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Sunday - January 11, 2009

From: San Marcos, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Grasses for yard in part shade and shade
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I have a shady yard with no grass whatsoever in San Marcos, TX. Since there are no roots to anchor the soil, the air (and the house) is full of dust. I want to plant a native grass that does well in filtered sun to full shade, but it is a rental property (I plan on being here for another 2 years), so I am looking for the least-cost type.


The grasses Mr. Smarty Plants can recommend for part shade (2-6 hours of sun per day) and shade (<2 hours of sun per day) aren't going to be turf grasses, but they are attractive and will certainly anchor the soil and can be grown from seed—the most economical option.  These are:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada or prairie wildrye)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

You can find seeds of these grasses for sale at Native American Seed in Junction, Texas. You can also search for other seed companies and nurseries that specialize in native plants of your area in our National Suppliers Directory.

For an alternative to grasses, you might consider sedges.  They have the advantage of being evergreen and not growing very tall. However, they have the disadvantage of not generally being available as seeds, but as small plants instead—a more expensive option.  They will spread from the ones that are planted.  You can read more about using sedges for your lawn in John Greenlee's Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape.

Here are two recommended species:

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Carex perdentata (sand sedge)

Still another option is to use a groundcover that isn't grass or grass-like.  You could use a groundcover alone or in combination with each other and/or the grasses. Here are a few suggestions:

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy)

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)

Dichondra argentea (silver ponysfoot)

Rivina humilis (pigeonberry)

Stemodia lanata (gray-woolly twintip)

Most of the plants listed above will be for sale at the Wildflower Center's Spring Plant Sale that occurs in April.

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Elymus virginicus

Carex texensis

Carex perdentata

Calyptocarpus vialis

Phyla nodiflora

Dichondra argentea

Rivina humilis

Stemodia lanata




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