En Español

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?


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
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


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?


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 Shade Tolerant Questions

Native plants for dry shade in Virginia
May 23, 2008 - I live in Reston, Virginia and have dry shade. What are the best plants to use for my garden. Xeriscaping and native plants are important considerations.
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for dry shade in North Central Texas
March 09, 2008 - I live in North Central Texas and have an area that is 80% shade and a dry soil condition. What native grasses would be suitable for this location?
view the full question and answer

Grasses for yard in part shade and shade
January 11, 2009 - I have a shady yard with no grass whatsoever in San Marcos, TX. Since there are no roots to anchor the soil, the air (and the house) is full of dust. I want to plant a native grass that does well in f...
view the full question and answer

mixed species privacy hedge in Central Texas
March 24, 2016 - I need to plant a privacy hedge along a fence line. I am in east Austin, blackland prairie soil. The soil is rich, usually at least moist but not soggy, and I find lots of worms when I dig. The fen...
view the full question and answer

Grapeland, TX is NOT Grapevine, TX
July 25, 2013 - I submitted a question and today received my answer. I do thank you for this valuable service. However, I stated that I lived in East Texas in GRAPELAND, Tx. Nan Hampton answered me and said that a...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center