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
2 ratings

Monday - September 28, 2009

From: Vero Beach, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plants for bioswale in Vero Beach FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Can you recommend plantings for bioswales located in Volusia County area of Florida?


Common swales are typically vegetated with turf grass and are a conveyance tool, basically a grassy stormwater sewer that conveys water as quickly as possible from Point A to Point B. A bioswale differs in that the turf grass is replaced with native prairie vegetation. This will significantly reduce the flow velocity (slow down of the runoff) in the swale’s drainage course. The residence time of the runoff is thus increased, which gives it the time to be stored, filtered, and infiltrated. These processes remove pollutants and suspended solids from runoff.

We found this information on bioswale construction from the USDA, which shows compost tilled into the native soil (clay, in this instance) to facilitate the drainage. The plants we have selected are all perennial, and will grow in moist soils, but can tolerate some drought. These are plants with fibrous roots that will hold in the soil when water is rushing by, help to slow it down, and permit the pollutants in the water to be filtered out. Follow each link to the page on that individual grass to determine how much sun it needs and what soils it does best in. We have checked to make sure each grass is native in and around Volusia County, so the soils are probably all compatible.

Since our suggestions are basically for prairie grasses, you might be interested in reading our How-To Article Recreating a Prairie, which has instructions for time of year to be planting, preparing the soil, planting and caring for the grasses. When you are ready to begin, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, put your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape consultants in your general area who can help you select the right plants for your purpose.

Native grasses for a bioswale in Florida:

Andropogon glomeratus (bushy bluestem)

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly)

Paspalum floridanum (Florida paspalum)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Rhynchospora latifolia (sandswamp whitetop)

Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (softstem bulrush)

Tripsacum dactyloides (eastern gamagrass)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Andropogon glomeratus

Andropogon virginicus

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Paspalum floridanum

Panicum virgatum

Rhynchospora latifolia

Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani

Tripsacum dactyloides




More Compost and Mulch Questions

Problems with Eastern hemlock in Greenville SC
July 02, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a beautiful, young, 5 and a half foot tall Eastern Hemlock. I purchased and planted it two years ago in the fall. It has been doing very well all this spring. And ne...
view the full question and answer

Stubs of Texas Star Hibiscus in Abilene, TX
March 26, 2009 - We have cut back our outdoor Texas Star Hibiscus for 4 years and now have a large number of old stubs that the new growth must navigate around. Will it kill the plant if we dig up the old stubs? At so...
view the full question and answer

Xeric landscaping walls in Mansfield TX
November 15, 2009 - We have two stone, concave 10 ft. high entry walls to our private street. These are each 20 ft. in length and face the west. What xeriscaping accent plants would you recommend. Also, should we crea...
view the full question and answer

Fungus Spots on Native Bush Honeysuckle
December 03, 2010 - My native bush honeysuckle plants that I have along my back fence have leaves that are turning yellow with spots. It appears to be a type of fungus, but not powdery mildew. Any suggestions as to what ...
view the full question and answer

Destructive landscape crews in The Woodlands TX
October 20, 2012 - Hi. We need help. We recently moved to a house where landscape crews have been blowing away the leaf litter from the front yard for many years. The underbrush was also cleared long ago. The result...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center