21 easy-care, low-cost yards

Turf grass-based lawns require a lot of watering-and therefore a sizable investment. See how to ditch the lawn in favor of beautiful, easy-care gardens.

Shady patio garden
A sycamore takes center stage in this lawnless yard. Shade created by the tree keeps the patio cool while permeable paving, potted plants, and other design details keep watering to a minimum.
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Low-water curb appeal

A variety of plants with low water requirements replaced the former sterile expanse of rocks covering the front yard of this home. They are all heat-tolerant and were chosen to provide year-round interest. Pavers take up most of the space where thirsty grass might grow instead.
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Succulents replace turf grass

A tapestry of succulents replaced the lawn in this front yard. Designer Kendra Berger of Revive Landscape Design used 5 kinds of aloes, two types of aeonium, Bulbine frutescens, Agave attenuata, and lots of blue Senecio mandraliscae to play off the Moroccan blue of the pots. She added a new set of pilasters along the stairs-perfect perches for more pots-and faced the risers with blue and white Spanish tiles.
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No-chores backyard

Easy-care plants and materials create a low-maintenance garden that can fend for itself for weeks at a stretch. See how durable furnishings, bulletproof plants, no-fuss flooring, and clever details make it work.
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Big on features, not on grass

Bridges, islands, and a shaded fireplace add plenty of whimsical details to this backyard­­-no water necessary. And a smattering of carefully chosen drought-resistant plants offer just enough no-fuss greenery to create a lush feel.
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A natural backyard

Plant natives, and birds will follow. After removing the lawn, designer and contractor Greg Rubin―who specializes in California natives―installed a meandering path bordered by fragrant 'Bee's Bliss' salvia, wild lilacs, and an existing non-native purple tree mallow―all pretty, low-water plants.
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Easy-care front yard

Flagstone paths curve through a low-water front yard. A low berm of soil on either side of the walk adds interest, and weed cloth topped with permeable pea gravel allows excess water to soak into the earth rather than run off into the street.
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Great outdoor makeovers