En EspaÑol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 25, 2007

From: Richardson, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Ornamental bunch grasses to grow under live oak
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I love live oak trees and have one in the back yard that is growing nicely. I don't know if it's the shade or the leaf and acorn droppings that won't allow the grass to grow underneath it. Around the base of the tree liriope is growing, but I want some ground cover, preferably a grass to grow to extend to the corner of the fence under the tree. Any suggestions?


There are no turf grasses native to Central Texas that will grow in full shade. There are, however, two grasses that are ornamental bunch grasses that will do well in the shade (less than 2 hours of sun per day). These are Chasmanthium latifolium (Indian woodoats) and Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye). If the area does get 2 or more hours of sun, there are a couple of sedges that will work well, Carex texensis (Texas sedge) and Carex planostachys (cedar sedge). For a non-grass plant, you could try Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) which will form a low mat in full shade and can take a moderate amount of traffic. Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit will also form a mat in part shade (>2 hours of sun/day).


Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Carex texensis

Calyptocarpus vialis

Phyla nodiflora



More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Lawn for a Shady & Wet area in Austin, TX
July 22, 2015 - We have a drainage area that has appeared in our back yard since the neighbors’ homes were built. When we get heavy rains (like this year) all their drainage flows into our back yard and forms a river...
view the full question and answer

Native lawn grass for Seabrook TX
March 12, 2013 - We want to seed our lawn in Seabrook, Tx.77586 with a Natural Grass replacing our St. Augustine Grass. I think there is one that is drought resistant (only water it twice a month.) and that does not g...
view the full question and answer

Severely cutback sloping soil in Dripping Springs TX
May 09, 2010 - We have 5.5 acres off Henly Loop just north of Hwy 290 about 10 miles west of Dripping Springs, TX. The former property owners carved out soil from a sloping area to get soil for the driveway. Doing ...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover under live oaks
June 18, 2012 - I have some areas under Live Oak trees (maybe 200 sq. ft.)that remain bare, in spite of trying Habiturf. Soil is dry, poor and shallow. Can you suggest a living ground cover that would not require m...
view the full question and answer

Grassburs in native lawn in Utopia TX
June 22, 2010 - I recently planted native Texas grass (Buffalograss, blue grama & curly mesquite) at my new house in the hill country. I had to bring in all the top soil. The grass is doing great, but in one area o...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center