En EspaŅol

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
1 rating

Monday - July 30, 2007

From: Austin , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native alterrnatives for Bermuda grass in shade
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have Bermuda Tif 419 on my lawn. As expected, there are small areas in the shade that the Bermuda is not doing well in. What would happen if I spread Zoysia seed in those shady areas? Would it grow amongst the last vestiges of Bermuda? Would it blend well? Would it take over parts of the Bermuda beyond the shady areas? Thanks so much for your great advice!


Zoysia represents eight species of creeping grasses native to southeastern and eastern Asia and Australasia, found in coastal areas of grasslands. It will tolerate temperature variations, shade or water scarcity and therefore probably would help to fill in the shade that is causing the Bermuda grass to decline. Bermudagrass is also a non-native grass, a native of Africa, and has escaped to be a weed in lawns and flower beds in the U.S., especially in the South.

We at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are dedicated to promoting and protecting native plants. So, might we tempt you to another alternative for the shady areas in your lawn? We understand that your goal, and probably that of your neighbors, is to have a smooth and well-mowed lawn. But what if you could plant some low-growing, perhaps flowering, native plants in that shade? You wouldn't have to mow it, it would take less water and fertilizer, and make an attractive contrast to your lawn. Our suggestion is to plant native plants in that shady area that can take sun or shade, will bloom and, in general, be in contrast to the smoothly mowed lawn. Some good ones we can suggest are: Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy), Heuchera rubescens var. versicolor (pink alumroot) , Ruellia nudiflora (violet wild petunia) , Ruellia occidentalis (western wild petunia) , Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage) , and Chasmanthium latifolium (Indian woodoats) . And two favorite low-growing ground covers with interesting leaves and gray-green color are Dichondra micrantha (Asian ponysfoot) (this really is native, not Asian in origin) and Dichondra argentea (silver ponysfoot) .

If you are interested in finding out more about these plants and where they may be obtained, go to the Supplier's Directory where you can search by area and find the locations of native plant suppliers that may be a source for the plants you choose.


From the Image Gallery

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

Violet ruellia
Ruellia nudiflora

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Groundcovers for Shade Under a Sweetgum
March 25, 2015 - I have 3 large sweetgum trees that produce so much shade each summer, and grass, even grass meant for shade, won't grow here. It's become a barren desert! I have English ivy but it only seems to gro...
view the full question and answer

Need help with stabilizing a partial shaded slope in Prince George's County, MD.
September 08, 2009 - I have a partial shade sloped area about 40 ft. x 100ft; that is at the top of a natural drainage. Slope is maybe 10%. There is a thin layer of topsoil on top of a heavier clay layer (it was pasture...
view the full question and answer

Shaded Groundcover for Florida
June 15, 2011 - Looking for ground cover for shade. Area is between two houses. Something with minimal amount of work and care.
view the full question and answer

Shrubs, groundcovers, and grasses for shade in North Central Texas
March 19, 2010 - Updated (2009-10) information about shrubs / ground cover /grasses recommended for North Central Texas - Complete back yard re-landscaping under a lot of trees, shady areas, regular bermuda, St Augus...
view the full question and answer

Need a shade tree in a limited space in Louisville, GA
October 29, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Pants, Hello! What kind of tree would be good to shade, in a limited space, and having a taproot? This is in middle Ga. One side of yard has main water pipe coming in off the road and ...
view the full question and answer

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