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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - September 10, 2007

From: Woodland Hills, CA
Region: California
Topic: Turf
Title: Low maintenance, water and height lawn
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We would like to replace our lawn that covers a large area of our front and back yard and is watered daily and twice a day in summertime with drought resistant plants. Mr. Smarty Plants, could you recommend several low maintenance,low growing plants that need much less watering? Thank you.


You've come to the right place. One of our jobs at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to advance the use of native plants in the landscape, because they require less fertilizer, less water and less care, and are much more resistant to the quirks of Nature, because they are already adapted to those quirks. So, here are several plants that should fit your needs in Southern California:

First, grasses that are not lawn grasses, but will give texture and movement to your garden are Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian ricegrass, Aristida purpurea (purple threeawn), Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama), Carex texensis (Texas sedge), and Muhlenbergia porteri (bush muhly).

Next, how about some flowers? Consider Abronia villosa (desert sand verbena), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed), Calochortus kennedyi (desert mariposa lily), Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed), Erysimum capitatum (sanddune wallflower).

This can go on and on, but you can make up your own lists. Go to "Combination Search" in the Plant Database, put in your requirements and press the "Submit" button. For grasses, when we used the requirements of sun, dry soil and grass, we got a list of 24 suggestions. For blooming plants, we checked "herbs" and received 101 hits. You could select succulents, shrubs, whatever you want to consider for your lower maintenance garden.

Now, you probably want to know where to find these plants. Go to "Suppliers" on this website, again, list your state and you'll get a list of approved native plant vendors. When you click on the name of a nursery, you'll get a page with addresses, phone numbers, e-mail address or website address.

Finally, need more help? Go to "How To Articles" and read up on wildlife gardening or landscaping with native plants, or whatever you need.

Carex texensis

Coreopsis lanceolata




More Turf Questions

Short wildflowers to interplant with grass in PA
July 05, 2011 - I live in NE PA and would like to grow short wildflowers throughout my yard mixed in with my grass. Is this possible? If so, what would be a good match for my zone? I will be mowing the grass once a w...
view the full question and answer

Survival of native lawn in Hockley TX
August 02, 2011 - I'm on the edge of the Katy Prairie and a very large ranch with full blasting sun and completely open exposure. The soil is fill from the developers with more clay than sand, a minimum of nutrients,...
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

Maple roots in lawn in Denton TX
June 03, 2010 - I purchased a new home 4 years ago that came with a landscape package. There are 2 trees in the front yard that I think are red maple trees. I am now seeing their roots appear above the ground which...
view the full question and answer

Roots of live oak in lawn from Round Rock TX
June 24, 2011 - I live on a cul-de-sac and have a small triangle shape yard. There is a large live oak in the middle of the yard. I am concerned because large bark covered roots have emerged on two sides of the tre...
view the full question and answer

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