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
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

Non-toxic shade trees for horses in Florida
April 01, 2009 - Looking for non poisonous shade trees for pasture with horses. Would prefer flowering or something that changes color. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Native ground covers for rocky, shady slope in Arlington, TX
January 25, 2009 - I need a good native ground cover for a completely shaded and rocky 30 degree slope with red sandy soil and southern exposure. Will anything grow in these conditions?
view the full question and answer

Different shades of green in Taxodium distichum (bald cypress)
June 05, 2008 - I have two bald cypress trees 50 feet apart, but there was very different soil in the two holes. One was a clayey soil and the other was much more the Austin limestone soil. The trees are about 2 ye...
view the full question and answer

Habiturf for shady areas in San Antonio TX
November 08, 2013 - Will the Habiturf grass mentioned here do well in shady areas too?
view the full question and answer

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

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center