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
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

Need help with an invasive ground cover type plant filling in damaged areas in lawn.
November 25, 2009 - Since the drought this summer, there is an invasive ground cover type plant filling in the damaged areas in my lawn . It is dark greenish/purplish very small clover type plant, difficult to pull up an...
view the full question and answer

Grassy "weed" invasion in Bermuda grass lawn
July 09, 2007 - Our grass is being totally overrun by this weed.(I don't know what the name is but I do know it's not the dandelion weed or the thin grassy weed). It is Bermuda grass and I really don't know how to...
view the full question and answer

Nutgrass in Lakeway TX Habiturf
September 30, 2012 - I just installed a new septic system with drip field. Planted habiturf over the whole area. The habiturf is doing good, but I was away for a while and the nut grass has taken over several areas. It s...
view the full question and answer

Bermuda, not the only option in Memphis
November 04, 2014 - I'm building an energy efficient home in Memphis and want to extend that strategy to the landscaping. I'd like to plant native grasses, but this lot is surrounded by lots sodded with Bermuda grass....
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