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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - May 30, 2009

From: Kerrville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Pathway material for Kerrville, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have removed the St Augustine, expanded a perennial bed of mostly natives and created a pathway along the new bed. Can you recommend a plant to use as a pathway? It should require low water, be heat tolerant, be average height of 3 to 6 inches, and should withstand heavy traffic. Most of the pathway will get full sun and a small portion will be part shade in morning. Is there such a plant? Thanks! Carol B

ANSWER:

We love it when our correspondents design the perfect plant and ask us to find it for them. There is always hope it's out there but usually it isn't. The biggest barrier in your specifications is heavy foot traffic. We really have no idea what kind of foot traffic any of these will take. You will need to follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant, and perhaps follow the Google link at the bottom of that page, and judge for yourself if your definition of "traffic" coincides with what that plant can withstand. We searched in the herbaceous plants native to Texas, and needing sun (6 hours or more a day) to part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun a day). We got 479 possibilities, and found nine low-growing plants, one sedge and Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), that are more or less within your height and sun requirements. Many of these are considered weeds, so even finding them in a nursery could be a problem. All plants in our Native Plant Database are supposed to be commercially available, but we don't necessarily know where that would be for individual plants. Read our How-To Article Native Lawns: Buffalograss to get a feel for whether it would work for you. It does not tolerate shade, but it looks like you will have enough sun to support it.  Of the groundcover plants, our feeling is that the Dichondra argentea (silver ponysfoot) has the best chance of surviving the foot traffic.

Now, if or when you have eliminated all the possibilities we have listed, may we suggest a nice shredded hardwood mulch path? It will be cheaper and quicker to spread than the plants, needs no watering, doesn't care about the sun and tolerates traffic nicely. It will have to be replenished from time to time, but as it drifts into your flower beds, it will decompose and continue to add organic matter to your soil, which is always good, especially in Texas soils. 

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) -semi-evergreen, 6 to 12 inches tall, blooms yellow March to November, low water usage, sun, part shade or shade

Dichondra argentea (silver ponysfoot) - 3 to 4 inches tall, evergreen, blooms white May to August, medium water use, sun or part shade

Hydrocotyle umbellata (manyflower marshpennywort) - 3 to 10 inches tall, blooms white April to October, medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Lenophyllum texanum (coastal stonecrop) - 4 to 8 inches tall, blooms rosy yellow June to August, low water use, sun or part shade

Oxalis stricta (common yellow oxalis) - 2 to 8 inches tall, blooms orange March to October, low water use, sun

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit) - semi-evergreen, 3 to 6 inches tall, blooms white May to October, low water use, sun or part shade

Sedum nuttallianum (yellow stonecrop) - annual, 2 to 4 inches tall, blooms yellow April to July, low water use, sun

Stemodia lanata (gray-woolly twintip) - evergreen 4 to 10 inches tall, blooms white, purple, violet April to November, low water use, sun

Viola sororia (common blue violet) 6 to 10 inches tall, blooms white, pink, blue, purple March to May, high water use, sun or part shade

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) - 10 to 12 inches tall, medium water use, sun or part shade

Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) - 3 to 12 inches tall, semi-evergreen, low water use, sun


Calyptocarpus vialis

Dichondra argentea

Hydrocotyle umbellata

Lenophyllum texanum

Oxalis stricta

Phyla nodiflora

Sedum nuttallianum

Stemodia lanata

Viola sororia

Carex texensis

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua dactyloides

 

 

 

 

 

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