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

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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

 

 

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

What flowers will ducks and swans not eat?
January 11, 2009 - I live by ducks and swans. They love eating my flowers. Any suggestions on what flowering plants they won't eat?
view the full question and answer

Replacement for Kentucky grass in Colorado
July 02, 2012 - What kind of grass to replace "Kentucky grass"? It uses too much water. Need drought tolerant grass for the Rifle, Colorado area ("zip code is 81650"). Water bill is way too high, pushing over $10...
view the full question and answer

Cork Screw Rush doesn't spiral in Whitehall, PA.
April 29, 2016 - Why won't the stems on my cork screw rush plant twist and/or spiral? It's planted outside. It was twisting and spirally when I planted it. Growing outside the past 4 years but does not twist or curl l...
view the full question and answer

Native plants both deer resistant and good for erosion from North Oaks MN
August 23, 2012 - We have several partially sunny areas on hills that are prone to both deer and erosion. Our goal is to reduce runoff in an effort to preserve the watershed that provides tap water to many citizens of ...
view the full question and answer

Erosion at edge of driveway in Abilene TX
August 26, 2011 - My lawn suffered a great loss of grass over the winter and the soil at the edge of the driveway is washing away with watering and the occasional rains that we have. I am trying to get the grass to gr...
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