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

Ground cover for shady slope in Illinois
May 31, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty: I have a shady sloping area that I am trying to cover with low fast growing, perennials that will keep maintenance to the minimum and prevent erosion. Grass would be very difficul...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for part shade in Albany NY
July 02, 2014 - Hello! I'm looking for: a native ground cover, mostly shade with only some morning sun, on a slope, edible is preferred but not necessity, mostly clay type soil for the Albany, NY area. Thanks for yo...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover to reduce erosion for shady area in New York
May 05, 2009 - We live on a lake with gravelly and clay soils, lots of wind and little sun. I am looking for a native ground cover that will help reduce erosion over some of the steep slopes facing south (under shad...
view the full question and answer

Ornamental grasses under desert willows from Dallas, TX
September 06, 2013 - I am planning on planting 3 desert willows in full sun, below the power lines at the back of my back yard in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. I would like to plant some ornamental grasses in the be...
view the full question and answer

Plant called cow shade or cow weed that is poisonous
July 25, 2008 - There is a plant called cow shade or cow weed, not exactly sure. It kills whitetail deer. I would like to know the name of the plant and the specifics. If you could help me it would be greatly appreci...
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