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
4 ratings

Friday - March 26, 2010

From: Henly, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Native grasses that are shade tolerant for Central Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I recently purchased acreage in Henly (Dripping Springs area). The property has a large stand of big Live Oaks, Black Jack Oaks and Cedar Elm trees. The area has not been grazed for several years and has a good covering of native bunch grasses. Mowing is a tortuous experience because driving over the clumps of bunch grass is like driving over a field strewn with small speed bumps. I would like to plant another native species like curly mesquite, etc. that would help infill between the current grasses and smooth out the turf as much as possible. Can you suggest a native grass(s) that would be somewhat shade tolerant to grow under the tree canopy as well as the sunny locations of the property?

ANSWER:

Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite) would be the perfect grass for your purpose, but like Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) and Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) it thrives only in full sun. 

Here are some suggestions for shade and part shade grasses.  As it turns out, most of them are bunch grasses since there are very few native turf-type grasses, especially those that will grow in the shade.

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) will grow in shade (less than 2 hours sun per day) and part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun per day).  It is not a clump grass and it looks and acts a bit like the non-native bermuda grass.  Here is more information about it.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) is an attractive bunch grass that will grow in both shade and part shade. Even though this is a bunch grass, I included it because it does so well in the shade and is very attractive.

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) grows in sun and part shade and is the State Grass of Texas.

Chloris verticillata (tumble windmill grass) will grow in sun and part shade.

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) grows in sun and part shade.

Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass) grows in both sun and part shade.

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens) grows in part shade.

You could also try sedges.  Although they grow in clumps, they are generally not tall and have the advantage of being evergreen. 

Carex planostachys (cedar sedge) will do well in part shade.

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) does well in part shade and sun.

Native American Seed in Junction has a Shade-Friendly Grass Mix that includes many of the species above.  They also have these grass seeds for sale individually.   Additionally, our Spring Plant Sale (April 9—for members only—and April 10-11 for the general public) offers many of the above species for sale.

Here are photos of the above from Image Gallery:


Muhlenbergia schreberi

Chasmanthium latifolium

Bouteloua curtipendula

Chloris verticillata

Elymus canadensis

Poa arachnifera

Tridens flavus

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Evergreen shrub for Austin TX shade
October 24, 2015 - I live in Austin, TX. I'm looking for a 4 season shrub for a partially shaded area that gets about 3 hours of sun towards the evening. It's mostly partially shaded.
view the full question and answer

Growing non-vascular moss as a lawn from Seattle WA
July 27, 2013 - I have lots of moss in my back yard. How can I encourage it to grow over the whole yard?
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant, drought and shade tolerant plants to go under oak tree in Austin
March 21, 2011 - What is the best deer resistant, drought resistant native plant to grow under my huge Oak tree? Grass does not grow. Will iris bloom?
view the full question and answer

Native flowers and ground cover for damp, shady area in Wisconsin
May 11, 2006 - I would like to plant some flowers and ground cover in the front of my yard near my home. This spot is usually damp and nearly always shaded. Any suggestions? Also I'm looking for blue flowering pla...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for shady areas
November 24, 2013 - I would like to know which grasses would grow in mostly shady part of the house.
view the full question and answer

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