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?


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
5 ratings

Wednesday - June 16, 2010

From: Carthage, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native grasses for East Texas that require no mowing or watering
Answered by: Nan Hampton


What native grass can I grow in deep East Texas that would require no supplemental watering and no mowing?


Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) is the perfect grass to meet your criteria—once established it takes no supplemental watering and only rare, occasional mowing. Unfortunately, it is not a grass that one thinks of as growing in deep East Texas.  However, the USDA Plants Database distribution map shows it occurring in Marion County just north of Panola County and also in Caddo Parrish in Louisiana just across the state line from Panola County.  One thing I do know about East Texas is that the soil can be very sandy there.  If the soil is sandy where you live, buffalograss will NOT do well.  Also, if the site you want to grow it on is very shady, it will not do well. You can read our article, Native Lawns: Buffalograss, to learn more about it.  You can also read about the research that the Wildflower Center has done on Native Lawns. Unfortunately, neither of the other two short native grasses, Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) and Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite), are native to East Texas.

There are no other native turf grasses that meet your criteria but there are several grass-like sedges that have been used as substitutes for grass lawns.  They are evergreen, require little or no mowing, some will grow in both sun and shade, and some will survive without supplemental watering.   The ones listed in the article linked above that are native to Texas are Carex perdentata (sand sedge) and Carex texensis (Texas sedge).

If you are just looking for plants to cover your lawn area, we can recommend several that require little water, do not grow tall and/or can be occasionally mowed to maintain your desired height. 

Here are several ground covers recommended by the Wasowskis in Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region that do well in the clay soils of the Dallas region:

Artemisia ludoviciana (white sagebrush) is evergreen (maybe evergray is a better descriptor) grows 1 to 3 feet but can be mowed.

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) grows less than 1 foot high.  It goes dormant in cold winters.

Geum canadense (white avens) grows from 4 inches to over 3 feet, but can be mowed.  It is evergreen if watered in summer.

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit) grows 3 to 4 inches high and is evergreen to dormant in winter.

Rivina humilis (rougeplant) grows 1 to 1.5 feet and is evergreen to dormant in winter.

Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage) grows 4 to 18 inches or more, but can be mowed and is evergreen if watered in summer.

Packera obovata (roundleaf ragwort) grows 3 inches to 2 feet but can be mowed and is evergreen.

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

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua dactyloides

Carex perdentata

Carex texensis



Artemisia ludoviciana

Calyptocarpus vialis

Calyptocarpus vialis

Geum canadense

Phyla nodiflora

Rivina humilis

Salvia lyrata

Packera obovata

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Need native grasses to re-introduce on land in Live Oak County, Texas.
July 21, 2009 - How do I find out what type of grass is native and how to reintroduce it (once we get some rain)? The area is southern Live Oak County approx 10 miles north of Orange Grove TX, about 2 miles from Lak...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for high traffic area in Pennsylvania
August 01, 2012 - I am wondering if there is a Pennsylvania native turf like grass/plant that can withstand a lot of foot traffic (public area with lots of children). This will be used in a formal setting so will need ...
view the full question and answer

Plant to stabilize river bank in Wisconsin
July 10, 2011 - We live along the Chippewa River in Pepin County WI and are looking for a blooming plant to help "hold" our river bank and also look attractive..it must be strong enough to take the spring flood.
view the full question and answer

Grasses for Erosion control in Iowa
September 27, 2012 - We have a sloping yard in the midwest that gets 2-4 hours of sun during the warm weather. When we have large rainfalls, the water just pours down the slope causing a lot of erosion to the surrounding ...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for moist, steep hillside in Tupelo MS
July 01, 2010 - I have a very steep bank that I have pampas grass planted in spots. It must be a natural spring in the bank because it stays very wet and runs into the street below. Can you suggest something to pla...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center