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?


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

Thursday - May 28, 2009

From: Taylor, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Replacing lawn in Taylor, Texas
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Taylor, Texas, just northeast of Austin, in the Blackland Prairie region. However, I do not live on a farm, but in town on a city lot of 1/3 acre. My soil is clayey, and currently I have a LOT of grass lawn that I would like to be rid of. Currently there are a lot of what my neighbors call "roly poly" insects in that lawn. I am looking for ground covers that would eventually spread to cover the entire lawn area. I have friends in California who have successfully replaced their lawns with woolly thyme and other low ground covers, or grids of clumping fescue grasses. My question is: what is appropriate for the soils of Taylor, the blistering hot sun and potential drought of central Texas summers, and the possible low temperatures of winter? I am ready to rent a sod cutter and be rid of my lawn today, but everything that appeals to me is non-native, or incapable of withstanding the scorching sun and drought.


Thymus pseudolanuginosus (woolly thyme) is native to Eurasia as is Festuca rubra (red fescue). The red fescue is considered a cool-season grass, native also to some parts of North America, but not to Texas.  At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are dedicated to the use, care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are grown. A plant already accustomed to the climate, rainfall and soils of an area will need less fertilizer, water and mantenance.

We have an answer all ready for you in our our How-To Article Native Lawns: Buffalograss. The instructions in this article are very complete and detailed, including when to plant, both seed and sod, and how to care for it. You can go to Native American Seeds, click on "Shop for Seeds", then "Grass Mixes" and find their Native Sun Turfgrass, which is a mix of 66% Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) and 34% Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama). They can give you complete instructions on how much you need for coverage, when to plant and so forth. As the How-To Article points out, you can get faster coverage if you use sod, which can be planted any time of the year, but this is, of course, more expensive. This mix actually requires full sun and tolerates dry conditions after it is established, while many ground covers need some shade and more water.

Removing the existing sod and preparing the ground for planting is definitely a good idea. Whether or not you can plant now or in the Fall will depend on whether you choose seed or sod, and whether you need to reduce the weed population (you probably will) first.

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Bouteloua gracilis





More Turf Questions

Did my neighbor's zucchini affect my apple tree from Oak Lawn, IL
October 26, 2009 - My neighbor planted zucchini plants near a flowering non-fruit producing apple tree in my yard. Soon afterwards in July the tree began to shed leaves. Could the zucchini plant have caused this?
view the full question and answer

Do I need to cover my Habiturf planting with straw?
March 02, 2012 - I'm preparing to seed the Habiturf in my front yard in a couple of weeks. My dad has suggested I spread some straw to help protect the seeds. Your thoughts? Thanks!!!
view the full question and answer

Small perennials & grasses for a naturalized lawn
October 26, 2009 - I am looking for native perennials and grasses that will grow no more than 8 inches tall that can be used in a naturalized lawn in Michigan. What 5 plants would be your first choice?
view the full question and answer

Eliminating stinging nettles in lawn in Austin
May 13, 2009 - How do I get rid of stinging nettle that is dispersed through my lawn. It's not like the nettle pictures I see online - they are short plants and have narrow leaves - but covered with spines. Mowin...
view the full question and answer

Habiturf installation after Take-All fungus
January 24, 2012 - Are other soil remedies needed (besides those listed in your Habiturf brochure) to install Habiturf on land which had a St. Augustine lawn which was decimated by take all patch.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center