En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Low-growing lawn substitute for Pennsylvania

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
1 rating

Wednesday - March 19, 2008

From: Pittsburgh, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Turf
Title: Low-growing lawn substitute for Pennsylvania
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello Mr. Smarty Plants Please help. We are moving to an old farm house in Western Pennsylvania with several acres of lawn. Our plan is to return much of the land to wildlife friendly meadows and woods, however we do intend to keep some part of the property "lawn-like". I don't enjoy mowing and certainly don't like/want to mow several acres. What do you recommend as a low growing, easy care lawn substitute that can fare well in both sun and shade? Ideally, we would like to plant a quick spreading native species that sustains wildlife. So far I'm leaning toward white clover. What do you think? Thanks very much!

ANSWER:

First of all, white clover (Trifolium repens) is a native of Europe, North Africa, and West Asia and is not native to North America so we definitely wouldn't recommend it.

Sedges look a lot like grass, but have the advantage of not growing very tall so that they do not need to be mowed. You can read about having a sedge lawn in John Greenlee's Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape. Here are several sedges that grow in Pennsylvania:

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge) sun, part shade, shade

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) sun, part shade, shade

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) sun, part shade

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a good article by Claire Sawyers, Native Groundcovers—Low-Growing Herbaceous Plants for Sun and Shade Gardens, with suggestions of species that grow in Pennsylvania. Here are a few picks from her article:

Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny-spurge) part shade

Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox) sun, part shade, shade

Tiarella cordifolia (heartleaf foamflower) shade

Heuchera americana (American alumroot) sun, part shade, shade

Sibbaldiopsis tridentata (shrubby fivefingers) sun

Chrysogonum virginianum (green and gold) part shade

Low woody groundcover:

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) part shade, shade

Ferns:

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) sun, part shade

Dryopteris cristata (crested woodfern) sun, part shade, shade

You might consider mixing the ground covers depending on their tolerance for shade or sun.


Carex blanda

Carex pensylvanica

Carex texensis

Pachysandra procumbens

Phlox stolonifera

Tiarella cordifolia

Heuchera americana

Chrysogonum virginianum

Gaultheria procumbens

Polystichum acrostichoides

Dryopteris cristata

 



 

 

More Turf Questions

Eliminating bluebonnets from lawn
December 05, 2009 - I need to know the best way to eliminate bluebonnets which are growing in my yard. My HOA is pursuing legal action against me to prevent me growing the plants. I can't afford to "resod" my yard. Ca...
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

Supplier for native lawn grass for South Texas
October 20, 2009 - Where would I buy native lawn grass for South Texas? Would it be sod or seed?
view the full question and answer

Grass mixture for Spicewood TX
August 14, 2012 - I want to seed a bare sand limestone area about 2 acres in size. Assuming "normal" Texas hill country weather and the availability of moderate water for sprinkling is there one mixture that you reco...
view the full question and answer

Native grass lawn for San Antonio
June 25, 2011 - Dear Mr Smartyplants, I live outside of San Antonio and my question is in regards to putting in a native grass lawn. What type of soil should I put down? I've sprayed herbicide and was planning on ...
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