En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Sowing grass for shaded lawn in Texas

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

Need shade friendly native grass for lawn under pine trees in Carthage, TX.
September 07, 2010 - My home is situated on six acres of woods in the East Texas piney woods area. Other than a few beds I have tried to plant, the yard has not been landscaped. I am trying to cover dirt and weeds in a p...
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

Native grass for lawn in Round Rock, Texas
May 16, 2010 - I am interested in your recommendation for the grass at my home. I currently have St. Augustine but have become very aggravated by it. I am looking for a low maintenance grass that I can replace it wi...
view the full question and answer

Small perennials & grasses for a naturalized lawn
October 26, 2009 - I am looking for native perennials and grasses that will grow no more than 8 inches tall that can be used in a naturalized lawn in Michigan. What 5 plants would be your first choice?
view the full question and answer

Shade plants to replace a lawn in PA
June 01, 2011 - Our neighborhood is built into a hill and our backyard is along the slope. We cannot keep grass in the area (except for a few clumps). The area is mostly shaded and moist-dry however when rain comes 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