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

Sunday - June 21, 2009

From: Orange City, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Wildflowers for a shady yard in Orange City, FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hello, I am trying to plant wildflowers in my tree-shaded backyard that will not only kill the existing grass, but will also withstand the winter freezes in central Florida.


Killer wildflowers?! Don't even think such a thing. In fact, there is no such thing. Wildflowers are wonderful in their own environment, among other plants similarly adapted to that environment. Your present lawn grass is very likely a non-native like St. Augustine or bermudagrass, both of which (especially the bermudagrass) are aggressive and invasive.

First, the grass. Some sources suggest using a herbicide, which we recommend neither for nor against. Unfortunately, herbicides can go astray with careless distribution or even a sudden breeze, and you'll find you've killed or damaged a valuable plant. Also, the herbicide will then have contaminated the soil where you want to begin planting the wildflowers. Look at this e-ssortment website Lawn care tips: removing sod grass.   You might find taking all the grass out at once a little daunting, and perhaps want to start by clearing sod out of flower bed areas, and slowly expanding them, year by year. No matter how you eliminate the grass, you will have to be vigilant thereafter to spot and remove any sprouting remnants of your lawn. Grasses spread by both rhizomes (underground storage stems) and by runners, and they are very persistent. 

Now for the fun part-the native wildflowers for your yard. Read our How-To Article Meadow Gardening  for ideas on how to plan and plant your yard. You can go to our Native Plant Database, click on "Combination Search," and, from the drop-down menus, select your state, Light Requirements: sun (more than 6 hours of sun daily), part shade (2 to 6 hous of sun) and shade (less than 2 hours of sun). Under Habit, first do a search on "herbs" (herbaceous blooming plants) and then on "grasses or grass-like plants." Follow the plant links to the individual plant page in our database and learn bloom time, moisture needed, soil, size, etc. Since these plants will all be native to Florida, you should not have to worry about climate changes or temperatures-natives are already adapted to that sort of thing. We have made a trial search for you, selecting "Part Shade" and "Shade" for Light Requirements. 

Herbaceous Blooming Plants for Florida

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed) - perennial, blooms orange, yellow May to September,  medium water use, sun or part shade

Coreopsis grandiflora (largeflower tickseed) - perennial, blooms yellow May and June, part shade

Ipomopsis rubra (standing-cypress) - biennial, blooms red, orange, yellow May to July, medium water use, sun or part shade

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine) - perennial, blooms purple May and June, sun or part shade

Grasses for Florida

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - perennial, medium water use, sun or part shade

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - perennial, medium water use, part shade or shade

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye) - perennial, medium water use, part shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - perennial, low water use, sun or part shade

Asclepias tuberosa

Coreopsis grandiflora

Ipomopsis rubra

Lupinus perennis

Bouteloua curtipendula

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus virginicus

Schizachyrium scoparium





More Shade Tolerant Questions

What shade trees and shrubs are safe to plant around horses in Iowa?
February 09, 2009 - I need to know what shade trees, flowering trees, shrubs and flowering shrubs are safe to plant around horses in Iowa. thanks
view the full question and answer

Native grasses that are shade tolerant for Central Texas
March 26, 2010 - I recently purchased acreage in Henly (Dripping Springs area). The property has a large stand of big Live Oaks, Black Jack Oaks and Cedar Elm trees. The area has not been grazed for several years an...
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

Non-toxic shade trees for horses in Florida
April 01, 2009 - Looking for non poisonous shade trees for pasture with horses. Would prefer flowering or something that changes color. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Privacy screening from Phoenix AZ
April 14, 2013 - I live in the center of Phoenix, Az. On the eastern side of my house we have some 2 story condos next door. The width of the side yard is about 12'-15' and it gets lots of shade. I also have my powe...
view the full question and answer

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