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Wednesday - February 10, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Low-growing grass for steep hill in Austin
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I'm looking for a low-growing grass for a steep hill in my backyard. My issues are it can't be mowed because the hill is too steep, it can't be trimmed with a weed eater because it's a very large area, and it can't grow too high because I don't want snakes to be able to hide while my kids are running around. I've considered Bella Bluegrass only to find it's not recommended for central Texas. Do you have any suggestions?


Poa pratensis var. NE-KYB-05-001 (Bella bluegrass) is a patented variety described as a "new and distinct variety of Kentucky Bluegrass named ‘NE-KYB-05-001’ (trade name Bella), is characterized by its vegetative only propagation, improved shade and drought tolerance, dwarf-like and dense growth habit, dark green foliage and shorter leaves compared to other Kentucky bluegrass varieties." Poa pratensis (Kentucky bluegrass) is not native to the Central Texas area although it does occur in some Texas counties.  There are some shorter native grasses that are native to our area which do well in areas with plenty of sun.   These are Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite).  You can read about the performance of these three as native lawn grasses compared to bermudagrass in our article, Native Lawns.  You can also read about how to establish these grasses in our How to Article: Native Lawns.  Since you have a slope, you might want to consider installing the grass as plugs or sprigs.  Seeds will tend to wash away down the slope unless you plant them underneath some sort of erosion control blanket.  Seeds that are sown under the erosion-control material will germinate and grow up through the matting. And, if you use one of the biodegradable mattings, it will disappear eventually leaving the grass to cover your hill.

If the area receives less than 6 hours of sun per day, there are alternative plants—sedges—that act like grasses.  The sedges tend to be evergreen and have a reasonably low growth habit.  Here are several recommended for the Austin area:

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

There are also grasses that will grow in the shade, but they tend to be much taller than you want.  One very attractive one that comes to mind is Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats).  And, if it is mostly shady there, you could consider some ferns.  For example, Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) grows 1.5 to 2 feet in shade and part shade and is evergreen.

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Hilaria belangeri

Carex blanda

Carex cherokeensis

Carex texensis

Polystichum acrostichoides





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