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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


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?


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




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