How to landscape a front yard without plants

Explore front yard landscaping ideas without plants for minimum upkeep but maximum curb appeal. You can still design a cool front of house – without using shrubs or grass

Front of a modern home with wooden yard
(Image credit: Jrstock / Alamy Stock Photo)

If you're looking for front yard landscaping ideas without plants, don't be discouraged. Although many people see shrubs and a neatly mowed lawn as integral elements of a front yard, it's perfectly possible to have a beautiful front of house, sans plants. Whether you have a tricky north-facing location, or simply don't want to look after plants, there are plenty of alternatives. 

These are some of the best front yard landscaping ideas that are suitable for small or large homes, but that most importantly won't require any maintenance... Follow this expert advice to make the no-plants look work for you.  

A contemporary water feature in a no-plant front yard

(Image credit: Solus Decor)

Front yard landscaping without plants: first considerations

If you're not keen on plants in your front yard but are worried that there just aren't any garden landscaping ideas that don't involve greenery and look good, you need the reassurance of a landscaping professional. Lyle Mosca from Imperial Landscape and Masonry, advises that although 'when considering the design of your front yard, many people will create nicely edged garden beds, adding shrubs, flowers, and other colorful accents', you actually have 'a number of options that can work either in complement or instead of traditional greenery.'

Low-maintenance front garden landscaping options that also 'add a ton of
character to their yard' include 'hardscaping, water features, and other
decorative pieces. No matter what your style, you will find something that
will suit your needs.'

Basically, if you don't want many – or any – plants in your front yard, you'll want to acquaint yourself with the many hard landscaping materials out there, from stone to concrete paving and gravel. 

Daniel McCurry, landscaping professional from Father Nature Landscapes, also reminds garden owners that the goal of outdoor livings space is 'bringing people together', which should guide your choice of central accents in your front yard. McCurry recommends focusing on 'patio ideas, fireplaces, kitchens, fountains, lighting, and sound.' If you want a bit of decoration, you can consider 'concrete sculptures, limestone urns, benches and statuaries, stone pieces, or simply boulders!' McCurry has one top tip for designing a front yard without plants, however: 'have fun with your garden space, but attempt to keep one piece per viewable area; having too many in one view will de-value the piece that you are attempting to display.'

Modern front yard with decorative gravel

(Image credit: U. J. Alexander / Alamy Stock Photo)

What can you put on landscaping besides plants?

Mosca seconds the view that tastefully chosen centerpieces can make a big difference to a front yard: 'Adding in an art installation as an eye-catching centerpiece can become the focal point of your front yard, allowing you to build out from around that. To complement the art installation, using unique textures to your yard like wood and rock features will help to create depth and character.'

An alternative to an art installation or sculpture is exploring water feature ideas. While Mosca appreciates that 'many prefer to have their water features in the backyard where they can enjoy the ambient sound of falling or rushing water', it's also true that 'these types of features can fit perfectly in the front yard. Think about adding a small stream to complement eye-catching interlock, retaining or feature walls, and other masonry features.' 

Finally, if you want no plants at all, and don't necessarily want a water feature either, you should explore rock garden ideas. Mosca points out that 'the use of rocks and other stone features can also help to create unique design elements in your landscaping.' Using rocks also removes 'the burden of weeding and maintenance. With the right design and planning, rock features combined with interlocking can often replace the need for grass entirely!'

Modern front yard with garden and boulders

(Image credit: U. J. Alexander / Alamy Stock Photo)

What can I put in front of house instead of shrubs?

The idea that you absolutely must have shrubs in your front yard is a myth. McCurry explains that 'the goal of plantings in front of the house is to accentuate the architecture, not cover it.' That means that 'sometimes, you could have a front foundation that hardly has any plant material, but still accents the architecture!' Consider 'containers, well-placed bed-lines, architectural turf layout, entry terraces or even allowing your motor court to go all the way up to the house is a possibility.'

The main challenge with going for a no-plant front yard landscaping is that it can look quite harsh, even if you prefer a minimalist modern exterior. McCurry's top tip is to have a 'low-plant design' that allows for a balance of 'hardscape to the greenery in general. If you allow your motor court to go all the way to the house, consider well-placed containers with larger evergreens to soften the hardscape on hardscape (greenhouse) effect.'

Garden fence ideas also can come in very useful where it comes to softening a no-plant front yard scheme. Jeff Becka, of Fence Resource, praises fences as invaluable focal points for front yards, 'providing instant curb appeal. 'Many people think of fencing as a means to contain a pet or for providing security and privacy. However, fences are perfect for landscaping. Lower height picket fences with scallops or arches are perfect along sidewalks and walkways. They also provide a platform for mounting hanging baskets.' 

Also, if you've always wanted the traditional white picket fence, 'here's your chance' – it will 'improve the look and feel of your property and landscape.'

Modern home with charcoal front door and no-grass front yard

(Image credit: numismarty / Getty)

How can I make my front yard look better without grass?

Lawn grass isn't always necessary in a front yard, especially if the surrounding landscape already has some green interest to it – and there are lots of alternatives to grass. McCurry recommends imagining 'your home was set into the woods naturally without bulldozing all of the native trees and fauna.' If there are no surrounding trees, he advises looking 'into your local native plant pallet' for a green accent or two 'if a no-lawn idea is your goal.'

In other words, you can have a good-looking front yard without grass, but if you have no plants at all and no grass, you may find that the space looks a little barren. It is advisable to have at least one tree, or a large container, to compensate for the lack of a lawn. Trees generally are much less hard work than flower beds or lawns, so once yours is established, you'll find you'll hardly need to do any maintenance. 

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.