9 No-Grass Backyard Ideas for Your Outdoor Space

For centuries, a well-kept green lawn has been the go-to symbol of a successful, traditional American home. But alas, all good things must come to an end.

Many homeowners have begun to realize that maintaining a perfectly manicured lawn is not an easy task. Especially if your landscape is on the larger side, watering, mowing, and weeding can easily take up an entire weekend. And maybe it’s just me, but one huge patch of uniform green grass is quite a boring choice for a yard… don’t you think?

Let’s face it, the manicured lawn is falling out of style. And if you are ready to explore no-grass backyard ideas and alternatives, you’re not the only one. But the right choice for you can depend on many factors, so it might be difficult to figure out how to make your backyard work perfectly for you and your family. 

No matter how much space or money you have, native plants are one of the easiest no-grass alternatives to incorporate into your garden. They are easy to establish in the ground or in containers, and over time you will find that they save you time and money due to their drought tolerance and hardiness in your natural environment.

Ready to ditch the lawn mower and the manicured lawn for a more beautiful backyard garden? Here are a few of our favorite no-grass alternatives for your outdoor space.

9 Modern Backyard Ideas: No Grass, No Problem!

1. Modern planters

Large planter next to a house
©Blu Bambu Home and Garden / John Hooper

No matter what plants you choose in lieu of grass, they will need a place in your backyard to grow and thrive. In-ground planting is one option, but personally, my back hurts just thinking about leaning over flower beds and pulling weeds for months on end!

That’s why we here at Planters Etc. recommend fiberglass planters as one of the best grass alternatives for your backyard garden. In fact, fiberglass planters are the number one tool in the belt of expert landscape designers, architects, and gardeners who don’t want grass but want a beautiful garden.

For one, planters offer garden mobility. So if you notice that your heat-loving plants aren’t getting enough sunlight, you can easily move them to a sunnier spot. This is especially easy with our fiberglass planters because the composite material that we use in the manufacturing process is much more lightweight than competitor materials like stone and terracotta, making relocation a breeze.

Not only are our fiberglass planters lightweight, but they are also incredibly durable. As the seasons change and the snow falls and melts, your planters will not weather or crack. As a result, you can display your planters in almost any environment, indoors or outdoors, without compromising the look of your backyard or the health of your plants.

Containers will also protect your plants from their natural enemies: weeds and pests. This means a better life for your plants and fewer gardening chores for you!

No matter how much (or how little!) space you have in your backyard, there are infinite ways to incorporate planters in your beautiful backyard oasis. To get started, check out our beginner’s guide to container gardening.

2. Artificial grass

fake grass
©小谢 / Unsplash

If you love the natural look of grass but you’re tired of mowing the lawn, artificial turf may be a great option.

Artificial turf requires much less maintenance than regular grass, so you’ll spend less time and money on watering, fertilizing, weeding, and mowing. It is also highly durable, so your artificial grass will keep its fresh green appearance regardless of the weather conditions. Not to mention, it’s affordable and easy to set up… you can even purchase a DIY kit on Amazon!

However, there are some drawbacks to artificial turf. Since artificial grass is made of plastic, it’s not always the most environmentally friendly option, as many companies that produce artificial turf create lots of pollution and waste in the process. Additionally, artificial grass is not a good home for the natural wildlife in your region, this will reduce biodiversity in your garden. 

3. Rock garden

a zen garden corner with rock decorative
©sarahdonisi / Unsplash

According to Japanese zen garden philosophy, rocks are said to be a symbol of nature’s permanence and strength. So if you are looking for a low-maintenance alternative to grass, a rock garden is another smart lawn substitute for your backyard.

There are many different ways to use rocks in your yard landscape. Pea gravel is great for decorative purposes around large yard fixtures like a fire pit, and also on walkways and driveways. This small variety of river rock can help to provide better drainage for your plants, both in-ground and in containers. 

Large rocks are more suited for accenting spaces in your garden or edging your yard.

If your garden is a mostly flat area, a rock garden could be a great choice for you. But if you are gardening on an inclined or slanted surface, the rocks will tend to gravitate towards the bottom of your landscape over time, especially in high-traffic areas or rainy weather. A rake or leaf blower can easily rearrange pea gravel, but depending on the size of your large rocks, it may take a lot of work to haul them back to the top of your slope every season.

4. Patio pavers

Planter in front yard
©Jay Scotts / Lasting-Greenery

If you are less interested in Zen and more drawn to the hustle and bustle of the city streets, patio pavers can be used to turn any grass lawn into your own version of a concrete jungle.

Besides concrete, there are plenty of other materials to help you get this aesthetic in your backyard. Natural stone, such as bluestone and flagstone, are more durable than your average concrete patio, but they are a bit more on the expensive side.

If you prefer a cheap no grass backyard alternative for your patio, stamped concrete is a good choice. It’s a bit more affordable than authentic stone, and it can be made to look like almost any other material, from tile to brick. It’s quite durable, but is prone to cracking over time. Sealing can help to protect your stepping stones from seasonal water damage and staining.

Photo: Stepping stones around a fire pit

5. Mulch

©Rob Evel / Unsplash

Mulch is popular in many gardens and landscape designs for lots of different reasons. Certain materials can prevent weeds in your flower beds, while others, such as rubber mulch, can make for a soft, safe landing area at the outdoor play area in your neighborhood.

Perhaps you used straw to cover your grass lawn before the grass seeds had germinated. Although we tend to think of wood or rubber, this is still technically mulch. Mulch is a general term for any kind of material used to cover the surface of the bare soil. 

Organic mulches, such as cedar or pine bark wood chips, are one of the best no-grass backyard ideas for your garden. While it is more on the expensive side, they add nutrients to the soil which will help to feed your plants and keep them healthy. It can be used in containers, or as a rustic ground cover to replace your grass lawn.

Some homeowners swear by cocoa hull mulch, which is an attractive dark brown mulch made from the shells of processed cocoa beans. However, cocoa hull mulch molds easily and might not be worth the higher cost if you live in a humid environment. Dog owners should also be careful not to use this material in their landscape design, as it is poisonous to many animals and wildlife. Other varieties include wood chips, which are a slightly safer and more affordable alternative for your garden.

Related: Awesome Inexpensive Desert Landscaping Ideas

6. Native Plants: The Antidote to your Manicured Lawn

©Jay Scotts / Our planters bring nature closer.

Using native plants is one of our all-time favorite no-grass backyard ideas. Native plants are the key to a beautiful low-maintenance yard.

Every region has a wide variety of different plants that have been growing there for centuries. These are usually referred to as native plants, and they are much more likely to thrive naturally in your garden than on regular grass.

One reason is that these species are already adapted to the regional water and soil conditions. Without the need to water and feed your garden every day, your backyard will require very little maintenance. Any spring blooms or summer fruits will attract local pollinators and wildlife, making it a wonderful option for a more bio-diverse garden.

Plus, it is widely known by now that incorporating the natural environment into our yards and living space can reduce stress and increase general health and well-being. After all, who wouldn’t love to come home and unwind in a beautiful backyard oasis every day?

Related: 7 Aesthetic Backyard Ideas

There are plenty of ways to incorporate native plants from your region into your backyard. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

7. Ground covers

©Joe Wiedenmeier / Unsplash

Ground covers are low-growing plants that fill in quickly to create a carpet-like bed of dense foliage. They naturally prevent weeds, protect the soils, and provide a winter home for many native animals.

Our favorite gardens use at least 3 different species of ground cover to enhance the sensory benefits for you and your neighbors, as well as create a more diverse habitat for wildlife. If you want to create even more visual appeal while providing shade for your garden, try planting trees, shrubs, and other large plants in your backyard as well.

8. Ornamental grasses

potsdam planters
©Planters Etcetera / Our planters are the first choice for developers and homeowners.

Ornamental grass is another alternative to the perfectly manicured lawn. Their various heights can allow for much more visual interest in your backyard than regular green grass. The fine texture of these plants can also create the illusion of a filled space, making them perfect additions to small backyards.

9. Tropical and Weather-hardy Plants

©Jay Scotts / Geomantic Designs | Landscape Architecture

Especially if you live in a naturally tropical area like Florida, tropical plants can be the perfect way to add native plants to your landscape. Consider using taller plants to create a tropical canopy and increase the visual curb appeal of your outdoor space.

Want to know more? Read our full guide to Planting With Native Plants

FAQ: Cheap Backyard Ideas for a Small Garden

What is the cheapest way to landscape a backyard?

This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on several factors. First, the size of your landscape is an important factor to consider. One of the best cheap no grass backyard ideas is to DIY (do it yourself). For example, you could pour concrete at home and make your own patio pavers. It may take more time, but it’s just one way to reduce the cost.

In our many years of experience, we’ve learned the best way to save money AND time is to make a smart investment in your no-grass backyard. After all, it’s better to spend your hard-earned money on good quality landscaping features that will last for many years, rather than cheap grass and planters that will end up costing more to repair and maintain in the long run.

Especially when it comes to the plants in your yard, it’s much better to spend a bit more on a high-quality planter than a cheap one that will rust and crack after a few seasons.

Our long-lasting, durable fiberglass planters are an excellent investment for your backyard or front yard landscape because they are resistant to damage from sun exposure and withstand the most extreme weather conditions and climates, so your pot will always look great and your plants will stay happy and healthy.

How can I make my small yard look nice?

Yard landscaping isn’t just for homeowners. If your space is limited, don’t worry! There are still plenty of ways to beautify your ‘backyard’… even if it is just a balcony or small patio in your apartment.

Personally, I think potted plants are one of the best ways to define a space. I always use plants in my windowsill to create privacy and give my apartment a boost of naturally gorgeous greenery. You can grow anything from cactus plants to vegetables in a container, and you can even grow plants in any corner of your home. No yard required!

no-grass backyard ideas with planters
©Jay Scotts / The Gates

Containers are a great way to add a charming, decorative twist to your living space. Our fiberglass plant pots are available in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and styles, so they will make a lovely addition to any home décor.

Related: How to Choose Planter Color

Final thoughts on the non-grassy knoll

Green grass lawns have long been one of the homes’ most popular garden features. But many are growing tired of regular gardening chores, like watering and mowing. If you are looking for a more low-maintenance garden, it might be time to ditch the manicured lawn.

There are many grass alternatives on the market, and depending on the size and use of your space, the right choice is different for every yard. But adding native plants is one of the best ways to replace your manicured lawn with a beautiful oasis that not only looks great, but also adds to the biodiversity of your garden.

With the right sun and shade conditions, many native plants will grow in your garden with little to no maintenance once they’ve been established. They grow well in the ground or containers, so you can find the perfect plant for any area of your home.

Create your dream backyard with our Jay Scotts planter collection

©Jay Scotts / Toulan Planters Work Great On The Front Porch

Whether you’d like to define the fire pit with some trees or create privacy around your swimming pool with a row of native ornamental grasses, Jay Scotts fiberglass planters are undoubtedly the leading planter brand for both commercial and residential applications and are available at retail through our store.

Jay Scotts fiberglass planters are made with natural resins which makes them much stronger and more durable than other planter materials on the market. Whereas plastic and terracotta are much more likely to crack and fissure due to temperature changes as the seasons come and go, fiberglass keeps its integrity for many years.

We finish our planters with automotive-grade paint and extra UV protectants to ensure that the planters in your no-grass backyard can withstand the elements without ever losing their color or shine.

Although, sometimes bad things just happen, especially in backyards where your planters are exposed to all kinds of conditions. If an intense thunderstorm knocks over your garden and damages a planter, don’t worry – fiberglass can be easily repaired and refinished.

So are you ready to create the backyard of your dreams? Planters Etcetera is ready to help you along on your transition from manicured lawn to a no-grass backyard oasis. With many colors and sizes of fiberglass planters available in our shop, you are sure to find the perfect style for your new no-grass backyard!

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