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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


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!


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



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