Many types of groundcovers can substitute for thirsty lawns and provide a neat appearance.

Great Groundcovers To Consider as Lawn Substitutes

You may have decided to replace your thirsty traditional lawn in your new sustainable landscape. What options are available for  some kind of natural plant element rather than covering the same area with hardscaping?  

Consider replacing the lawn with a groundcover type plant. There are many good choices that make good lawn substitutes and grow well in San Diego’s six climate zones. Several of them fall into the very low or low Plant Factor categories, which means they require less water than the same amount of grass.  

Very Low Plant Factor choices include: 

  • Silver Carpet (Dymondia margaretae) 
  • Bluff California Lilac (Ceanothus maritimus)

Low Plant Factor choices include:  

Lawn Substitutes groundcovers

Bee’s bliss sage also attracts valuable pollinators.

  • Pink Yarrow (Achillea millefolium rosea) 
  • Gold Coin Plant (Asteriscus maritumus) 
  • Sundrops (Calylophus hartwegii)
    Carmel Mountain ceanothus 
  • Dwarf Mat Rush (Lomandra longfolia) 
  • Bee’s Bliss Sage (Salvia) 
  • Wooly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanguinosus) 
  • Blue Chalksticks (Senecio serpens) 

Moderate Plant Factor choices include: 

Beach Strawberry lawn substitutes

Beach Strawberry makes an attractive lawn substitute.

  • Creeping Manzanita ‘Carmel Sur’ (Arctostaphylos edmunsii) 
  • Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) 
  • Pink yarrow, sages, and lilacs also support the lifecycle of butterflies, which are important pollinators.  

This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at   

READ MORE: Inspiring Charge At The Water Conservation Garden