You Can Increase Habitat with a Lawn of Native Plants!

Lawn area of blooming Dwarf Cinquefoil. (Photo courtesy Deana Crumbling)

By Ken Krupa and Eleanor Quigley, ABC

Alexandria, VA – The 1960s standard for a front yard was a “smooth, closely shaven surface of grass.” Now we admire yards with a variety of planting beds, bushes, and shade trees. To make our yards more environmentally productive, let’s rethink the lawn. By changing the standard, we can have fluttering butterflies and nurture desirable insects. We can even make our neighbors jealous!

Native plants need less water, fertilizer and mowing than turf grass. Here are some suggestions:

Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis) stands up to moderate foot traffic and drought. Likes full to part sun and has yellow flowers in Spring. Grows 2-4-inches tall. In drought, it wilts and then springs back after a rain.

Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica) a shade-tolerant, grass-like plant that forms dense, carpet-like groundcover. Plant in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Needs watering during dry spells.

Narrow-leaved Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) a perennial with violet springtime blooms that grows best in full to partial sun.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), small, succulent perennial plant that grows in full sun to part shade. Its narrow leaves produce small pale pink flowers in Spring, forming extensive ground cover. Plant in Fall.

Plant bare spots or remove areas of turf and plant a combination of our native plant suggestions after the last frost and they will creep into your existing lawn.  Delay first mowing until June 1st (“No Mow May”) to encourage the roots and spread of Spring blooming plants. Set your mower to 3 to 4-inches above ground.

Bonus: Alexandria will give you a Stormwater Utility Fee Credit for this type of planting! Email [email protected] for eligibility requirements and apply when the application process opens again in December 2024.

ICYMI: Do You Know You Can Donate a Tree to Alexandria?




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