Best Grass Alternatives for Minnesota Landscapes

Last updated on November 9, 2023

Discover a variety of eco-friendly grass alternatives for your Minnesota landscape in this comprehensive guide to create sustainable and low-maintenance lawns.

Welcome to my blog, where I share creative ideas for home decor that won’t break the bank. Today, we’re talking about grass alternatives in Minnesota.

As beautiful as a lush green lawn can be, it’s not always practical or sustainable. Harsh winters and hot summers can take a toll on your grass, leaving you with brown patches and high water bills.

But fear not! There are plenty of alternative options that can give your yard just as much character and curb appeal without the hassle or expense of traditional grass lawns. So let’s dive in and explore some unique ways to transform your outdoor space into a stunning oasis that will make your neighbors green with envy!

Benefits of Choosing Grass Alternatives

benefits of choosing grass alternatives

For starters, they require less water and maintenance, which can save you time and money in the long run. In Minnesota’s climate, where droughts are common during summer months and heavy snowfall is expected in winter, choosing an alternative to grass makes perfect sense.

Another advantage of using groundcovers or other types of plants instead of turfgrass is their ability to attract wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Native plants provide food sources for pollinators while also creating habitats for them to thrive.

Moreover, many grass alternatives are eco-friendly options that reduce your carbon footprint by eliminating the need for gas-powered mowers or chemical fertilizers. This means you’ll be doing your part to help preserve our planet while still enjoying a beautiful outdoor space.

Lastly but not least important: Grass alternatives add visual interest with unique textures and colors that create depth in your landscape design. From creeping thyme’s delicate purple flowers to sedum’s succulent leaves changing color throughout the seasons; there are plenty of options available depending on what look you’re going for!

Why Choose Alternatives to Grass in Upper Midwest States?

why choose alternatives to grass in upper midwest states

The harsh winters and hot summers can take a toll on your yard, leaving it looking patchy and brown. But there are other reasons to consider alternatives to grass as well.

For one thing, many of these options require less water than traditional lawns. This is especially important in areas where water conservation is a concern or where droughts are common.

Another benefit of choosing alternative groundcovers is that they often require less maintenance than grass lawns do. Many native plants and ornamental grasses thrive with minimal care once established, which means less time spent mowing and watering your lawn.

Using alternative groundcovers instead of turfgrass can help support local ecosystems by providing habitat for pollinators like bees and butterflies or food sources for birds.

Native Groundcovers for Minnesota

native groundcovers for minnesota

Not only do they require less water and fertilizer than turfgrass, but they also provide important habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

In Minnesota, there are several native groundcover options that can thrive in a variety of soil types and light conditions. For example, wild ginger is a shade-loving plant with heart-shaped leaves that can add texture to your landscape while providing food for bees.

Another great choice is creeping phlox which produces beautiful pink or purple flowers in the springtime.

Other popular choices include prairie smoke with its unique seed heads resembling puffs of smoke; wild strawberry which produces edible fruit; or woodland stonecrop which has succulent foliage perfect as an accent plant between stepping stones.

When choosing native groundcovers it’s essential to consider their growth habits carefully since some species may spread aggressively if not managed correctly.

Ground Cover Plants for Minnesota Lawns

ground cover plants for minnesota lawns

These plants are typically hardy, drought-resistant, and require little maintenance once established. Plus, they come in a variety of colors and textures that can add visual interest to your yard.

In Minnesota’s climate conditions with harsh winters and hot summers, it is important to choose ground covers that can withstand these extreme temperatures. Some popular options include creeping phlox which produces beautiful pink or purple flowers in spring; sedum which comes in many varieties including stonecrop sedum; ajuga which has deep green leaves with blue-purple flowers; or thyme which releases fragrant oils when stepped on.

Ground cover plants not only provide an attractive lawn alternative but also offer other benefits such as erosion control by holding soil together during heavy rains or windstorms. They also help reduce water runoff by absorbing rainwater into the soil instead of letting it flow away from your property.

When choosing ground covers for your lawn area make sure you select species appropriate for Minnesota’s USDA plant hardiness zones 3-5 depending on where you live within the state.

Native Grass Alternatives for Minnesota

native grass alternatives for minnesota

These plants are adapted to the local environment and require less maintenance than non-native species. They also provide habitat for wildlife, prevent erosion, and help filter pollutants from runoff.

Some popular native grass options include big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass, prairie dropseed and Indian grass. Big Bluestem is a tall (up to 8 feet) warm-season perennial with blue-green leaves that turn reddish-brown in fall; Little Bluestem grows up to 4 feet tall with silvery-blue stems turning coppery-red in autumn; Switchgrass can grow up to six feet high with deep roots making it drought-tolerant; Prairie Dropseed has fine-textured foliage growing about two-feet-high forming dense clumps while Indian Grass reaches heights of five-to-six-feet producing golden seed heads.

Drought-Tolerant Grass Options

drought tolerant grass options

That’s why it’s important to consider drought-tolerant grass options for your lawn. These types of grasses are designed to withstand long periods without water and require less maintenance overall.

One popular option is buffalo grass, which is native to the Great Plains region and has deep roots that allow it to survive even during extended dry spells. Another choice is Bermuda grass, which thrives in hot climates and requires minimal watering once established.

Zoysia grass is another excellent choice for those looking for a low-maintenance alternative that can handle heat and drought conditions with ease. This type of turfgrass grows slowly but forms a dense mat over time, making it ideal for high-traffic areas like backyards or sports fields.

No matter what type of drought-tolerant option you choose, make sure to properly prepare your soil before planting by adding compost or other organic materials as needed.

Eco-Friendly Lawn Alternatives

eco friendly lawn alternatives

For example, consider using clover as a ground cover instead of traditional grass. Clover is nitrogen-fixing, which means it can help fertilize your soil naturally without the need for chemical fertilizers.

Another option is to use ornamental grasses in place of traditional turfgrass lawns. Ornamental grasses require less water and maintenance than regular lawns while still providing texture and visual interest.

You could also try planting wildflowers or native plants in designated areas around your yard instead of maintaining large swaths of lawn. This approach not only reduces water usage but also provides habitat for pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Wildlife-Friendly Grass Alternatives

wildlife friendly grass alternatives

Native plants are always a good choice as they provide food and shelter for the animals that call Minnesota home. Some examples include wildflowers like purple coneflower or black-eyed Susan which can be planted in clusters throughout your lawn area.

Another option is planting clover instead of traditional grass lawns. Clover provides nectar for pollinators such as honeybees while also fixing nitrogen into the soil which helps fertilize nearby plants naturally.

You could also consider planting ornamental grasses like switchgrass or little bluestem which offer nesting sites and cover for small mammals such as rabbits or voles.

Low-Maintenance Turfgrass Species

low maintenance turfgrass species

These varieties have been specifically bred to withstand harsh weather conditions and require less water and fertilizer than traditional grass lawns.

One popular choice is fine fescue, which comes in several different types such as creeping red fescue or chewings fescue. Fine fescues grow slowly and don’t need frequent mowing, making them ideal for those who want a lawn that looks great without much effort.

Another low-maintenance option is buffalo grass. This native prairie plant thrives in hot summers with little rainfall and can go weeks without watering once established.

It also doesn’t require fertilization or pesticides, making it an eco-friendly choice.

When choosing a low-maintenance turfgrass species for your Minnesota yard, consider factors like soil type, sun exposure levels throughout the day (full sun vs partial shade), foot traffic patterns on your lawn area(s), etc., to ensure optimal growth conditions.

Moss: A Sustainable Choice

moss a sustainable choice

It’s perfect for shady areas where grass struggles to grow, and it requires no mowing or watering once established. Moss also helps retain moisture in the soil, making it an excellent choice for drought-prone regions like Minnesota.

One of the best things about moss is its versatility. You can use it as a ground cover under trees or shrubs, between stepping stones on garden paths, or even as a living wall art installation.

To establish moss in your yard, you’ll need to create ideal growing conditions by removing any existing grass and weeds from the area you want to plant. Then loosen up the soil with a rake before adding compost or other organic matter that will help retain moisture.

Next comes planting time! You can either transplant small pieces of moss from another location (make sure they’re native species), sprinkle spores over damp soil then keep them moist until they germinate into new plants; alternatively buy pre-grown mats which are easier but more expensive option.

Benefits of Clover Lawns

benefits of clover lawns

Not only do they require less maintenance than grass, but they also offer several benefits that make them an attractive option for homeowners in Minnesota.

One of the main advantages of clover is its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. This means that it can take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that plants can use as fertilizer.

As a result, clover doesn’t need additional fertilization like traditional grass does.

Another benefit of clover is its drought tolerance. Clover has deep roots which allow it to access water deeper in the soil than most other plants, making it more resistant to drought conditions.

Clovers are also beneficial for pollinators such as bees because they produce nectar-rich flowers throughout their growing season which attract these important insects. Lastly, if you’re looking for an eco-friendly lawn alternative then look no further! Clover requires less watering and mowing compared with regular turfgrass lawns; this makes them not only low-maintenance but environmentally friendly too!

Creeping Thyme As Groundcover

creeping thyme as groundcover

This hardy plant can withstand harsh winters and hot summers, making it a great alternative to traditional grass lawns. Creeping thyme requires little maintenance once established and will spread quickly to fill in bare spots in your yard.

One of the benefits of creeping thyme is its ability to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies with its sweet-smelling flowers. It also releases essential oils when stepped on or mowed, creating a pleasant aroma that adds another dimension to your outdoor space.

To establish creeping thyme as groundcover, you’ll need well-draining soil with full sun exposure. Plant seedlings about 6-12 inches apart in early spring or fall after the last frost has passed.

Water regularly until established but avoid overwatering as this can lead to root rot.

Once established, creeping thyme requires very little care other than occasional pruning if it becomes too thick or starts encroaching on other plants’ territory.

Choosing the Right Sedum

choosing the right sedum

With over 400 species, sedums come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. They are drought-tolerant and require minimal watering once established.

When choosing the right sedum for your lawn or garden bed in Minnesota, consider factors such as sunlight exposure, soil type, drainage conditions and hardiness zone. Some popular varieties of sedums include Dragon’s Blood Sedum (Sedum spurium), Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum spectabile) , Blue Spruce Stonecrop (Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf’), Angelina Stonecrop (sedeveria ‘Jet Beads’) among others.

Dragon’s Blood Sedums have bright red flowers that bloom from late spring through summer while Autumn Joy has pinkish-red blooms that appear later in the season – both are great options if you’re looking for colorful ground cover plants with attractive foliage.

If you want something more unique-looking than typical greenery or flowering plants then Blue Spruce Stonecrop might be perfect! It has blue-green leaves shaped like little pine needles which give it a distinctive look compared to other types of succulents commonly used as groundcovers. Angelina stonecrops have yellow-green needle-like foliage which turns orange during winter months making them ideal for adding color contrast throughout the year.

Ornamental Grasses for Minnesota

ornamental grasses for minnesota

These grasses come in a variety of colors, heights, and textures that can complement any garden design. They’re also low-maintenance and drought-tolerant once established.

Some popular ornamental grass species for Minnesota include:.

  • Little Bluestem: This native prairie grass has blue-green foliage that turns reddish-orange in the fall.
  • Switchgrass: Another native prairie plant with tall stems topped by airy seed heads.
  • Feather Reed Grass: A cool-season clumping perennial with narrow green leaves topped by feathery pink or purple flowers.
  • Japanese Silver Grass: A showy warm-season ornamental with variegated white-and-green leaves that turn bronze in the fall.

When choosing an ornamental grass for your yard, consider its mature size and growth habit as well as its sun exposure requirements. Some varieties prefer full sun while others tolerate partial shade.

Ornamental grasses can be used as borders or accents around trees or water features; they also look great when planted en masse.

Prairie Restoration Approaches

prairie restoration approaches

This approach involves planting native grasses and wildflowers to create a natural landscape that requires little maintenance once established. Prairie restoration is not only eco-friendly but also provides habitat for wildlife such as birds, butterflies, and bees.

To get started with prairie restoration in Minnesota, it’s important to choose the right plants for your soil type and climate zone. Some popular options include big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass, Indian grasses as well as coneflowers or black-eyed Susans.

Once you’ve selected your plants of choice (which can be purchased from local nurseries), prepare the area by removing any existing vegetation or weeds before planting in early spring or late fall when temperatures are cooler. Be sure to water regularly until the roots have become established.

Perennial Plant Border Disguises

perennial plant border disguises

Perennials are low-maintenance, long-lasting plants that come back year after year. They can be used as borders or accents in any garden design.

Some popular options for Minnesota include Black-eyed Susan, Coneflower, Daylily, Hosta and Sedum. These perennials offer a range of colors from bright yellows to deep purples that will complement any grass alternative you choose.

When selecting perennials for your yard’s border disguise keep in mind their height at maturity so they don’t overshadow the rest of your landscape design elements. You’ll want them tall enough to create an effective barrier but not too tall where they become overwhelming or block out other features like trees or shrubs.

Pros and Cons of Artificial Turf

pros and cons of artificial turf

It’s easy to see why: synthetic grass requires no watering, mowing or fertilizing and stays green year-round. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.


  • Low maintenance
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Conserves water resources
  • Looks great all year round


  • Expensive upfront cost
  • Can get hot in direct sunlight
  • Not biodegradable or recyclable
  • May not be suitable for pets

Artificial turf may be a good option for those who want an always-green lawn without the hassle of traditional grass upkeep.

How to Establish a Grass Alternative Lawn

how to establish a grass alternative lawn

The process will vary depending on the type of ground cover you choose, but there are some general steps that apply across the board.

Firstly, prepare your soil by removing any existing grass or weeds and loosening up the topsoil. This will help ensure good drainage and root growth for your new plants.

Next, consider adding compost or other organic matter to enrich the soil and provide nutrients for your plants. You may also need to adjust pH levels if necessary based on what type of plant you’ve chosen.

Once you’ve prepared your soil bed thoroughly, lay down a layer of mulch over it before planting anything. Mulch helps retain moisture in dry conditions while suppressing weed growth at all times.

Plant according to instructions provided with each species’ seedlings or plugs (if using). Water regularly until established – usually about 6-8 weeks after planting – then reduce watering frequency as needed based on rainfall patterns in Minnesota’s climate zone!

Choosing the Right Grass Alternative for Your Yard

choosing the right grass alternative for your yard

Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:.

1. Climate: Consider the climate in your area and choose a grass alternative that can thrive in those conditions.

2. Sunlight: Some groundcovers require full sun, while others prefer shade or partial shade.

3. Watering Needs: Choose an option that requires minimal watering if you want to save on water bills and conserve resources.

4. Maintenance Level: Determine how much maintenance you’re willing to put into maintaining your lawn alternative before choosing one.

5. Aesthetic Appeal: Think about what look you want for your yard and select an option accordingly – whether it be lush greenery or colorful blooms!

By taking these factors into account, you’ll be able to find a grass alternative that suits both practicality and aesthetics needs perfectly!.


What is the best ground cover to replace grass in Minnesota?

The best ground cover to replace grass in Minnesota is stonecrop, as it thrives in thick, dry, and clay-type soils, proving highly resilient.

What is the best grass for no mow in Minnesota?

The best grass for no mow in Minnesota is fescue, as it is well-suited for wet and cold winters, drought-tolerant in summer, and sustains soil moisture with its deep root system.

What is the lowest maintenance grass?

The lowest maintenance grass is Zoysia Grass, as it can grow in various conditions with a deep root system and is highly drought-tolerant, requiring less water than other grass types.

What are some eco-friendly alternatives to traditional grass lawns in Minnesota?

Some eco-friendly alternatives to traditional grass lawns in Minnesota include native plants, ground covers, and eco-friendly turf grasses.

How do native Minnesota plants contribute to creating a low-maintenance landscape?

Native Minnesota plants contribute to creating a low-maintenance landscape by being well-adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, thereby requiring less water, fertilizer, and overall maintenance.

What factors should be considered when selecting ground cover plants for different areas in Minnesota?

"Key factors to consider when selecting ground cover plants for different areas in Minnesota include hardiness zone, soil type, sunlight exposure, and moisture requirements."


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