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?

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
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
1 rating

Tuesday - February 23, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground cover for cleared property in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in a small apartment building near 183 & 620. The land beyond the lawn has trees and has been cleared of brush. They are planning to seed the ground. I thought invasive native ground covers would be a better solution, and cheaper and easier in the long run. What do you suggest?

ANSWER:

Frankly, we wouldn't recommend ANY invasive anything, even native. The thing about invasives, you know, is they have the capability to take over an area where the conditions are favorable, but they don't have a STOP setting. They will soon ramble on into adjacent territory, and not-so-adjacent territory via air or bird borne seeds, and we will be getting questions about "What can we do about the invasive whatever near 183 and 620 in Austin?" The only way to prevent some plants from becoming invasive is to never plant them. So, allow us to come up with some alternatives.

Since the plan apparently is to sow seeds, we feel that a seed mix of grasses that will grow in part shade, which we consider as 2 to 6 hours of sun a day, would be the best plan. Native American Seed has a seed mix of grasses native to this area called Shade Friendly Grass Mix. Something like that would be a good ground cover, help to hold moisture in the soil, and provide cover and food for birds. Here is a list of the seeds in that Mix; you can easily select the grasses you feel would work best in the space and order them separately, instead of in a mix. One, Texas wintergrass, is shown as requiring sun, so it might not work as well. Follow each link to the page on that grass to learn more about its growth habits, etc. 

Grasses for a Central Texas part shade area:

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens) - 3 to 6 ft. tall, low water use, part shade

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) - 2 to 4 ft., medium water use, sun or part shade

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - 2 to 3 ft., medium water use, sun or part shade

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye) - 1 to 3 ft., medium water use, part shade

Setaria vulpiseta (plains bristlegrass) - 3 to 6 ft., medium water use, part shade- pictures

Nassella leucotricha (Texas wintergrass) - 1 to 3 ft., sun

Now, can we make yet another suggestion? You might consider something like a meadow planting. The grasses we have already mentioned would do well in a meadow planting, and you could add some flowers. The only problem is that many of our annual, self-seeding wildflowers do require sun, but we think we can find some that could work with part shade. Read our How-To Article on Meadow Gardening for some ideas. Again, Native American Seeds has a Caddo Mix for this part of the state that has plants for sun and part shade. Going to our Recommended Species for Central Texas and searching on "Herbs" (herbaceous blooming plants) and part shade, we got a list of 39 possibilities, and have selected some of our favorites. This is probably more information than you ever wanted nor need, but we do like for people to know there are native, non-invasive plants available for every area and every purpose.

Flowering herbaceous plants for part shade in Central Texas:

Amblyolepis setigera (huisache daisy) - annual, 1 ft. tall, blooms yellow March to June, low water use

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed) - perennial, 2-3 ft., blooms orange, yellow May to September, low water use

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed) - perennial, 2-3 ft., evergreen, blooms yellow April to June, medium water use

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower) - perennial, 2-5 ft., blooms pink, purple April to September, medium water use

Eryngium leavenworthii (Leavenworth's eryngo) - annual, 1-3 ft., blooms blue, purple July to September, low water use

Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel) - annual, 1-2 ft., blooms red, yellow, brown May to August, medium water use

Ipomopsis rubra (standing-cypress) - biennial, 2 to 4 ft., blooms red, orange, yellow May to July, medium water use

Melampodium leucanthum (plains blackfoot) - perennial, 1 to 2 ft., blooms white, yellow March to November, low water use

Phlox drummondii (annual phlox) - annual, to 1 ft., blooms white, red, pink, purple March to June, low water use

Salvia engelmannii (Engelmann's sage) - perennial, to 2 ft., blooms blue, purple April to May, low water use

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Tridens flavus

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Bouteloua curtipendula

Elymus virginicus

Nassella leucotricha

Amblyolepis setigera

Asclepias tuberosa

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea purpurea

Eryngium leavenworthii

Gaillardia pulchella

Ipomopsis rubra

Melampodium leucanthum

Phlox drummondii

Salvia engelmannii

 

 

 

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Recovering neglected garden space from Grapevine TX
March 22, 2014 - I live in Grapevine TX (Dallas). I just moved into a house where almost the entire large backyard is covered by oak trees that shed tons of leaves throughout our mild falls/winters. The yard has not...
view the full question and answer

Turf grass for part-time home from Louisville KY
April 28, 2012 - We have a small yard at a remote location with cistern water, and need a turf grass for a yard, clay soil, which I am willing to amend. It will receive sporadic attention as my husband and I do not l...
view the full question and answer

Buffalo grass and other native grass for lawn in Central Texas
March 17, 2008 - Hi, I live in Cedar Park, TX - recently moved to into a newly built house. I wanted to put some native grass (like buffalo) in the back yard. - My back yard has slope (away from house) and front...
view the full question and answer

Replacing Weeds with Native Plants in Dallas Area
May 29, 2011 - I have a large oak tree in my front yard and lots and lots of miscellaneous weeds (clover, chickweed, stickers, etc.). I am wanting to grow grass in my front yard, that is shaded pretty much most of t...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for parking strip in Pasadena, California
January 04, 2010 - Can you suggest a low growing, low maintenance plant which will spread to cover parking strip in Pasadena, California? Thank you.
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center