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?

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - February 04, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Sowing grass for shaded lawn in Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm renting a home for short period of time, hence I would like to make this as simple, but as beneficial as possible. The backyard soil is degraded and compacted so I would like to try and use a "bio-tiller"- ideally sow some native grass seed whose root system can loosen up the soil over time and also provide good ground cover. I have quite a bit of leaf litter that I can spread lightly as mulch over the seeds. I also have a pretty shaded yard with patches of sun here and there. I have read that inland sea oats do well in these conditions, though I do not know if the seeds will propagate in untilled soil. I am open to other suggestions, even something other than grasses- however I would prefer a perrennial because I am not sure if my successors will do much landscaping.

ANSWER:

First, I am going to refer you to Planting Tips for Native Grasses, an excellent article by Native American Seed. You will see that they recommend removing any weeds or plantcover that exists in the area and then lightly tilling the soil before sowing the grass seeds. They also describe a method, solarization, for destroying existing vegetation. Removing existing vegetation and lightly tilling is the ideal way to sow your grass seeds and the method that will give the best results. However, since you are trying to avoid any mechanical tilling, you might be able to have some success by raking the surface to loosen some of the soil before sowing your seeds. It is absolutely imperative that the seeds are in contact with the soil. You might get some grass seeds to sprout without loosening the soil and then covering them lightly with your leaf litter; but to have real success, loosening the soil, sowing the grass seeds and then covering them lightly with the soil will ensure that you get a better yield for your seeds.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) is an excellent choice for shade and part shade. It is also a very attractive plant and reseeds itself. Here are some other grasses that will grow in shade and part shade:

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Eragrostis intermedia (plains lovegrass)

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens)

You might also consider one of sedges. These are often available in local nurseries that specialize in native plants (see our National Suppliers Directory for a list in your area) as small plants, rather than as seeds. Here are a couple that do well in shade and part shade:

Carex planostachys (cedar sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

 


Chasmanthium latifolium

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua hirsuta

Elymus canadensis

Elymus virginicus

Eragrostis intermedia

Tridens flavus

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis

 

More Turf Questions

Is it OK to recycle my kids bathwater out to the lawn?
July 23, 2009 - Is it OK for me to "recycle" my kids bathwater out to the lawn or houseplants? We use normal everyday brand kids soap. Thanks Mr. Smarty Plants
view the full question and answer

Native Grasses for Houston, TX
April 06, 2015 - What native grasses can I use for my lawn in Houston, TX? It appears that Habiturf is not recommended for our climate. Is there another variety of seed available yet that I can use to start a small ...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control in lawn in Tulsa, Oklahoma
April 03, 2008 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! I have an erosion control question. I have a growing problem with erosion on one side of my house. The soil from the side of my house slopes down about 8" in about 3 feet to ...
view the full question and answer

Need name of company with experience in Habiturf installation in Round Rock, TX.
January 24, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I read the article about "NATIVE LAWNS: HABITURF™ A MULTI-SPECIES MIX FOR NORTH, WEST AND CENTRAL TEXAS" Do you know any landscape companies/groups in Austin - Round Ro...
view the full question and answer

Planting Habiturf in Houston, TX>
March 08, 2012 - First, I want to say thank you for such an informative site. You say that the Buffalograsses tend to do well in drier and well drained soil. My house has a lawn that drops about 10 inches in about...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center