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

Sunday - January 25, 2009

From: Arlington, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native ground covers for rocky, shady slope in Arlington, TX
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

I need a good native ground cover for a completely shaded and rocky 30 degree slope with red sandy soil and southern exposure. Will anything grow in these conditions?

ANSWER:

The beauty of native plants, besides their beauty, is that they are usually well suited to their native habitat. You are wise to be planning on natives; if anything will grow in those conditions, it is a native. You do not specify the moisture conditions, but being familiar with your location and from the description, I suspect the best plants will be those that like a dry environment. Add to that the 30 degree slope and sandy soil and that sounds like a recipe for erosion. So, I am going to suggest you first consider sedges for ground cover. These are low growing, evergreen plants that have the qualities you require (shade tolerant) and some you haven't asked about (erosion control and deer resistant.) All of the ones suggested tolerate dry soil, shade, and form a clumping root system to prevent erosion.

As the name suggests, the best choice may be Carex texensis (Texas sedge), which is happy in dry shade. It is 1 foot or less in height and adapts to many varieties of soil.

Carex planostachys (cedar sedge) is another low growing sedge appropriate for sandy loam soil or caliche.

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge) is taller (1-3 feet high) than some others.

While limestone meadow sedge, Carex granularis (limestone meadow sedge), is adaptable to difficult soils, it prefers clay. Images.

Read more about sedges as an alternative to grass in the article: "Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape" by John Greenlee.

You can have your slope planted entirely to sedges or include variety in your planning. Sedges work well with other ground cover plants such as Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle frogfruit), short and sweet with a trailing characteristic; Viola pedata (birdfoot violet), low growing and perfect for a dry , shady hill; or Geum canadense (white avens), a taller, versatile ground cover.

Ground cover questions are frequent requests, and there are many versions in the answers, depending on the location and conditions. You may want to explore on your own by typing "ground covers" into your browser. You will find multiple specific responses from Mr. Smarty Plants there and perhaps a few other sources. You may also want to go directly to www.wildflower.org, to the Section entitled Explore Plants, then Plant Database. Enter the name of the above plants and see for yourself their characteristics or do a Combination Search and see what other plants would substitute for the above suggestions. To find a supplier for plugs or seeds, again in the Explore Plants section, click on Suppliers and enter your location. 

Happy planting!


Carex texensis

Carex planostachys

Carex blanda

Phyla nodiflora

Viola pedata

Geum canadense

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Shade ground cover in San Antonio
May 18, 2008 - I would like to find plants, spreading ground or flowers, to go under my red tips. These plants would be in a lot shade and not a great deal of water.
view the full question and answer

Plants for a moist, wooded area in North Carolina
December 06, 2014 - I am looking to plant some native flowers in a wooded area in Surry County NC. The chosen location is fully shaded beside a creek. The water table typically sets about 2 feet below the surface of th...
view the full question and answer

Native perennials for moist shade in Missouri
January 16, 2005 - I live near Adrian, Mo (s of KC by an hour). I currently have a small hillside that is covered by trees and shaded all day and also seems to hold moisture really well. The hill seems to grow a littl...
view the full question and answer

Shade tree for Portland, OR
March 18, 2009 - Looking for shade tree for Portland, Oregon, with non-invasive root system. House will be 20 ft away, with basement.
view the full question and answer

Trees for shade east windows from sun in Abilene, TX
October 25, 2008 - We need a tree(s) to plant in front of four east windows (20 feet space) to shade our breakfast room from the early morning sun. We have shades but need a bit more protection. I do not wish to shade...
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center