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
3 ratings

Saturday - March 22, 2008

From: Garland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Turf
Title: Pros and cons of Hydrocotyl bonariensis as lawn replacement
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Want to convert lawn TO dollar weed! My Garland TX yard has become so shady over the years that I have a hard time with grass. A few years ago I noticed dollar weed in the grass which seemed to create an 'under carpet'. I have left it, and it seems to be taking over the shady parts of my yard - and I like it, but the plant gets only bad press. It doesn't seem to need watering or mowing, it stays lower than the lawn mower's blades, the round leaves are really pleasant...like violet leaves... its easy to walk on, it grows between the flag stone that I am increasingly laying where grass no longer grows, AND its a NATIVE plant! Can you tell me anything about the plant - how thickly will it grow? Is there any place to GET seeds to help increase the thickness of the coverage? How is it propagated? via roots or seeds? Why is it so despised?

ANSWER:

Well, guess what? Hydrocotyle bonariensis (largeleaf pennywort), which is probably the one you have, seems like a nice, natural lawn replacement where there is too much shade and moisture. In fact, as we looked through references to this plant, it seemed that many, if not most, of the sites knocking dollarweed were sponsored by herbicide manufacturers. Go to this site emilycompost and get some positive feedback. If you call it "pennywort", which is another common name, you'll find there is a lot less negative comment about it. Another native plant, Dichondra recurvata (oakwoods ponysfoot), looks very similar but is not related. Dichondra is widely used, especially in California, as a lawn plant. It's very ironic that you are probably replacing one of two invasive, non-native grasses-St. Augustine and Bermuda-with a native, attractive, low maintenance ground cover.

In terms of propagation, since Hydrocotyle bonariensis (largeleaf pennywort) is a native plant which volunteered to live in your lawn, I think you might just let Nature take its course. It is a perennial, with stems creeping and rooting at the nodes; it spreads by rhizomes. It's going to do better in the shady environment and around your flagstones than a competing grass. It does bloom, from April to September, and probably will seed out from that. If you can convince your husband that it reduces his mowing, it's evergreen, needs less water and is going to be there anyway, you probably will have no further problem. If it chooses to get into flower beds, you'll probably want to remove it, but it's certainly less invasive in that respect than the St. Augustine and Bermuda.


Dichondra recurvata

Hydrocotyle bonariensis

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Plants for wet soils in North Carolina
October 03, 2009 - I'm looking for evergreen plants (shrubs or ground cover)that will tolerate wet conditions for the zone 8 area of North Carolina. The local garden centers here do not stock these types of plants, eve...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant ground cover for Winter Park, FL
March 09, 2009 - I'm looking to replace my lawn with a drought tolerant ground cover. I do not have a watering system.
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for steep slope in Washington DC
May 07, 2010 - We have a steep slope in our garden in Washington DC which has sun from noon to sun set. Could you please recommend some low maintenance plants which would be a good ground cover and limit erosion?
view the full question and answer

Low ground cover for steep bank in Ohio
September 02, 2008 - We have a 3/4 acre pond that has several places along the bank too steep to mow. We would like to plant some type of ground cover in those areas that would keep the weeds out. The planting would need ...
view the full question and answer

Silver ponyfoot becoming invasive in College Station TX
May 08, 2013 - How can I control or get rid of an established Dichondra groundcover? I bought a few plants of D. argentea from your sale a few years ago, and in that time they've done really well in the area I plan...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center