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Alternative Lawn Mix - Sun or Shade

Alternative Lawn Mix - Sun or Shade

Alternative lawns are becoming more and more popular as people realize that non-native turf grass does not support much life - no flowers for the birds, no host plants for the butterfly caterpillars, no food insects for the baby birds, and no seed for the adults.  In addition, traditional mono-species lawns suck water and require pesticides and herbicides (and time) to keep them looking like carpet.  Lawns also do a poor job soaking up rain water or carbon and storing it in the soil.  All of those conditions can be improved by incorporating native plants into your lawn.

 

Of course, the best solution for the environment is to turn lawn space into meadows or otherwise mimic a native environment, but most people want at least some open lawn for aesthetics or play space.  A solution is to incorporate this mowable lawn mix into your landscape.

 

This mix contains several species of wildflower plugs which you can plant right into your lawn.  Mow the lawn in the spring on a medium to high mower setting (if earlier blooms are desired, mow around the plugs).  When the grass goes dormant in the heat of the summer, the flowers will burst forth.  If the conditions are right (the grass is not too thick to outcompete the flowers), they will spread and create significant habitat.  

 

To facilitate the transition to alternative lawn, mow only in the early part of the season to control grass height.  Do not fertilize; fertilizer forces grass growth which causes it to outcompete the flowers and contributes to surface and groundwater pollution.  Do not use herbicides; they will kill the flowers.  Do not use pesticides.  Attracting pollinators and insect bird-food to your lawn is inconsistent with using lawn pesticides of any sort; pesticides kill the insects you need in your habitat.  Water the plugs regularly when first planted and during drought the first year, then eliminate watering.  Drought stress will reduce grass and promote the drought-tolerant wildflowers.  

 

This economical kit includes 38 plugs.  Spacing depends on how quickly you would like them to fill in the space.   If your lawn is fairly bare and you want flowers to spread quickly, you could do a 1 foot spacing, 38 square feet - a 4'x9.5' bed.  If you just want to introduce a little habitat and are willing to wait longer for the flowers to expand, we recommend that the plants be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, 152 or 342 square feet, respectively.  This kit comes with planting tips. Each plant is individually tagged for identification. Depending on species availability, your kit may differ from the pictures. There are two mixes available, one for sun and one for shade.  

 

The sun lawn mix includes 5 or 6 plugs each of:

  • Yarrow (5th picture) - beautiful feathery leaves are drought and traffic resistant. Spreads by rhizome.  White flowers are striking with the other plants in the mix.  
  • Black Eyed Susan (3rd picture)  - a hardy biennial that readily reseeds and is tolerant of drought.  Full sun to part shade.  Note that you must allow these to flower and drop seed in order to have them in the future.  Mow around the blooms if late-summer mowing is needed.  Traditional yellow flowers.
  • Lance Leaf Coreopsis - sunny yellow flowers are bee magnets, but the foliage is low and can be mowed.  Very tolerant of poor soil.
  • Wild Strawberry - naturally short, spreads by runners.  Has white flowers, delicious red berries (if you can beat the chipmunks and birds), and is a great host plant for a variety of beneficial insects.  Also a favorite of early-season native bees.
  • Blue-eyed Grass - it looks like grass, but when the little blue and yellow flowers come out, its relationship to the iris family will be apparent.  Another favorite of early, tiny pollinators, this short-lived perennial should be allowed to reseed periodically in order to keep it in your yard.  Self Heal substitutes if Blue-eyed grass is out of stock.
  • Hairy Goldenrod - important late season food for bees preparing to overwinter, or for migrating butterflies.  Low foliage.  Pollen is not wild-borne and does not cause seasonal allergies.  Attractive yellow flowers. Possible substitution of Gray Goldenrod, which is similar.
  • Smooth Blue or Calico Aster - surprising ability to burst forth a little flower bouquet once mowing is stopped.  Great late season pollinator plant and host plant for several butterflies.  Smooth Blue is blue (3rd picture), Calico is white.

 

Part shade is defined as less than 6 hours of direct sun per day.  Full shade is less than three hours of direct sun per day.  All of these plants need light to live, but several will do well with bright shade and no direct sun, as on the north side of a building.  The shade mix includes 3 to 8 plugs each of:

  • Black Eyed Susan - a hardy biennial that readily reseeds and is tolerant of drought and nearly full shade (needs a touch of direct sun).  Note that you must allow these to flower and drop seed in order to have them in the future.  Mow around the blooms if late-summer mowing is needed.  Traditional yellow flowers with brown discs.
  • Northern Heartleaf Aster (4th picture) - flowers appear once mowing is stopped. Great late season pollinator plant and host plant for several butterflies.  Full to part shade.  Great on the north or east side of buildings. Calico Aster may substitute.
  • Common Blue or Sweet White Violet - good early season nectar source. Violets are the host plant for Fritillary butterflies.  Full to part shade.
  • Pussytoes - my favorite lawn plant (6th picture).  Interesting foliage and early blooms popular with Azure butterflies.  Host plant for Painted and American Lady butterflies.  Full to part shade (a bit of sun needed).  I suggest mowing around the flowers in the spring in order to enjoy the spring butterflies.  The stalks disappear once flowering is done. If you see leaves clumped together with silk, those are the butterfly caterpillars hiding from predators during the day.
  • Coriopsis - excellent pollinator plant with low foliage and long flower stalks. Canada Mayflower will substitute if we have it.
  • Pennsylvania, Ivory, Necklace, or Longstalk Sedge  - they look like grass but they have interesting flowers if allowed to bloom in spring.  Part to full shade.  Ivory and Pennsylvania prefer dryer soil and part shade, while Necklace and Longstalk prefers medium to moist and full shade. If you have a preference, let us know in the notes or email when ordering!

 

  • Updated

    Product page updated March of 2024.

PriceFrom $109.00
Excluding Sales Tax |