En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - February 10, 2009

From: Paige, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Grasses for shady acreage in Paige, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My family recently bought property in Paige, TX. We thinned out the dense vegetation leaving pines and some oak and juniper. The ground is now bare sand throughout much of the property, except for the trees, which fully shade much of the property. We plan to host an annual festival on the land in late Feb, March, and early April. We are wanting to plant grasses, but will need it to be turf-like where the festival will be held. A family member has purchased gulf annual rye grass. However, I would prefer to use native grasses, especially since we have a large number of acres. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER:

We hope that when you say you will be hosting an annual festival in February, March and early April that you are talking about 2010!  Native plants are wonderful, but it would take a Superseed to be turf-like in two weeks. We will operate on that assumption and see what we can find for you.

The Gulf annual ryegrass is, as you know, non-native to North America and to the Central Texas area. It is apparently considered an additional support for grazing with (also non-native) bermudagrass. It will grow in sandy soils with 20" of rain annually, and continue to reseed itself. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are committed to the use of plants native to the area in which they are being planted. Because they are already accustomed to the environment by millions of years of experience, the will require less fertilizer, water and maintenance. 

While we can definitely recommend some native grassses for your property, you will probably be better off going to Native American Seeds, Junction Texas for information. They have an extensive online catalog, including grasses and grass mixes for specific purposes. From the home page, click on "Shop for Seeds" and from there, "Grass Mixes." First, because you have so many trees and shade, you might consider the Shade Friendly Grass Mix. This company can give you planting instructions, tell you how much to buy for a specific area, when to plant and how to care for the area. They have mail order service.

This does not, however, address the need for a turf-like area where your festival will be held. The fact that your property has a lot of shade complicates the search for a turf grass. Two shorter native grasses considered possibilities for turf grass, Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) and Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) are full-sun grasses. Back to the Native American Seeds selection, there is Prairie Wildrye which is suitable to  moist open prairie, but also found in shaded areas. It begins growth in the Fall, grows slowly though Winter, maturing in late Spring to early Summer. One problem there is that it likes moisture, and the way things have been going in Central Texas, that's pretty chancy. It would have to be mowed in the Spring to provide a turf like surface. Under the circumstances, we would say you might as well use the already-purchased Gulf annual ryegrass in the areas where you need the turf. It does not appear to be invasive and shouldn't disturb the native shade grasses you plant in other areas of the property. 

SOME OF THE GRASSES IN THE SHADE FRIENDLY GRASS MIX

Tridens flavus var. flavus (purpletop tridens)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Elymus virginicus var. halophilus (Virginia wildrye)

Setaria vulpiseta (plains bristlegrass)


Tridens flavus var. flavus

Chasmanthium latifolium

Bouteloua curtipendula

 

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Tough grasses for shade
November 24, 2010 - What kind of grass/groundcover can I put in our backyard that is shady/dry and has 50 lb. high energy dog traffic? Was considering Horse Herb but not sure, as it sounds like you can't get rid of it,...
view the full question and answer

Container plant for shade in Austin
August 07, 2010 - I am very new to gardening (have already killed two plants on my front entryway), and I looking for a couple recommendations for for a potted plant that I can place on my entryway porch. It is shaded...
view the full question and answer

Partial shade plants for underneath ash tree in Tarrant County, Texas
April 20, 2011 - I have a BIG Ash Tree in my front yard that blocks out most afternoon sun. I generally get morning and evening sun. I am looking for something to plant around the base of the tree so my yard doesn'...
view the full question and answer

Container plants for cool weather in Cypress TX
October 02, 2011 - I am a novice gardener and I am looking for some ideas on potted plants for the fall/winter. They would be covered by a roof, but still susceptible to the elements. What can be planted now that will...
view the full question and answer

Arborvitae thinning in Bucks County, PA
April 09, 2010 - My arborvitae trees are about 11 ft. tall. I had them put in about 3 years ago. They were 8 to 10 ft. when planted. After the first year, I have noticed they are thinning to the point where you can se...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center