Lawn Grass Alternatives

Asked April 21, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT

I am a Baltimore County resident living in Gwynn Oak. I have about 1/4 acre lot with a single family home. My hilly landscape makes it extremely difficult to mow my lawn. I've been looking into grass alternatives and wanted to see if the Master Gardeners have any suggestions. My front yard and the sides of my house get full sun and my backyard is full shade. I really like the way fern moss looks and there is some already growing in the backyard that I may be able to cultivate. I also like the idea of a flowering lawn. I read up on some seed mixtures (like Fleur de Lawn), but they have mixed reviews on retail websites. If you have any tips or suggestions for resources or products, I would really appreciate it. Thank you very much!

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

We're not sure from your question, whether you want or are willing to mow the areas.
Here are some things to consider:
You might have good luck with some of the fine fescues such as sheep, hard, Chewings and creeping red. We've had the best luck with Hard fescue. All tolerate sun and shade, use little fertilizer and should only be mowed once or twice a year.
However, they will look a bit different than your standard lawn. Here is a UMD pub about them:

You also might want to establish beds of ground covers on the areas that are the steepest or shadiest. That can include ferns and many flowering plants. We have a publication on our website with info and charts that will help you see some good choices:

Very few ground covers will tolerate foot traffic. You can put mulch paths or stepping stones in traffic ways that must be walked.

Whatever you do, do not be tempted to plant non-native invasive plants that will damage the environment and can take over the neighborhood. English ivy is the number one disaster currently being sold as a ground cover. Try to use natives if you can and you want a healthy balanced landscape. Green and Gold, Canadian ginger, ferns, ground phlox and many other natives are available. Go to a knowledgeable nursery when you buy, but we'd be happy to answer any questions you have about ground covers.