time to consider these low-water-use groundcovers as lawn alternatives that thrive in hot climates.
These lawn alternatives aren’t exactly like grass and aren’t meant for high traffic areas. However, they offer many benefits, including cooling the soil, promoting biodiversity, and providing food and shelter for insects and pollinators. Unlike the high-water-use monoculture of grass, these low-water-use groundcovers add color and texture to your landscape while helping you save water.
Let’s dive into these fantastic grass-replacement options:
10 Lawn Alternatives for Hot Climate Areas Like Arizona
1. Gray Ice Plant (Malephora crocea)
The Gray Ice Plant, native to South Africa, is a versatile groundcover that thrives in full sun and can withstand temperatures as low as 20°F (-6.7°C). With very low water needs and a moderate growth rate, it matures at a height of 1 foot (30cm) and spans an impressive width of 6 feet (1.8m) in a trailing form. It’s evergreen with coarse, gray-green foliage.
The plant produces striking orange to red flowers with a yellow center in the spring season. Non-allergenic and thornless, it creates little litter, making it low-maintenance. As a bonus, it also grows well in containers.
2. Tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
The Tufted Evening Primrose is a stunning groundcover plant native to the Western U.S. and Mexico. Known for its large, showy-white flowers that fade to pink in spring and fall, this plant adds a touch of elegance to any landscape. Its flowers are not only beautiful but also fragrant, opening from dusk to early morning.
Tufted Evening Primrose grows well in full sun to partial sun conditions and withstands temperatures as low as 10°F (-12.2°C). It requires low to moderate watering, making it a water-efficient choice for your garden. This plant can grow up to 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide (30cm tall and 60 cm wide). It forms a clumping shape, providing good ground coverage.
3. Blue Euphorbia (Euphorbia rigida)
Blue Euphorbia is a Mediterranean groundcover plant that loves full sun and can handle temperatures down to 15°F (about -9°C). A slow to moderate grower, it reaches about 2 feet (60 cm) high and 3 feet (90 cm) wide. Its evergreen, blue-green leaves have a coarse texture.
This grass alternative features green flowers in winter and spring. The sap can irritate the skin. It’s low-litter, thorn-free, rabbit-resistant, and pool-friendly.
4. Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
Damianita is a small shrub that loves the sun and requires little water once established.
This evergreen plant loves full or reflected sun and is hardy to 0°F (-18°C). A slow grower, it tops out at about a foot tall (30cm) and 2 feet wide (60cm).
Expect yellow daisy-like flowers in spring and fall, but the dark green leaves are vibrant throughout the year. Low litter and thorn free, it’s definitely a pool-friendly plant and a good choice for a low-water-use groundcover.
5. Creeping Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Prostratum’)
A favorite of many people, Creeping Germander is a lawn alternative that loves full sun (8-12 hours/day) and needs moderate water. It’s hardy, handling temperatures down to 0°F (-18°C). Creeping Germander grows to about 1 foot (30cm) high and 3 feet (90cm) wide.
Its evergreen, medium-green leaves stay vibrant all year round, and it’s thorn-free and non-allergenic. You’ll love its pale pink flowers that bloom in winter and spring. Plus, it’s a great poolside pick, thanks to its low litter.
Lawn Alternatives: 10 Low-Water-Use Groundcovers for Hot Climates
6. Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
Often considered one of the easiest plants to grow, Lantana is perfect for hot, sunny areas. This lawn alternative is drought-tolerant and produces clusters of lavender or white flowers from spring through winter.
Hardy to only 25°F (-3.9°C), you may need to cover it if we have a frost event. Trailing Lantana stands about 1 foot (30cm) tall with a spread of approximately 4 feet (120cm). The sap may irritate the skin; wear gloves when pruning. My favorite part about Lantana is all of the wildlife it attracts. As a bonus, it is also rabbit-resistant.
7. Bush Morning Glory (Convolvulus cneorum)
Bush Morning Glory is a fast-growing groundcover native to Southern Europe. Thriving in full sun or reflected light, it can withstand temperatures as low as 15°F (-9.4°C) and requires very little water. The silvery-gray, medium-textured, evergreen foliage provides a nice contrast to its funnel-shaped white flowers. It forms a mounding shape that can reach 2 feet (60 cm) in height and spread up to 3 feet (90cm) wide.
You’ll notice that pollinators love the showy white flowers. It’s a low-litter plant with no thorns, making it pool-friendly. Plus, it doesn’t cause allergies or skin irritation, making it a great lawn alternative for any landscape.
8. Myoporum (Myoporum parvifolium)
Myoporum is one of my top choices for a low-growing and fast-spreading lawn alternative. It’s evergreen, drought-tolerant, and thrives in full sun to partial shade. Myoporum can handle temperatures as low as 20°F (-6.7°C). It requires low to moderate watering and even grows well in sloping areas.
Reaching a mature height of 1 foot (30cm) and spreading up to 6 feet (180cm), this lawn alternative provides good cover and is an excellent choice for pool areas and containers. Its bright green, medium-textured foliage is evergreen with small white flowers in the spring.
Myoporum is a low-litter plant with no thorns. However, be cautious not to overwater this plant as it may lead to its death (I learned this the hard way!).
9. Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’)
Trailing Rosemary is a fragrant groundcover that thrives in full sun. It withstands temperatures as low as 15°F (-9.4°C) and requires low amounts of water.
With a moderate growth rate, it grows about 2 feet (60cm) high and 4 feet (120cm) wide. The leaves are evergreen, and you can expect beautiful blue flowers (that the bees love!) in the spring and winter months.
Rosemary is an excellent choice for gardeners looking for an edible, low-water-use groundcover. Learn more about how to grow rosemary in this blog post.
10. Yellow Dot (Sphagneticola trilobata)
Yellow Dot, or Wedelia, is a sun-loving lawn alternative with evergreen leaves and yellow daisy-like flowers in spring and summer. Its moderate water usage makes it a fast spreader, perfect for quickly covering large areas or containers.
Yellow Dot thrives in various lighting conditions, from full sun to shade, and can withstand temperatures as low as 30°F (-1°C). This lawn alternative has a mature height of about 2 feet (60cm) and can spread up to 6 feet (1.8 m), forming a trailing shape.
This low-litter grass alternative has no thorns but is allergenic, and the sap can irritate the skin. It’s pool-friendly and a versatile choice for various landscaping designs. However, keep an eye on its growth as it can become invasive if not managed.
Choosing any of these low-water-use groundcovers creates a more sustainable, water-efficient, and visually-appealing alternative to traditional grass or artificial turf.
Read this post for more information about how to remove Bermuda grass without chemicals.
Want to save water and create a gorgeous, eco-friendly landscape? Learn why replacing grass lawns with low-water-use groundcovers is a good idea.
In this article, learn more about using cover crops during summer to improve garden soil.
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Sources for this article about lawn alternatives: 10 Low-Water-Use Groundcovers for Hot Climates
Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert, A Guide to Growing More Than 200 Low-Water Use Plants, published by Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (check local nurseries for free copies).