Top 8 Lawn Alternatives (Australian Guide)

Are you tired of the amount of time it takes to keep your lawn in tip-top condition? Or, perhaps you have a shaded area where you struggle to maintain a healthy and lush lawn.

I have an area out the back that is shaded in summer by two large pear trees. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to grow some grass in this area and have decided that it’s time to try some other alternatives. 

I’m going to grow some shade-loving plants in part of this garden and have already planted some Hellebores. But, I’d also like a reasonable ground cover that is low-growing and easy to maintain as there’s a clothesline in this spot surrounded by a few concrete pavers.

So, I went and did some research to see what I could find and am happy to share this with you. Some of the lawn alternatives I’ve come across will grow in sunny spots while there are also some that will grow in shade. Here’s what I found.

Microlaena stipoides (Weeping Grass)

Microlaena stipoides | Lawn care
Microlaena stipoides / Photo by Harry Rose / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This is a native grass that thrives in wet conditions and grows during the colder months. It’s also drought-tolerant and can handle frosts. It will spread over an area quite well and can even be mown.

While it’s not recommended for heavy traffic areas, it will grow in both sun and shade.

Austrodanthonia (Wallaby Grass)

Austrodanthonia caespitosa Wallaby grass | Lawn care
Austrodanthonia caespitosa / Photo by Harry Rose / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This is another native grass species that is very popular as a pasture grass. It grows in tufts and prefers to grow in temperate zones around the country. It’s both drought and frost-tolerant and will generally grow to a height of up to 80 cm.

You can mow this grass species but you should take care to not mow lower than 4 cm.

Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass)

Themeda triandra Kangaroo Grass 2 | Lawn care
Themeda triandra / Photo by Harry Rose / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

This is a lovely decorative native grass species that changes colour with the changing seasons, going from green to maroon. It’s also a tufted grass species but it can be mown twice a year as it will reach a height of up to 90 cm.

Like the other native grasses mentioned, Themeda triandra is also drought tolerant, however, it doesn’t like frost.

Bothriochloa macra (Redgrass)

Bothriochloa macra | Lawn care
Bothriochloa macra / Photo by Harry Rose / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The final native grass species that is suitable as a lawn alternative is redgrass. This species is a warm-season grass and grows using runners. This makes it more like a traditional lawn if that’s the look that you’re after.

This species is particularly good for coastal areas and is drought-tolerant but doesn’t like frost. And the best part is that it only grows to a height of 10 cm, so it never needs to be mowed.

Pratia puberula (Blue Star Creeper)

For something a little different for low-traffic areas, why not consider this Australian native groundcover? It has lovely deep green foliage with tiny rounded leaves and pretty pale blue flowers.

This attractive ground cover will handle light foot traffic and prefers a semi-shaded area rather than full sun. It only grows to a height of 10 cm and is fast-growing. This variety is definitely going to the top of my list.

Dichondra repens (Kidney Weed)

Dichondra repens Kidneyweed 3 | Lawn care

This is another species that I really like because it forms a gorgeous deep green ground cover and will grow well in shady spots. It’s actually become a favourite lawn alternative here in Australia, especially as a ground cover for areas that also have paving stones.

Being quite versatile, Dichondra repens will also grow in full sun and can handle light foot traffic. Best of all, this is an Australian native that is both drought and frost tolerant and never requires mowing.

Chamaemelum nobile treneague (Lawn Chamomile)

Chamaemelum nobile treneague Lawn Chamomile | Lawn care

Chamomile has long been used as a lawn alternative in European gardens and will grow just as well in the cooler regions of the country. The plant forms a low mat with lovely green feathery leaves.

This apple-scented herb is perfect for semi-shaded spots that don’t get a lot of foot traffic. It can also be mown occasionally to produce a thicker and denser growth. Unlike normal chamomile, this species does not produce flowers.

However, if you do want a lawn alternative that produces those lovely chamomile flowers, you should consider growing Chamaemelum nobile instead. It has a similar growth habit and will reach a height of around 15 cm.

Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort)

Herniaria glabra Rupturewort | Lawn care

This is another herb that can be used as a lawn alternative. It grows well in most parts of Australia and each plant will spread to around 50 cm. It has attractive soft, green leaves that have a musky scent when walked on. 

One advantage of this species is that it will tolerate heavy traffic and is lovely and soft underfoot. During the cooler months, the foliage will turn a pretty bronze or red colour. However, this is a slow-growing plant so you’ll need quite a few plants to cover your existing lawn area.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


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