Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Saturday - October 04, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Grass for shade under Post Oaks in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can you recommend a water conserving grass for shade under Post Oaks in Austin. Very gravelly poor nutrient soil. thanks!

ANSWER:

To quote from our webpage on Quercus stellata (post oak):

"Post oak is the most common oak throughout Texas. The typical places to see it are sites with sandy or gravelly soils. Its acorns are an important food source for deer, squirrels, wild turkeys and other wildlife. Larval host for several butterfly species. This plant is common in the central and southern forest regions, where it is a medium-sized tree. This is the ultimate drought resistant tree, but also grows in soggy, flatwoods soils. In dry portions of the western part of its range it is smaller. Its roots are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Susceptible to oak wilt. Not often used in landscape situations. Slow-growing and long-lived."

This oak is not often used in landscape situations because it is very hard to transplant, and therefore seldom available in commercial plant nurseries. The oaks you have probably grew where the acorns dropped, rather than having been selected for the site. If you had been selecting trees, you might have avoided this one because of its susceptibility to oak wilt and also because of its sensitivity to root disturbance. As you can see from this Botanical Research Institute of Texas Vegetation Map of Texas, Travis County is right on the edge of the southern end of the Post Oak Savannah, so it belongs here, and can get by on the typical Austin soil. 

Grasses to go beneath the Post Oaks are going to be a little more problematical. We assume you are not asking for a turf-type grass, as most of them require sun, and won't like those fibrous roots right under them. Furthermore, most of the popular lawn grasses are non-native to North America, and would not be recommended by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Nor will the tree like much disturbance in planting grasses.  We're going to suggest several somewhat ornamental grasses, all native to this area. Because they are native they are going to require less water, fertilizer and maintenance. Taking care to disturb the tree roots as little as possible, they can be planted as clumps, in the Fall or Spring, and allowed to spread naturally and co-exist with the oaks. The grasses we have selected are all somewhat shade tolerant, and will hold their place and be attractive year-round.

When you have made some selections, you can go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type your town and state into the "Enter Search Location" box, and you will get a list of suppliers of native plants and seeds, and names of landscape consultants experienced in working with native plants. 

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Eragrostis intermedia (plains lovegrass)

Nassella tenuissima (finestem needlegrass)

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista)


Quercus stellata

Quercus stellata

Bouteloua curtipendula

Carex texensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Eragrostis intermedia

Nassella tenuissima

Nolina texana

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Plants for a Septic Field in NC
August 14, 2013 - What kinds of low water plants can I plant over a new septic field in North Carolina? The area is part sun so I am concerned about having trouble getting grass started.
view the full question and answer

Low plants for shady, damp area in Roanoke, TX
November 13, 2008 - First, thanks for answering my first question about Texas Native Trees for our new home! I have just started working on plans for our back yard and have a question about Texas Native Shade plants. W...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for north facing shaded bed in Austin
April 02, 2007 - I have a northfacing house in central Austin. I dug a large bed along the front that gets almost full shade. What native plants will thrive in that space?
view the full question and answer

Flowers for sunny and shady gardens in Cedar Hill TX
March 30, 2010 - Last year I spent way too much on flowers for my sunny and shady flower beds. They all died from the heat, even after constant watering. What flowers could I plant in sunny and shady flower beds that ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for narrow planter boxes in San Antonio
October 02, 2010 - We have a narrow flower planter box in three sections above a french drain in front of our house. The box is about 2 feet high (filled with Gardenville soil) above a french drain covered with filter ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.