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
6 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

QUESTION:

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

ANSWER:

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

Grasses to stabilize creek bed in Bastrop County, Texas
May 06, 2011 - Hello, we have property in Bastrop county, the soil is sandy loam with clay underneath. We need to stabilize a creek bed, can you suggest any particular grasses (seed) for this? Know it's not the be...
view the full question and answer

killing grass on 1 acre before planting Habiturf
March 04, 2012 - I have an acre of full sun lawn on a slight slope in Dallas - would the habiturf be appropriate & if so, how do I go about killing off the existing weeds/crab grass before installing? Removing 3 in o...
view the full question and answer

Planting Muhlenbergia rigens in Austin
August 16, 2010 - I have a question about when I can plant Deer Muhly (AKA Muhlenbergia Rigens). It's pretty hot now, but I would like to know how much it needs to cool down before I can plant these grasses?
view the full question and answer

Possibility of replacing Bermudagrass with native grasses and wildflowers
November 24, 2008 - Are there any native grasses and wildflowers that can compete with bermuda grass to make a nativ-y wild area without removing the bermuda?
view the full question and answer

Special requirements for Density buffalograss in Austin
April 23, 2009 - Are there any special requirements for Density Buffalo beyond the requirements of other, more common, types of buffalo grass? Background: We live in NW Austin, and we recently installed density bu...
view the full question and answer

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