Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Grasses for horses in Austin
October 27, 2012 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants We just bought 4.5 acres in Travis County off HWY 290. We have 3 horses we keep on it but there is very little grass in the pastures. What is the best type of grass to seed ...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent erosion in IL
August 02, 2012 - We just got done building a house and have leveled all of the dirt piles. We do have a row of straw bales to help prevent the dirt from washing onto the neighbors property. It is the wrong time of ye...
view the full question and answer

wildflowers with interesting seed heads for winter interest
January 09, 2015 - I am looking to establish a wildflower meadow this year, and I want to include wildflowers that have interesting seed heads for winter interest. What would be your recommendation? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Lighthouse Point FL
April 13, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: I am looking for mowable ground cover for part of my back yard. Due to a Mahogany tree, a hammock, surrounding foliage and a fence, there is alot of shade in the area, alon...
view the full question and answer

Narrow strip of groundcover from Sonora TX
April 29, 2013 - I have an area that is right under my patio about 12 feet by 1 ft. I'm looking for something to plant in there. It has afternoon sun, morning shade. I live in SW Texas so it is hot. but would like so...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.