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Friday - April 09, 2010

From: College Station, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Arguments for planting native grasses in College Station TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I hear big ads about putting zoysia grass on my urban lawn but I would rather plant native grass, like Texas Bluegrass (for shady areas) and Blue Grama and Buffalograss grasses. What arguments can I give my husband to win him over to the native grasses and not the zoysia grass?


We applaud your purpose, but may have bad news about the shade tolerance of Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass). Here are the Growing Conditions from our Native Plant Database:

"Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Loams. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: This Texas cool season native forms clumps with narrow blue-green leaves. In spring the showy 2-3 ft. fluffy silvery flowers rise above the foliage. Good in most well drained soils. Can tolerate some shade. A good groundcover unmowed or mowed. Unlike most grasses, male and female flowers are borne on separate plants."

We consider "part shade" to be 2 to 6 hours of sun daily, and the line in the Comments "can tolerate some shade" leads us to believe that the part shade would need to be on the high end of that 2-6 hours of sun. So, what you have to ask yourself, as you look at the areas in question, how shady is shady? In this article on Zoysiagrass, by Richard L. Duble, Turfgrass Specialist, Texas Cooperative Extension, we found this information: "In the southern U.S., the zoysiagrasses grow well in moderately shaded locations." So, we're back to Square One; what is "moderately" shaded?

If you would like to stick to natives, and we hope you do, perhaps you should find some other options for the "part shade" or "moderately shaded" locations, like more shade-tolerant grasses that are attractive and do not have to be mowed.  Some of them require low watering, like the Texas Bluegrass and unlike the Zoysiagrass. Some are attractive year round, provide shelter and nesting materials for birds and just need some mulch around their roots to make them pretty low-maintenance. We're going to list a few of those that we think would work in your situation; follow each plant link to our webpage on that particular plant to learn more about it. We will go to our Recommended Species section, select Central Texas on the map, grasses or grass-like plants under General Appearance, and part shade or shade under Light Requirements. You can repeat this search to look for other choices. 

Grasses or Grass-like Plants for Part Shade in Central Texas:

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) - 4 to 8 ft. tall, low water use, sun or part shade

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - State Grass of Texas, medium water use, sun or part shade

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - 2 to 4 ft., medium water use, part shade or shade

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama) - 10 to 18 in., low water use, part shade

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) - 1 to 3 ft., low water use, part shade

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - 18 to 24 in., low water use, sun or part shade

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) - 3 to 8 ft., medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Tripsacum dactyloides (eastern gamagrass) - 2 to 3 ft., high water use, part shade

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Andropogon gerardii

Chasmanthium latifolium

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua hirsuta

Nolina texana

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Tripsacum dactyloides





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