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?

Share

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
2 ratings

Sunday - December 30, 2007

From: Austin , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Grass or ground cover for sun/part shade in Austin
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Southwest Austin (a couple of miles from the Wildflower Center) and I would like to plant some grass in my backyard. I have a small yard with several oak trees and they have been cut back to allow some sun to come through. So, at this point I have part sun/shade. Can you recommend a grass that I can plant? or is it best to use a ground cover? also, when should I do this? Now(December/January) or is it best to wait until Spring? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants' top choice for a native turf grass is Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss). It requires little water and doesn't need mowing very often. It does best in full sun, but will also work with some shade. So, depending on how much sun you have, it may be a good choice for your yard. Another sun-loving short native grass is Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama). Native American Seed has an excellent article, Planting Tips for Native Grasses, with information on preparing the soil and planting seeds. Seed sowing should be done in the spring. It is also possible to find buffalograss sod and plugs to install in the spring. Please see the article, "Native Lawns", in our How to Articles.

Another grass-like possibility for your lawn is one of the sedges, such as Carex texensis (Texas sedge), Carex perdentata (sand sedge) or Carex planostachys (cedar sedge). They are all low-growing, require little water and do well in sun or part shade. You can read an article, "Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape" by John Greenlee, with more information about using sedges as an alternative to grass.

There are also a couple of low-growing plants that could work well as a groundcover, also:

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy)

Phyla nodiflora (frogfruit)

Finally, you can look for nurseries and seed companies in your area that specialize in native plants by visiting our National Suppliers Directory.


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Carex texensis

Carex perdentata

Carex planostachys

Calyptocarpus vialis

Phyla nodiflora

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Grass to grow in the shade of pecan tree
December 10, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, We have an enormous pecan tree in our backyard that had grass underneath the breadth of the branches, but not around the trunk. The grass isn't doing well (though we did fai...
view the full question and answer

Shade trees for horses in Merced, CA
January 21, 2011 - I would like to plant some trees to provide shade for horses in the pasture. What native trees are drought resistant (water may be spotty in the summer) yet safe for the animals? I live in the Calif...
view the full question and answer

Flower color under large pine tree from South Elgin IL
April 05, 2013 - I have a very large pine tree that I would like to plant some flowers under. I have hostas, stonecrop and fern, but like to add some color. What do you suggest? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Deer-resistant, shade tolerant evergreens for privacy in Milford MI
April 12, 2010 - I'm looking for deer resistant evergreens that will be planted in the shade. I need the evergreens to hide an area I don't want to see from my home. Hence, they need to go tall. Can you give me a r...
view the full question and answer

Vine for shaded area in Austin
February 15, 2009 - Hi! I live in South Austin, and love my backyard. It is enclosed by chain-link fencing, and shrouded by (ack!) Hackberry trees. I would like to plant a vine on one fence to provide a privacy screen. T...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center