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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - May 29, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Most ecological grass to grow in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What kind of grass is most ecological to grow in a neighborhood community in Austin? Is Bermuda good? Is Buffalo good? I live in a rental house and there are some bare spots in the yard that I'd like to fill in. The yard is mostly St. Augustine, which I would never plant myself, but it came with the house. I'd appreciate your suggestions.

ANSWER:

That depends on what kind of effort you want to put in, including how long you think you'll live in that rent house, and whether your landlord is agreeable to your ideas. Beginning with Bermudagrass, it is a native of Africa (not Bermuda) and has become a highly invasive weed. See this University of California Integrated Pest Management site on Bermudagrass to get some idea of why we don't like it. It grows with aboveground stolons and belowground rhizomes and is virtually impossible to get rid of, invading flower beds, cracks in the pavement and other types of lawns with impunity. The grass presently in your lawn, St. Augustine, is really not suitable to our dry conditions and rocky soil. It is native to the West Indies and Western Africa, as you'll see in this Texas Cooperative Extension article by Richard L. Duble on St. Augustine grass. It does better in moist coastal areas, and will tolerate some shade. Both of these grasses, of course, are non-native to North America, and since the work of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care and protection of plants native to North America, you can understand why we do not encourage planting either grass.

We are in favor of native plants because planting anything in its native area will mean it is already adapted to the conditions there, not needing excess fertilizer, watering or maintenance. So, yes, we think Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is a very ecologically sound alternative to the non-native grasses. If your landlord wants a pristine mowed lawn or you live in an area with neighborhood rules on lawns, you may run into some resistance on this. Read our How-To Article on Native Lawns to give you some starter ideas. Then, picking up on a suggestion from that article, how about filling in some space with a meadow garden? Yet another useful article in our How-To section is Meadow Gardening. There's a great opportunity for creativity, and you can plant at your own speed, letting things fill in as they can. As if you slowly expand outward, taking up more of the empty spaces and taking out more of the St. Augustine, you may find that you, your landlord, and your neighborhood all agree that it's a great idea.


Packera obovata

Salvia roemeriana

Bouteloua dactyloides

Phyla nodiflora

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Privacy screen for Sedona AZ
August 02, 2013 - I live In Sedona Az. A builder just built a house next to my house and the new house is ugly to look at. What plant or tree would grow fast and reach 18 foot in height fast. It can be about 5 to 6 foo...
view the full question and answer

Native xeric grasses for Colorado
June 24, 2010 - Tired of mowing - replacing western exposure full sun lawn with native xeric grass. Please explain the pros and cons of Bouteloua Gracilis (Blue Grama) and Bouteloua Dactyloides Bella (Bella Blue Gra...
view the full question and answer

Plants for small shady area with clay soil
August 09, 2011 - Many people have space between the sidewalk and the street in front of their homes. In that space in front of our house is a growing maple that provides a lot of shade. The space is very dry, with...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a lakeside bank in NC
November 07, 2011 - Our association is looking to plant a huge sloped area that runs down to Lake Wylie. We want to plant something that is good for erosion and that does not grow too tall so that we keep our view of th...
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

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