Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
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

Low maintenance native plants for sloping lawn in Maine
June 07, 2005 - Hello, we live in Maine and have clay-ey soil with a lot of sun. I suspect the soil is acidic as well. We would like to replace at least part of our small front lawn with native ground cover or gras...
view the full question and answer

Native turf grass for Arlington, VA.
September 10, 2015 - Hi, could you please provide me with a recommendation for a native turf grass to plant in a large commercial area in Arlington, Virginia. Currently Kentucky 31 is being used, but we would like to iden...
view the full question and answer

Native replacement for non-native Bermudagrass in Leander TX
October 16, 2011 - We have Bermuda grass. Large patches have died due to the drought and our yard has been taken over by weeds and St. Augustine grass whose seeds must have blown in. Even when the grass was in great con...
view the full question and answer

Native grass for shaded lawn in Austin
May 14, 2010 - Hello, I've read all your info on the native lawns and came by the center on Sunday. We live in Circle C and want to plant a lawn in our backyard. We don't want something that needs a lot of wate...
view the full question and answer

White mold on Bermuda grass
August 07, 2012 - I tried searching and could not find info for this on your website. What causes mold in Bermuda grass and how can I get rid of it? Tried fungicide as recommended by garden center in austin which did...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.