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?

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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - August 22, 2008

From: Yukon, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native groundcovers for bare, shady space in Oklahoma
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have recently acquired a new residence that has very little lawn to speak of. The backyard is in an unfortunate position to catch significant amounts of rainwater from nearby yards, and is sloped. Much of it is also shaded by a large maple tree and even larger storage shed, leaving a large portion of the yard bare. Can you recommend a nice groundcover, grass or otherwise, that can withstand the extended shady period and moist nature of the ground, and also withstand some foot traffic? Thanks!

ANSWER:

You're getting significant rainfalls in Oklahoma? No fair! With the exception of some hit and miss showers the last few days, the only significant thing Austin has gotten is hot. However, we'll be good sports and try to help you with your problem yard.

We are going to choose plants native to North America and to Oklahoma to recommend. They will be more adapted to the environment, and therefore need less water, fertilizer and maintenance. The multiple conditions of slope, moist ground, foot traffic and shade are going to limit the choices, but surely we can come up with something. The biggest problem is going to be the stipulation for foot traffic. Are we talking football practice or walking back to the storage shed to get a ladder? Only two of our suggestions are low enough to really consider walking on them, and they won't take much traffic. The others are taller grasses and other plants that will do well in the moist, shady, sloped conditions but aren't walkable. Read the webpages that the links will take you to, find out what seasons these plants might be dormant, when they will bloom, how high they are, etc. Then you can plan a mix and match that works for your space and tastes. If your slope is not too extreme, would you consider a "path" through these plants of a shredded hardwood mulch? Not only would this absorb some of the rainwater drainage and give you something soft to walk on, but as it decomposes it will add to the texture and drainage capabilities of the soil. Obviously, it's going to "drift" from time to time, but it won't hurt anything, just be a mulch to your plants, and you can spread another bag of mulch on the traffic-way.

LOW PLANTS FOR WALKING

Hydrocotyle umbellata (manyflower marshpennywort)

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy)

TALLER PLANTS

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Packera obovata (roundleaf ragwort)

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)

Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage)

 

From the Image Gallery


Horseherb
Calyptocarpus vialis

Canada wild rye
Elymus canadensis

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Golden groundsel
Packera aurea

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Bottlebrush sedge
Carex hystericina

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Native grass for sandy soil and shade
May 27, 2011 - We have a sandy soil and lots of shade. Is there a native grass that would do well under these conditions?
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep slope in shade in Iowa
July 02, 2010 - I work for a small non-profit shelter here in Dubuque, Ia. that has a very steep slope behind the building that needs some sort of plant or grass planted to stop erosion. The slope gets little to no s...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control for steep shady hillside in Massachusetts
September 02, 2010 - What would be a good plant for erosion control on a steep, very shady hillside in Massachusetts?
view the full question and answer

Plants for erosion of shaded slope in Bethesda MD
April 07, 2010 - I have an eastern facing heavily shaded slope in Bethesda, Md. that needs a few good native plants to keep it from eroding. Ferns are not doing well on it. They do much better in the flats. So, anythi...
view the full question and answer

Plants for Georgetown with shade in the AM and sun in the PM
September 30, 2015 - Hi, I live in Georgetown and I would like a recommendation for plants (shrubs and flowering perennials) that can handle deep shade until 1 or 2 pm and then have full sun blasting them til sun down. T...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center