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

Wednesday - October 29, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Growing grasses under juniper trees (Juniperus ashei)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, Yesterday, I attended the plant sale at the Wildflower Center. I purchased cupgrass and switchgrass seeds only to discover the grasses may need more water than I am willing to use in the place I originally wanted to plant both. My yard is heavy caliche. I do water my volunteer trees: cedar, escarpment live oak, redbud and some hardwood I have yet to identify. I also intend to plant the Heritage cedar elm I purchased near those trees. Will the grasses grow near or under the trees, especially those blasted cedar trees? (I think a cedar tree killed both one of my and my neighbor's wax myrtles which were planted about 8' from the trunk but not in the shade of the canopy.)

ANSWER:

Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper) does have allelopathic effects on some plants (e.g., Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) according to Gwen Young and Janis Bush, but competition for water, light and nutrients also play a significant role in reducing the growth of plants beneath juniper trees.

Both Eriochloa sericea (Texas cupgrass) and Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) prefer growing in the sun so neither is going to grow well under your juniper or, for that matter, under any tree.  According to our information, both grasses require a medium amount of water. You no doubt bought your seeds from Native American Seed at our fall plant sale, so you might like to visit their website to read their planting tips, etc.

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Groundcovers over roots in Roeland Park KS
June 18, 2013 - Large Hackberry tree (aprox 50+years) roots are popping up above ground making mowing under/around it impossible. Is there a plant, ground cover, something I can plant, or cover the roots with that w...
view the full question and answer

Problem with weeds in the buffalograss
June 11, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I'm about to throw in the towel! My back 'lawn' of buffalo grass (609) is almost all 'weeds'! Native ruellia and lyre leaf sage have taken over and as the area has gott...
view the full question and answer

Narrow strip of groundcover from Sonora TX
April 29, 2013 - I have an area that is right under my patio about 12 feet by 1 ft. I'm looking for something to plant in there. It has afternoon sun, morning shade. I live in SW Texas so it is hot. but would like so...
view the full question and answer

Plant to stabilize river bank in Wisconsin
July 10, 2011 - We live along the Chippewa River in Pepin County WI and are looking for a blooming plant to help "hold" our river bank and also look attractive..it must be strong enough to take the spring flood.
view the full question and answer

Trimming of cordgrass plants
November 20, 2007 - We have planted more than 150 cordgrass plants (spartina bakeri) along the edges of the small pond at our condominium complex to try to prevent any further soil erosion between the buildings and the p...
view the full question and answer

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