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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - May 14, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Native grass for shaded lawn in Austin
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, I've read all your info on the native lawns and came by the center on Sunday. We live in Circle C and want to plant a lawn in our backyard. We don't want something that needs a lot of water. There is some St Augustine back there that is dead. The lawn is somewhat shaded. What would you recommend? Emerald Zoysia seems like an option for shaded areas but I wanted your opinion and also, who do you recommend for doing the work? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Emerald zoysia is a hybrid between Zoysia japonica and Zoysia tenuifolia both of which are Asian/Australasian species.  Since our mission here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is "...to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes," we wouldn't recommend a non-native grass.  I hope that you have read our reports on our research in turfgrass for native lawns and our instructions for establishing them in our article, Native Lawns:  Multi-Species.  The good news is that these grasses do very well with very little water, once established, and little mowing.  The bad news, as far as you are concerned, is that they do well in full sun (more than 6 hours of sun per day) and don't fare so well in less sun per day.  You might consider using the multi-species mix—Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss), Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite)—in the sunny part of your yard and, in the shadier parts, using attractive, shade-tolerant native grasses that are not short turf grasses.  Here are some possibilities:

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

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

Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass) - 1 to 2 ft., medium water use, sun or part shade

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) - 1 to 3 ft., low water use, part shade (technically, not a grass, but very grass-like)

Sedges, which are very grass-like, are another possibility that grow well in the shade.  Here are a few:

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge) - 12 to 18 inches, medium water use, part shade

Carex planostachys (cedar sedge) - about 6 inches, low water use, part shade

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) - 10 to 12 inches, medium water use, sun or part shade

There are other low groundcovers that grow in part shade that you could use in the shadier areas of our lawn.  Here are a few:

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) - 6 to 12 in., low to medium water use, sun, part shade and shade

Dichondra carolinensis (Carolina ponysfoot) - 1 to 3 inches, low to medium water use, sun and part shade

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit) - 3 to 6 in., low to medium water use, sun and part shade

Packera obovata (roundleaf ragwort) - 1 to 2 ft., low to medium water use, part shade and shade

You can visit our National Suppliers Directory to find 'Landscape Professionals' in the Austin area.

Here are photos for a few of the above plants from our Image Gallery:


Chasmanthium latifolium

Schizachyrium scoparium

Nolina texana

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis

Calyptocarpus vialis

Phyla nodiflora

Packera obovata

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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