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Monday - November 10, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Septic Systems
Title: Plants for septic fields in Austin
Answered by: Nan Hampton


We are building a house in Austin and the site requires a septic system. I need advice on how to landscape with native plants over the septic fields. The side yard and the front yard will contain the fields; they are in full sun. The side yard will be fenced for our two dogs so it will need more of a "turf-like" look, while the front yard will not be fenced but there are some deer to worry about. The site is very rocky with shallow soil so I hesitate to try buffalo grass. What recommendations do you have? Thanks for your help.


First of all, Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), as you will see under "Growing Conditions" on its page in our Native Plants Database, will grow in a variety of soils—including heavy soils, clay, and limestone-based—so I don't think your soil type would preclude using buffalograss.  Native American Seed in Junction has a Native Sun Turfgrass that is a mixture of 66% buffalograss and 34% Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama).  Both are short turf grasses that require little water or mowing after they are established.  Our article, Native Lawns: Buffalograss, has useful information on establishing such a lawn.  Native American Seed also has Planting Tips for Native Grasses.  Another possibility for a turf yard are sedges.  Three that do well in the sun for your area are Carex texensis (Texas sedge), Carex perdentata (sand sedge) and Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge).  You can find out more about sedges for lawns in Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape by John Greenlee.

Sedges and/or grasses will work for the front yard as well, but you could also use shrubs and perennial herbaceous plants.  You can find a list of commerically available native plants suitable for landscaping in Central Texas by selecting that area from the map or the pull-down menu on our Recommended Species page.  On that same page you will also find a list of Deer Resistant native plants. Not all of the plants on this list are native to Central Texas and not all the plants on the Recommended Species for Central Texas list are resistant to deer, but by comparing the two you can come up with a nice long list of possibilities.  Here are a few suggestions:

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus)

Calylophus berlandieri (Berlandier's sundrops)

Chrysactinia mexicana (damianita)

Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum (showy prairie gentian)

Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel)

Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana)

Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush)

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow)

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Carex texensis

Carex perdentata

Carex pensylvanica

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Calylophus berlandieri

Chrysactinia mexicana

Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum

Gaillardia pulchella

Lantana urticoides

Leucophyllum frutescens

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii



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