Dichondra - the lawn alternative
Author: Stefan Palm Date Posted: 27 October 2021
Dichondra, a native of Australia, has been around for a long time and has been widely recognised as an excellent, low-maintenance lawn alternative.
According to James B Beard, the definition of a lawn is a “Ground that is covered with fine-textured grass and is closely mown”. I guess you could squeeze Dichondra into that definition. Technically, it’s a ground cover more than a lawn, but it does provide a dense cover, can be mown, and does blend in with grass well.
It has bright coloured, kidney-shaped leaves and has often been referred to as Tom Thumb or even kidney weed. Dichondra is a warm-season plant meaning it grows when temperatures are in excess of 22 degrees. It’s evergreen and will grow in either sun or shade. One of the outstanding features of Dichondra is that it will grow in places where other lawns will not.
It is the ideal solution to fill in struggling lawns, particularly in shady areas or in areas where mowing is a problem. Paul Munn used to say that Dichondra is the lawn you only have to mow four times per year, making it the ideal, low maintenance solution. It slowly spreads along the surface, similar to how a spreading lawn would and in that way has some self-repairing qualities. While not ideal for pets, it will tolerate some pet traffic. Dichondra is great for planting between stepping stones, is reasonably drought tolerant and has a high level of frost resistance.
How to plant
Whether you’re starting from scratch or filling in a sparse lawn area, you can establish Dichondra by seed or seedlings. The best time to do it is October through to February. While seed would germinate past February, you need to allow enough time for it to establish before the cool weather sets in.
I’d recommend fertilising three times per year, in the middle of each season with the exception of Winter. Use an organic fertiliser rather than chemical or mineral fertilisers as these types can easily burn. Always make sure you thoroughly water the fertiliser in so that you can’t see any of it on the surface. I mentioned earlier that you could get away with mowing only four times per year. You could go even further than that and say that you need not mow it at all, reaching a maximum height of around 100mm. With regard to watering, Dichondra prefers infrequent but long and deep waters. Look to apply around 25mm of water for each application which should ideally soak down 50mm into the soil.
Weed control can be difficult with Dichondra. Because it is a broadleaf plant, you can’t apply selective herbicides to control weeds. Whenever weeds are present, I’d recommend making a concerted effort to hand pull them before they go to seed.
In all, Dichondra is a versatile plant that offers some excellent advantages to a lawn. It’s well worth considering, especially in shady or hard to mow areas.