Home & Garden

The lowdown on dymondia and three other lawn alternatives

GardeningLifestyle and LeisureDroughts and Heat Waves

Do you have any suggestions for drought-tolerant, kid-friendly ground cover? We've read that dymondia works well to fill in space between pavers but haven't found any talk of how well this plant works as a grass substitute, spread across a yard.

Can our kids walk barefoot? Will the dymondia attract bees? And will it flourish in an area that gets sun and shade?

Julie Cho
Irvine

Many drought-tolerant, kid-friendly lawn alternatives thrive in Los Angeles and can save money and time in addition to water. As many municipalities work to reduce outdoor water use, you may be eligible for grants and rebates. Even if we were to set aside those upfront cash incentives, I'd estimate that a family replacing 1,000 square feet of grass with a smart alternative could save as much as $3,500 a year in water bills, mowing service fees and other related maintenance costs.

Dymondia comes from the Western Cape of South Africa, where the climate is similar to our own. It is drought-tolerant. It thrives in full sun and can tolerate partial shade inland. Bees tend to ignore it until the silvery foliage erupts with dainty, daisy-like flowers in summer. But the larger consideration: Anything more than light foot traffic presents problems.

To keep dymondia lush, my firm tends to use it with stepping stones in high traffic areas. When first planted, dymondia will need generous watering, thick mulch and regular weeding for about six months, or until it spreads to cover open spaces.

Dymondia is wonderful, but a few other lawn alternatives are worth consideration. Given that you're looking for ground cover that can accommodate high levels of activity and be bee-free year-round, I think you would be happiest with a different lawn alternative. Each of the following will help you retire your mower, avoid chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and conserve water as well as create a lush, beautiful space for your family:

Carex pansa. A California native sedge, Carex pansa can take almost any amount of foot traffic. It emulates the true green of a traditional lawn, yet, because it has thicker blades (like soccer field grass), it's tougher and needs 50% to 70% less water. Planted in plugs, it grows in 6-to-8-inch-tall mounds. The plugs form a solid ground cover in three to six months. With an occasional mow, it will be flat and foot friendly — and free of bees.

Carex glauca. With fluffy, beautiful blades — a little narrower than Carex pansa and similar in color to dymondia — Carex glauca is another good choice. It spreads rapidly, and, if you accept blades that are 6 to 8 inches tall, it never needs mowing. The effect is akin to a meadow, with blades that are exceptionally soft to the touch. If you want Carex glauca to lie flat underfoot, simply mow it once per month. It produces seed heads, not flowers, so it attracts few bees. As a spreader, it does need edging or mulch to hold it to its territory.

UC Verde. Also known as Bouteloua dactyloides, this plant looks like Carex pansa with a finer texture. It performs like a Bermuda grass lawn. A chartreuse blanket takes three to six months to establish from plugs. It will need weeding while it's getting established, and with the exception of a brief dormant period in summer, it has great color most of the year.

—Cassy Aoyagi

Cassy Aoyagi is co-founder and president of FormLA Landscaping, www.formlainc.com. She is an accredited designer in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, a licensed contractor and board president of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants.

We welcome readers' gardening questions, design or otherwise, at home@latimes.com. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can respond only to inquiries selected for publication.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
GardeningLifestyle and LeisureDroughts and Heat Waves
  • Growing taro for more than its roots
    Growing taro for more than its roots

    Even during the coldest time of the year, gardener Suky Sung Lee enjoys her taro, the “potato of the tropics.” She doesn't eat the tennis-ball-size tubers, but rather the strips of the fibrous stems, which she peeled and dried in the sun last summer to make torandae, dried...

  • Rodney Walker one-bedroom tree house, returned to midcentury roots
    Rodney Walker one-bedroom tree house, returned to midcentury roots

    When Molly Stanton first looked at the 1,000-square-foot Santa Monica home being sold by actress Noel Neill, best known for playing Lois Lane opposite George Reeves in the 1950s TV series “Adventures of Superman,” Stanton knew the house had some termite damage, some structural...

  • Home organization: Modern designs for every room
    Home organization: Modern designs for every room

    Is this year's resolution to banish clutter, again? At least this time around you've got more options for help: desk organizers, closet helpers, even an ingenious medicine cabinet. The best new home organization tools make the most of space you have -- and don't look too bad,...

  • Alison Berger's glassworks branches into crystal and lighting fixtures
    Alison Berger's glassworks branches into crystal and lighting fixtures

    For Alison Berger, the journey to becoming a designer of fine hand-blown crystal and handsomely engineered lighting fixtures began with childhood summer nights catching fireflies in jars.

  • More California gardeners go native
    More California gardeners go native

    Landscaping with California native plants has probably never been more compelling than it is today, when gardeners throughout Southern California are taking drastic measures to keep their yards looking green or, at the very least, alive.

  • Ojai shops reflect the town's artistic soul
    Ojai shops reflect the town's artistic soul

    Ojai, a scenic little agricultural city, has for the better part of a century lured individuals pursuing spiritual enlightenment and artists seeking inspiration and calm. Now a new crop of makers and merchants is traveling the 90 miles north of Los Angeles to bask in Ojai's groovy,...

Comments
Loading