Grass replacement

Asked March 16, 2020, 11:47 AM EDT

I live in the city of Annapolis.Instead of a grass lawn I'm looking for a ground cover that is using best practices and am considering mini clover. Is it indigenous? do you have a better suggestion? any reason why I should not use it? My property has two storm drains just off the curb and two across the street. Don't want to use any chemicals or pesticides. Thank you.

Anne Arundel County Maryland

1 Response

"Micro-clovers" are a dwarf form of "regular" European Clover, so alas, while useful lawn additives (or replacements), they are not native. You can certainly try using it, but you may wish to diversify and use a combination of ground-covering species for both seasonal interest and lessening the impact of a potential pest or disease outbreak. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lawns-and-microclover

For lawn alternatives, there are a number of suggestions here, depending on desired use and growing conditions: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lawn-alternatives. We also have a sample list of groundcover ideas here: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/groundcover-list.

Native options - especially if you want to provide pollinator benefit, like with the clover - include but are in no way limited to the following list. (This assumes a fairly sunny site with good drainage, as where clover and lawn would be grown; shade or wet-soil options would be different.)

  • Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) and Downy Phlox (P. pilosa)
  • Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia) - this serves as a host plant for the American Lady butterfly
  • Heath Aster (Aster ericoides, a.k.a. Symphyotrichum ericoides) - variety 'Snow Flurry' stays short and broad and is covered with late-season flowers valued by pollinators
  • Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is an evergreen carpeting shrublet that can produce red berries
  • Green-and-Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
  • Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
  • Aromatic Sumac (Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low') - taller than some of these perennials, this is a good spreader this great fall foliage color
  • if moist enough or partially-shaded otherwise, Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) can be an attractive but perhaps somewhat aggressive foliage filler; it will be less aggressive if in sun without extra moisture
  • spreading forms of Common Juniper (Juniperus communis, like varieties 'Green Carpet' and 'Alpine Carpet') are very low and broad, will provide winter interest, possibly some berries for birds, and generally a nice leafy filler between other plants
Non-native but well-behaved options include various carpeting Sedums, Verbena canadensis, Lamb's-Ear (Stachys byzantina), Ice Plant (Delosperma), St. Johnswort (Hypericum; there are natives, but most of these are upright shrubs), Thymes (Thymus), Oregano (Origanum), Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides), other creeping Junipers, Cotoneasters, and creeping species of Bellflowers (Campanula).

Miri