En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Replacement for St. Augustine grass

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

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

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Erosion control for a North Carolina creek side
February 29, 2012 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! I noticed a question on your website recommending NC native grasses and plants to help prevent erosion on a sloping backyard, including the use of an erosion blanket. The pl...
view the full question and answer

Request for native grasses from Hillsboro TX
August 04, 2012 - P.S. I forgot to mention one very important fact: my neighbor specifically asked for "native grass" recommendations. He thought he was getting a native grass recommendation.
view the full question and answer

Ground cover that won't hide snakes from Asheville NC
June 29, 2012 - I have an unusual situation: several bare areas in an otherwise wooded area, which receive partial sun, and are not near water -- it rains here frequently, but the soil can become quite dry at times. ...
view the full question and answer

Growing grasses under juniper trees (Juniperus ashei)
October 29, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants, Yesterday, I attended the plant sale at the Wildflower Center. I purchased cupgrass and switchgrass seeds only to discover the grasses may need more water than I am willing to u...
view the full question and answer

Possible to grow Inland Sea Oats in Oklahoma?
March 17, 2011 - Would it be possible to grow inland sea oats in Southeast Oklahoma? Is this within the range of this plant? I am asking on behalf of my cousin in OK.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center