The Pros and Cons of a Low-Water Lawn

Buffalo grass is one choice for low-water lawns

Buffalo Grass – Stenotaphrum Secundatum seen here – comes in several varieties that are suitable for low-water lawns. (photo by John Tann)

Have you been thinking about landscaping your yard? Do you want a fresh look but you are just not sure how to go about doing it? Are you wondering what the pros and cons of a low-water lawn are? We can you give you the details you need to figure out what the best solution is for your yard!

Low-water lawns are typically of the Buffalo Grass and Blue Grama type, although other groundcovers may be used such as Carex Pansa or a modern eco-blend that includes up to six grasses. These grasses and covers require less water and maintenance than typical turf lawns, and if you plant the correct native, low-water groundcovers for the local environment, the lawn will thrive with little work. 

According to Sunset.com, “Once established, locally adapted types (of native grasses) should thrive on the area’s average rainfall. During especially dry years, they may need some watering.”

Benefits of a low-water lawn

There are a ton of pros to planting a low-water lawn. This benefits will differ according to your values as well as the region you live in, but here are a few of the basics.

  1. Ever wonder why certain plants use less water? Many of these groundcovers are better at conserving water overall. This means naturally better drainage systems and less maintenance for you to worry about.
  2. Speaking of maintenance, did you know that the typical low-water lawn only needs to be mown about twice a year?
  3. A low-water lawn saves money in the long term with less need for fertilizing and replanting, as they typically grow natively in more diverse environments.
  4. Low-water lawns add a more natural element to a garden and are more environmentally friendly. In many cases, they will help attract birds, bees and other local creatures.
  5. Express you creativity! The low-water family groundcover includes plants such as moss, chamomile, thyme and different grasses. Your landscaping can be filled with variation and whimsy that you don’t get from a turf-grass lawn.

Challenges of a low-water lawn

So, what are the cons to planting a low-water yard? While there are many pros, choosing low-water vegetation for your lawn can have its challenges. A good landscape designer can help minimize any potential problems, so it’s a smart idea to be informed and have an open conversation about your concerns.

  1. Any lawn installation can be a major overhaul, installing a low-water lawn is no diffierent. While the process can be time-consuming and costly, a low-water lawn may pay for itself over time with money saved on maintenance. In addition, local programs (like the Lawn to Garden program in Long Beach, CA) can help subsidize the cost of installing a low-water lawn.
  2. Some water-wise lawns may not be as hearty as turf-grass, and will most likely not hold up on a heavily trafficked path. The upside is that because they are usually ideally suited to their environment, they will also grow where most turf-grass will not, which makes up for it.
  3. A low-water lawn occupies the middle ground of the  yard care spectrum. It requires less work to maintain than a traditional suburban green patch, but will still require water and care, however infrequently.  Homeowners looking for an even more carefree solution to keeping a gorgeous lawn, should consider transitioning to a completely naturalized garden with native plants.

In most cases, a low water lawn can be a great addition to your landscape and provides a wonderful alternative to a more demanding and cost intensive turf lawn.