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Mr. Smarty Plants - Replacement for St. Augustine grass

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Wednesday - July 29, 2009

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Replacement for St. Augustine grass
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Georgetown, TX. I have an acre lot with many large Live Oak Trees. Currently we have St Augustine grass growing, but with the drought, it's not working out well with rainbirds putting down two tenths of an inch per hour. I'm only watering every 5 days for an hour on each station, so the grass is not receiving its inch of water that is recommended. What other options are available that can also tolerate deer in the area every day? Thank you,

ANSWER:

The drought and heat in Central Texas are really taking their toll on plants this summer and you are right, St. Augustine requires lots of water to do well.  Unfortunately, trying to replace it during the drought is not going to be easy either.  Anything you replace it with, despite the fact that it might be more drought tolerant, is going to take considerable water to become established.  Additionally, there isn't a native turf grass that will work well in the shade of your liveoaks.  Sunny areas would do well with Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), but buffalograss doesn't fare very well in the shade.  There are attractive native grasses that do well in the shade, but they aren't going to create your typical urban lawn that is mowed to a height of 4-5 inches.  Still, if you want to create a more natural landscape, they would be ideal. 

SHADE-FRIENDLY GRASSES:

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Nassella leucotricha (Texas wintergrass)

Native American Seed in Junction has a Shade-Friendly Grass Mix that includes these grasses, or you can purchase seeds of these individually.  They normally grow 1 to 2 feet high, but they can also be mowed occasionally.  Native American Seed also has helpful advice about establishing and caring for native lawns.  Please see our How To Article "Native Lawns", also.

As an alternative native grass you could establish a sedge lawn.   The article by John Greenlee Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape will give you more information.  Here are some sedges that are possibilities for the Central Texas area:

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Carex planostachys (cedar sedge)

Carex perdentata (sand sedge)

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge)

Finally, there are a couple of low-growing groundcovers that will grow in sun or shade and are more drought-tolerant than St. Augustine grass.  They are:

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy)


Tridens flavus

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Bouteloua curtipendula

Elymus virginicus

Nassella leucotricha

Carex texensis

Carex planostachys

Carex perdentata

Carex cherokeensis

Phyla nodiflora

Calyptocarpus vialis

Calyptocarpus vialis

 

 

 

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