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?


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
1 rating

Wednesday - July 29, 2009

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


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,


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. 


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




More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Native lawn grass for Seabrook TX
March 12, 2013 - We want to seed our lawn in Seabrook, Tx.77586 with a Natural Grass replacing our St. Augustine Grass. I think there is one that is drought resistant (only water it twice a month.) and that does not g...
view the full question and answer

Grass for family cemetery in Gallatin TX
August 20, 2009 - Recently, we made a family cemetery, and are now trying to find a type of grass that will make a healthy lawn for it. What would be an appropriate species to plant here?
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Road Frontage in NC
March 12, 2015 - I need a fast growing ground cover or perennial flower for 1,000 feet of road frontage about one acre that will choke out weeds. I do not want to do much ground prep or any ground prep. I do not want...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for organic farm in Elgin TX
July 22, 2014 - Hi there, I am working to restore native grasses on our certified organic farm in Elgin, TX. We raise eggs, grass fed beef, and grass fed lamb. I am having a terrible time finding organic pastur...
view the full question and answer

Plants for Liberty Hill TX in full sun
April 15, 2008 - We recently bought an acre of land in Liberty Hill, TX. We have a large planting area in the front that is devoid of any plant life. I would like to turn this into a semi shaded area with some annua...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center