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?

Share

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

Tuesday - November 10, 2009

From: Baton Rouge, LA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Carex as a shady turf alternative in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just read your answer to Barbara Medford's question about what multi-species native grasses would work to create a shady lawn. While you had some wonderful suggestions you mention a homeowner's associations might not take kindly to them. I would like to recommend to the both of you to try different species of native sedge. When I lived in Austin I used Carex retroflexa from a local nursery under my live oak. It was evergreen & I found it was best to trim the areas that received foot traffic once a year (just as they were setting seed).

ANSWER:

Barbara Medford was the answerer, not the asker, on this question. Mr. Smarty Plants is a team of staff members and volunteers for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; the name of the author at the top of the answer is that of the person who researched and answered the question. 

Anyway, we appreciate your suggestion and agree that carexes are often a solution for a plant needed in a shady or moist area. Others interested in this subject might like to read that previous answer discussing grasses for a shady area in Central Texas. You are correct, Carex retroflexa (reflexed sedge) is native to the Travis County area. Because there was not much information on it in our Native Plant Database, we found this San Marcos Growers (California) site with some of the growing requirements for Carex retroflexa.

Now, there's good news and there's bad news about the genus Carex; first the good news: There are 203 species of Carex native to North America and 46 native to Texas in our Native Plant Database. As it happens, that is also the bad news. There is simply not enough detailed information on each and every species, and few are available commercially. Many people, seeing them in the fields, would likely regard them as weeds, without being able to see the value of sedges in sometimes difficult growing conditions, such as too wet, too dry or too shady.  Finally, sedges usually will not stand as much foot-traffic as grasses.

Our best recommendation is that the sedges be considered in situations where other native grasses will not suffice. By going to our National Supplier's Directory, and entering the town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, you will get a list of native plant suppliers, seed companies and consultants in your general area. They may not have an appropriate  plant in stock, but could possibly order it, and even be encouraged to stock it, when they realize the purposes it will serve. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Carex blanda

Carex edwardsiana

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis

 

 



 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Need a recommendation for a fast growing shade tree near Gettysburg PA
October 08, 2009 - I am looking to plant a fast growing shade tree with non-invasive roots. I live in south central Pennsylvania just north of Gettysburg PA.
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

Restoring the woods in Central Austin.
May 08, 2012 - I live in Austin, south central between Red Bud trail close to the low water bridge and Bee Caves road. My question: I want to make the wooded sections of my yard attractive. They have filtered sun...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for area shaded by crabapple in Philadelphia
September 19, 2008 - Can you recommend native plants about 4' tall to plant under a crabapple in the corner of a yard in front of a fence? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Plants for a mixed border in Houston
February 22, 2010 - I live in Houston and have a flowerbed I'd like to fill with plants that will look good year-round. The back is already lined with 6-foot shrubs so nothing like that. I'd like something with colorf...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center