Using Native Vegetation in Lawns

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Kaycie Waters
Natural Resources Field Specialist
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Flowers are starting to bloom, trees are leafing out, and the grass is greening up again; Spring has sprung! Many folks like to celebrate the beginning of Spring by spending time in the garden and working to beautify their lawns. While the monoculture of Kentucky bluegrass is often seen as the ideal lawn, more and more people are embracing landscapes that do more to support Iowa’s flora, fauna, and natural resource services.

If your turf grass is looking sad, or you are ready to have a lawn that supports biodiversity, there are so many resources available for you! A new webpage on the Iowa State University Natural Resources Extension and Outreach website focuses on lawn alternatives. This webpage has a list of species to consider, an overview for each of the suggested species, and some direction on where you can purchase seeds or plants.

Planting native vegetation is a great way to support local wildlife, stabilize soil, reduce water runoff, and increase the beauty of your property! The Natural Resources Extension website has plenty of resources to help you plunge into planting native vegetation this year. Perhaps you have a sunny area that would allow for prairie plants to thrive? Check out the Prairie Restoration – Habitat Headquarters page for information on how to get started, tips for plant selection, and long-term management of the prairie!

Woodlands and shaded areas are not the best for prairie establishment, but you can still plant natives in these areas too! The Native Iowa Woodland Understory Restoration page can help you decide what understory and shade loving native plants would be best for your property! The species list allows you to explore each plant in more detail and lists out which plants have been “proven performers” for restoration projects.

There are a ton of online resources available for those of you that are wanting to go native with planting this Spring. Along with the specific pages here, you can find more resources on the Natural Resource Stewardship page and can download publications at the Iowa State University Extension Store

Date of Publication: 
May, 2023