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
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

Brown ryegrass in Austin lawn
June 03, 2008 - We had rye grass planted in our yard last fall. It was beautiful all winter. Now it is brown but the St. Augustine has not yet taken over, so there are large portions of the lawn with an abundance o...
view the full question and answer

Removal of chickweed from lawns
April 06, 2007 - How do I get Cerastium arvense L. - field chickweed out of my lawn? How can I kill them without hurting my grass? I don't have a clue as to how they got into my lawn, but my lawn is the only one on...
view the full question and answer

Buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides) and buffalo grass mixes
October 05, 2007 - I live in Austin, TX and have visited the Wildflower Center in the past and enjoyed the display of native grass mixes. Can you tell me about the variations of buffalograss mixes... which ones are most...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for shady yard in Austin
September 04, 2011 - I was looking at your research on native grasses to be used in a yard. I want to plant your native mix of seeds, but worry that there is too much shade in my yard. I live in central Austin and wante...
view the full question and answer

Live oak sprouts in lawn and flower beds
March 06, 2008 - I have several live oak trees that keep putting up sprouts in my lawn and flower beds. Is there any way to prevent this ?
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